Love for God

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.15.17

Love for the Gospel Shapes How We Live

 

1 Corinthians 9

Last week, we saw principles that guide how we exercise our rights and freedoms. The Apostle Paul continues this theme at length!  But now he uses his own example to show that serving the Gospel shapes his priorities and lifestyle

Paul Starts By Reminding Them of His Position v1

He was an Apostle: the highest office in the church

A requirement of being an Apostle is to be a witness of the risen Christ. Paul says, “I saw him!”

He was not just an Apostle he was their Apostle vs1-2

In Acts 18, Paul founded the church in Corinth; and he spent 1½ years teaching them

He Understood His Rights in Christ v1 “Am I not free?”

Many in the church struggled to understand their freedoms; but not Paul, he knew them well

 

Yet, He Wants Them to Know the Rights He Gave Up

There are three areas in which Paul gave up his rights

1.  The right to eat food sacrificed to idols as mentioned in chapter 8 and possibly here in v4

2.  The right to have a wife v5 – Paul embraced singleness as he describes in chapter 7

3.  The right to be paid for laboring to serve churches v6

Paul keeps his focus on this last right

He gives four proofs that he has the right to be paid for serving the church

1.  Being paid for your service is a principle that is obvious to the world v7

2.  The Old Testament law affirmed this principle v8

3.  This was the practice for those who work in all temples v13; whether Jewish or pagan

4.  It was commanded by Jesus v14 (Luke 10:7 ‘a laborer deserves his wages’)

He goes into detail about his rights in order to dramatize his refusal of them

 

Why Would the Apostle Paul Give Up Obvious ‘Rights’?

The gospel is a greater purpose than clinging to our rights

He repeats this idea three times: v12, v15 and v18

In vs 12-18 he refers to ‘the gospel’ seven times

Each time, he exalts the value of the gospel to dictate how he lives

Can you say the gospel motivates your priorities?

What is the gospel and why is it worth sacrificing rights and privileges?

Gospel means good news: it involves incomparable events, and it provides unequalled hope

The gospel so thrilled Paul, he made himself a servant to it v19

He was not just willing to live this way, he was eager to do so

The gospel had captured Paul’s heart and he wanted it for everyone else!

This made Paul flexible in how he dealt with people vs 20-22

What point is Paul making?  ‘Servants’ adapt to those they serve

He is not telling us to compromise beliefs, but to compromise our preferences

Love leads us to become comfortable with the people around us

Serving Christ and his gospel shaped how Paul lived vs 24-27

All that Paul claimed to believe about God actually led how he lived

He lived with self-control v25

This is not a negative concept, being out of control is

Just as exercise shapes our physical body, godly discipline shapes our soul  Bible reading, prayer, community

He had direction v26

He was not “aimlessly” reacting to every new situation

We are Christians, we follow a Person; and he is consistent, faithful, and wise

His heart was filled with the joy of serving Christ!

Look at his language: v18 reward, v23 share blessing, v24 the prize

Paul lived to please God and that brought joy to his heart

Have you lost perspective about where goodness is found?

How will you respond to Christ and his gospel?

Do you need this gospel?  Christ is here to save – don’t push him away

For those who have the gospel – is your heart dry? Is your life aimless?

FREE TO BE A SLAVE

A Slave-Pen at New Orleans Before the Auction

In reading “A Puritan Theology” by Joel Beeke, I came across this compelling story:

A wealthy Englishman went to California in the 1850s to enrich himself during the gold rush.  After much success, he left to go back to England.  He stopped at New Orleans on the way home, and, as all tourists did at that time, visited the infamous slave trading block. 

As he approached the place where people were sold for cash, he saw a beautiful, young, African woman standing on the block.  He overheard two men who were trying to outbid each other for the woman, talking about what they would do to her if they could buy her.  To their surprise, the Englishman joined in the bidding by offering twice the price.

The auctioneer was astonished. “No one has ever offered this much for a slave,” he said.

After purchasing her, the Englishman stepped forward to get her.  When he helped her down to his level, she spat I his face.  He wiped away the spit and led her to a building in another part of town.  There she watched uncomprehendingly as he filled out forms.  To her astonishment, he handed her some manumission papers and said, “There, now you are a free woman.”  She spat in his face again.

“Don’t you understand?” he asked, as he wiped her spit away again.  “You are free!  You are free!” 

She stared at him in disbelief a long while.  Then she fell at his feet and wept – and wept some more.  Finally, she looked up and asked, “Sir, is it really true that you paid more than anyone has ever paid to purchase me as a slave, only to set me free?”

“Yes,” he said, calmly.

She wept some more.  Finally, she spoke: “Sir, I have only one request.  Can I be your slave forever?”

This encounter is meant to illustrate what Christ has done for us, and –don’t miss it– what our response should be to his generous grace!

Christian, you know your own story of unexpected liberation from slavery and condemnation. Are you as willing to make yourself a slave of Christ?

There are believers who occasionally say they are thankful, and there are believers who daily demonstrate they are thankful. Which best defines you?

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR GOD!

by Debbie Huber

Are you apologizing for God?

Do your children see and hear that you love God and there is no higher priority in your life?

I am sure that most of you hope so.  But we may not be aware that we, as parents, can come across as “apologizing for God” to our children.

Our children can perceive that God is a lesser priority in how we communicate his importance for our lives.

Are you afraid that your teenager will be bored in church so you feel guilty for bringing them?

Do you give up on family devotions before school in the mornings because you feel sorry that your children will be too tired getting up early?

Do you allow sports and sporting events, birthday parties, or sleepovers to keep your family from being in church together because you feel bad since “they will be left out”? 

 

Do not apologize for the things of God! 

Rather be excited for every opportunity to be with the family of God, to worship Him, to read His word, and to love Jesus more.

The Christian life is an adventure! 

Following Jesus will not be easy but let your family know that it is worth ALL of our life and our devotion.  We “get to” go to church!  We “get to” read the Bible so know who God is! We “get to” be around fellow believers!

We will not regret the sacrifices we made for God but we will regret the “apologies” we made for Him.

 

WHERE DO YOU STAND?

Morality

Have you ever found yourself disturbed over the casual way in which sexual behavior outside of marriage has been presented in our culture?

No one enjoys being disturbed, but it’s worse if we are undisturbed by a degraded culture.

Not too long ago the world at least understood the Church’s concern about sex outside of marriage. Now the world will not even agree on the definition of what is a marriage!

Those who love God have good reason for voicing their concern. A constant stream of immorality deadens the senses to God’s standards. What the Bible calls immorality is so common that even the biblically literate can fall into a mindset that thinks “biblical standards should not be that inflexible”.

But the situation has become even worse than desensitized understanding toward sexuality and godly purity. Today, there are many in the church who RESENT reminders of Biblical standards.

We need to ask ourselves some pointed questions:

Are we willingly to believe that God’s Word is no longer smart enough for our generation – and that the culture we see around us is wiser than God?

Are we willing to say that we no longer need the grace of God’s Word being spoