Faith

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.04.16

“Why we can trust Jesus in everything”

John 14:1-7

Jesus Farewell Discourse is preparing his disciples and us for troubles ahead

 

Know Jesus is Worthy of Your Trust (v1)

God is always the overarching reality of life

He is un-improvable and altogether perfect

We need to keep comparing our troubles to God! 

If you are thinking ‘I do believe in God’; do you believe enough ‘not to be troubled’?

To ‘believe’ in God is to believe in what he is like – which is to trust him

Jesus adds “believe also in me”

What do we trust about Jesus? (v6)

He is the Way – specifically to salvation, which proves his commitment to us

He is the Truth – many have some truth, but Jesus is complete truth

He is the Life – eternal, full and satisfying life

Since God is a transcendent being, he can seem distant

But Jesus says to ‘know me’ is to ‘know my Father’ (v7)

As God in flesh, Jesus reveals God more fully and more intimately

 

Know You Have an Eternal Future (vs 2-3)

Our troubles take place on earth, but they all lead to eternity

Enemies swept away; and all troubles with their pain and weariness will disappear

God works in us here and he uses us here, but our goal is not here

We should face our troubles with thoughts of greater glory, because that is our reality 

The image in v2 of Jesus ‘preparing a place’, conveys activity on our behalf

Jesus is preparing to bring us into fellowship with the Father

He presents our future as ‘a room’ in my ‘Father’s house’

The cultural context is of a father adding to the family home to make room for his grown children

The point is not the lavishness of the home; it is our belonging and relationship

God wants to share his eternity with us in his home, to eat at his table and share life with him

To God, every trouble we have is meaningful for eternal reasons

He is not simply aware of your trouble; he is thoughtful and active in them

vs 1-7 declares God is for us, and no trouble we experience indicates otherwise

 

Know Jesus is Coming For You (vs 3-4)

(1)  He is coming to rescue us:  troubles may seem to drag on, but they are not our destiny

(2)  He is coming to set things right:  justice will come, truth will prevail, and Christ will be exalted

(2)  He is coming to bring us home:  to be with him where it is safe

 

How Did Jesus Handle Troubles?

We saw in John 13:21 that Jesus at times was troubled 

This shows us that 14:1 has to do with not ‘letting’ trouble capture our ‘hearts’

Jesus had to apply his own words about a troubled heart in Matthew 26:36-44

Jesus was already a man whose thoughts were filled with Father (John 4:34)

Jesus’ prayer contained honesty and submission (vs 36-42)

Jesus prayed with persistence (vs 42-44)

During Jesus’ troubles, he did what he told his disciples

He affirmed his trust in the Father

He looked to the eternal purpose before him (Hebrews 12:2)

WHY DID I CRY?

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While reading CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges I came upon CJ’s statement “I’m glad he’s in heaven”. Just reading those words made my eyes well up with tears. Why would that be so?

I am not a friend of Jerry Bridges. And this was not my first news of Jerry Bridge’s death. I had read several other tributes of his death. In fact, I had written a brief blog in recognition of his life and influence.

I was surprised myself that reading the simple words, “I’m glad he’s in heaven” affected me emotionally.

What was the reason?

Heaven is a real place, and God gives us a heart that longs to be there.

We are now in union with Christ, and we rejoice over this wondrous relationship that has its culmination waiting ahead of us.

I don’t have to know Jerry Bridges to be thankful that he is joyfully in heaven. And I can personally appreciate that CJ although grieved, also rejoices that his friend is with Christ.

Our emotions don’t prove that we are true believers, but being a true believer will cause the realities of Christ to reach deep into our hearts.

I find it easy to see (and be discouraged) by the ways I don’t show my love for God. So it is good to take encouragement from each manifestation that reminds me that I do love God!

In CJ Mahaney’s tribute to Jerry Bridges, he includes this excerpt from Jerry’s book, The Gospel for Real Life. CJ commented, “As I read it, I cried. I think you will too”.

Our Homecoming

“What will it be like when we enter the presence of the Lord? Sometimes when I focus too much on my own shortcomings, of how often I have sinned against grace and against knowledge, of how little I have availed myself of all the blessings of God and opportunities that have come my way, I think I would like to somehow ‘just slip in the side door’ of heaven, unnoticed and consequently unwelcome. But that is because I do focus too much on myself and try to anticipate my welcome on the basis of my performance.

The apostle Peter, however, gives us an entirely different perspective in 2 Peter 1:10-11: ‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.’” (pp.164–5).

FAITHFUL TO THE END

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George Petrillo entered eternity on August 23rd of this year.

He leaves a legacy of love for his family and a wonderful example of abiding trust in Jesus Christ to all who know him.

Over the years George attended Greentree Church, I would often receive a card or letter from him. These were always encouraging. It might be a simple note of thanks for our church, or a comment on how a recent sermon affected his soul.

More recently his notes would contain updates on the serious health issues faced by him and his wife Joan. George had fibrosis of the lungs which meant they were hardening. Doctors informed him that nothing could be done to stop this condition from gradually worsening and resulting before long in his death.

On top of this, George’s beloved Joan, suffers from Alzheimer’s. For George, care for Joan far outweighed concern for himself.

Despite carrying what we would all agree are heavy burdens, George remained an encourager to his family and those who knew him.

George’s notes continued right up to his final days on this earth. My last card from him arrived the day after he passed away. Knowing his time was short; George filled out one last card and insisted that his daughter deliver it to the post office that day.

In one of his recent notes, George once more graciously shared his love for our church. He emphasized the impact of both the preaching of God’s Word and the consistent care they received from their church family.

In typical fashion, George closed with these words:

“I am always aware of God’s may, many blessings to (us), and I am also aware – so vividly of the hurts and heartaches of so many people.

The hope we have in Christ Jesus is so wonderful and so liberating! For in this HOPE we are saved.”

I hope George’s legacy can extend further to influence each of us to see God’s faithfulness in all circumstances. And along the way, may we follow his example of frequently sharing expressions of love, faith and thankfulness to one another!

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #5

This is our final installment of questions God asks us

Sometimes our big problem is not that we don’t know the right answer, but that we don’t keep our eyes on that answer. We are as easily distracted as a hound dog in a yard full of squirrels.

A running joke with many Sunday School teachers is that small children regardless of the question, will give “Jesus” as the answer. If only we could be as simple and naïve as children. For when push comes to shove Jesus really is the answer to our burdens and big questions. He is our Savior, Lord, Advocate, Judge, Life, Light, Peace and Hope. He is all we need.

This week we have looked at questions meant to lead us in thinking clearly about our daily lives. Today we have a question from Jesus that is the biggest of them all:

Who do you say that I am?

In Matthew 16:13-16 we see Jesus disciples got this answer right!

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Are you as clear as Peter in your answer?

QUESTIONS THE BIBLE ASKS YOU #2

For many of us worry is as much a part of life’s routine as the daily sun rising of the sun. We think worry is inevitable, necessary, and a part of our life responsibility.

However, obeying God and then trusting His sovereign care is a much better way to approach the responsibilities of life.

Jesus sought to burst our misguided sense of needing to worry when he asked this question:

Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Here is Jesus question from Luke 12:22-31 in its full context:

(Jesus) said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

How do you answer Jesus?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 12.08.14

“Prayer and Healing”                       

 James 5:13-16

When I was 16, I watched a woman be healed dramatically! Since then I have watched many people die. The subjects of Prayer and Healing are connected and of deep interest to all believers.

James begins with an encouragement to pray (v13)

Whatever is going on in life, we are to respond with prayer and praise

Prayer and praise should be inseparable, neither one existing alone

Prayer and praise are the voice of the Christian life 

As Christians, how can life move apart from interaction with the Triune God?

Prayer and worship are not polite Christianity, or religious form

They are integral to how we think of God, the gospel, ourselves, and Christ’s kingdom

Prayer and praise is our starting place, our safe place, and where we find strength

Let’s look at the text through a series of questions

1.  Why are we told to ‘call for the elders’? (v14)

Elders (pastors) don’t have special power, they represent the Church (v16 tells us elders are not the only ones to pray for these needs)

God’s role in our lives is connected to our local church 

At Greentree we emphasize biblical community, because the Bible does

2.  Why are the sick to be ‘anointed with oil’? (v14)

Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit; it is a reminder of where the power comes from

The use of oil is not a sacrament (giving grace); and oil from Jerusalem is not more effective

Oil is used in the Bible for anointing to declare we are calling for God’s presence

3.  Why do we need to ‘confess our sins’? (v16)

It’s not because all sickness is the result of a sin; v15 says ‘if’ they sinned. And Job’s friends were rebuked by God for making that accusation against him

The emphasis here is that we must come to God with a right heart

This is similar to the principle behind John Baptist’s ministry; he prepared the way for Christ by calling on people to repent

Prayer for healing must be more than acknowledging God’s power

We are acknowledging His rule over all things, including our bodies and life

4.  What is the “prayer of faith”?  (v15)

This is prayer that trusts in God, by acting on what He has said

It is trusting that we have free access to God, that He is able to heal, that He cares for us, and He is perfectly good

This prayer is offered in Jesus name, which means it is offered according to his will

In Exodus 6:2-3, when God made his “name known” to His people it was to say “I am the Lord”. God was claiming sovereignty over their lives

Prayer offered in Jesus name fulfills what we are taught in the Lord’s prayer “Your will be done”

It follows Jesus prayer in Gethsemane when he said “Not my will, but yours”

Our faith doesn’t leverage God into acting on our behalf

Biblical faith can never involve the lessening of God’s sovereignty

5.  Why are not all Christians healed? (v15)

There is a measure of mystery to this, which we cannot fully answer – now

But Paul was told by God that his “thorn in the flesh” would not be removed.

Paul refers a few times to his co-laborers who he left ill

Concluding thoughts

1.  Sickness can come for different reasons

Sickness at times may be because of our sin, as a discipline from God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)

Sickness may not be because of our sin, but a test from God (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) 

Sickness may be the mercy of God to deliver us from this evil world (1 Kings 14:1 & 13)

Sickness may be so God can demonstrate his sovereignty (John 9:1-3)

2.  It is good to want healing, but remember those who are healed on earth will eventually die

3.  We are encouraged to pray for healing, expecting God’s activity

It is not more spiritual to accept disease and refuse to ask for healing

If we hide sin in our hearts we should not ask for or expect healing 

4.  Total healing cannot occur until our incorruptible bodies are changed at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)

Aging, sickness and death are a direct result of the original sin. Our current bodies are affected by our sin nature

5.  As people of the gospel, we should recognize God uses our condition in His big plan!

The witness of spiritual fruit (godly character) is greater than that of miracles 

God will be good in our sufferings and He will use them well (James 1:2-3)

6.  God will heal all things perfectly and forever!

DO YOU BELIEVE?

A small number of people deny that God exists

This denial is portrayed as an intellectual issue, but in truth it is a heart issue, involving pride and the exaltation of man

A far greater number of people deny the revealed truth of God

They have no qualms about God’s existence and when loved ones die, they are quick to claim a belief in Heaven; but they make no attempt to live under God’s Word

These individuals like to believe that God has either given or will accept a variety of truth bearing pathways. This protects them from feeling obligated to be held accountable to a specific truth which calls them to obedience

This category is by far the largest, at least in our nation. We are supposedly a “God fearing” people (an old fashioned designation), or a “people of faith” (a phrase which is more palatable to modern sensibilities).

Americans don’t deny God’s existence; they just want to define Him on their own. People reject God’s Word, because it removes our right to self-rule and it confronts us with absolutes

Then there are Christians, who believe in God AND his infallible Word

We own multiple copies of the Bible; we applaud pastors who forcefully declare its power; and we have plaques with favorite sentiments from it in our homes

Yet, at times true Christians act like “practical atheists”. What I mean is that we proclaim God’s existence, but neglect to live as if he is as real as we say. We consider ourselves to be “Bible believing” Christians, yet don’t want to get too carried away in what the Bible has to say

Here are a few questions to consider in regard to how much atheism hides in our life:

Do you believe God is always present – but spend little time getting to know him?

Do you believe God’s Word is unfailing – yet listen to and follow unbiblical counsel?

Do you believe God is holy – but think he will ignore your sin?

Do you believe God forgives sin – but think he is holding your sin against you?

Do you believe God’s strength and wisdom are infinite – but keep trying to fix life yourself?

Do you believe God is perfect – but complain that he has failed you, or that his ways are impractical?

Do you believe God is Lord of all – but still want to rule over what is “yours?”

Let us put our money where our mouth is – and live in a way that shows we really are “believers”.  Let us show that we believe God is always present with us. Let us show that we believe his word is a reflection of his perfect character and a demonstration of his complete wisdom.

 

R

DO YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE THIS?

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You say that you believe that God is sovereign and in control of all things. You definitely love Romans 8:28 which tells us, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

So what does it look like to live according to this belief? Or, to put it another way, how do we show God who truly is sovereign, the trust that He deserves?

Here are just a few suggestions. I am sure you can think of a few more.

In fact, why not write them down in the comments, so we can all be encouraged by your additions to this list!

1.  With our Anxieties:  Remember that everything which causes us stress, has always been in God’s eternal plan. If God is never anxious or uncertain, then we can rest in His confident sovereignty.

2.  With our Obedience:  If God is in control, then everything He commands is not only best, it is un-improvable.  Do we really think some other way or wisdom will be a greater benefit in the end?

3.  With our Pursuit of Him:  What could be more urgent, than to draw nearer to God. Nothing will benefit us more, than to have a heart that loves God more

4.  With our Doubts:   It’s not our place to ask “Why, God?” The far better question is “How do you want me to respond”?  Let our doubts be like a mist under the sun which quickly burns away

5.  With our Possessions:  It really doesn’t make sense to grasp so tightly to our possessions, when they all belong to God who will not withhold any good thing in our forever with Him. Let us trust God to give us what is needed, when it is good to have it

6.  With our Worship:  He is always Lord of all, and He is unceasingly praiseworthy!  May our praise be tied to who God is, not what we want Him to fulfill.

The Psalmist writes, ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice!’ (Psalm 97:1)

Do you believe God reigns today?  Then today we should rejoice!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.16.13

Life is a battlefield and we are victorious!

1 Timothy 6:11-12

 As for you O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses

 We are going to focus on the four actions given to us in vs 11-12

#1.  FLEE the battles that sin brings into our lives

There are struggles caused by not living fully for Christ

The ways of God are wise for a reason, they make our life and relationships healthier

Obedient believers still have struggles, but they are purposeful struggles

The immediate context of fleeing is materialism (vs 9-10)

Materialism is a life out of priority, so it makes life dysfunctional

We can say this about any pursuit without God (see Ecclesiastes 2)

What are paths we should “flee”?

  • Any form of sin
  • Doing the least we can for God
  • Having a critical spirit
  • Selfishness and always holding expectations for others

These courses create burdens and steal the joy and fruitfulness of God from us

#2.  PURSUE what brings you closer to God

The most effective way to “flee” is to “pursue”

This involves filling our heart with new pursuits, but even more it is filling our heart with them

Unless God has our heart, even good pursuits go astray

We are told to pursue the qualities that keep us rooted in Christ (v11)

We often think that aggressively pursuing God will add burden to our life

In reality, the pursuit of God is always the best gain (How can less of God be better?)

Two reflections will deepen these convictions:

(1)  Meditate on the person and works of Christ

(2)  Meditate on eternity (this is the only way to clearly see loss and gain)

#3.  FIGHT biblically

What we are fighting?

It is anything that keeps us from being faithful to God

Christ won the war for our soul, but every day we fight the battle for our heart

Who is our enemy?

Our battle is not against people, but spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12)

People are used against us, but that’s because they are also under attack (but don’t understand it)

Whether people are unbelievers or sinning Christians, they all need the gospel from us

Satan is our great enemy

He has strategies and plans set against us (2 Timothy 2:26)

Satan has accomplices (false teachers, the values of the world, and our sinful nature)

Satan’s chief weapon is deception (John 8:44 ‘he is the “father of lies”)

Satan cannot make us sin, so he deceives us in ways that are both blatant and subtle

Any thought that minimizes sin, or keeps us from being faithful, is a deception:

  • To focus on our rights instead of our responsibilities
  • To see only one side of sinful lives
  • To think we’re strong or worthless, instead of weak and valuable
  • To start with ourselves instead of God  
  • To value the temporal over the eternal

How does faith come into this fight? 

Truth is the answer to deception, and faith is to trust in the truths we believe

Biblical faith is to act on what God has said

Biblical faith builds life on biblical truth

We “fight the fight of faith” by responding to all struggles with biblical truth

  • Overwhelmed:  God is sufficient and cares for us, so we can praise him
  • Hurt:  God has forgiven us totally and forever, so we can give grace to others
  • Confounded:  All wisdom flows from God, so we should follow his word
  • Worn out:  God rules over our present and eternity, so we will rest in him

#4.  TAKE HOLD of the victory Christ has given us

Christ has risen, he is exalted, hell does tremble and eternity is ready

We don’t ‘fight’ to get or keep this victory, we live in it

The gospel holds us; so we can hold and use the truths of the gospel

If you’re not sure you have strength to hold on, know that God holds us first (Philippians 3:12)

Even if we let go, we are still being held

We never stop being victorious, even when we ignore that victory

The difference among mature and immature believers is how consistently we hold on

 Life is a battlefield, but we are victorious!

GOD KNOWS

The truth is we don’t really know what is about to hit us. But God is never surprised.

Part of the beauty and rest in following Christ is that we don’t have to know what is next or how to resolve it. God has that in hand. Our task is essentially to always follow His agenda and He will not only “make our paths straight”, He will make all things right.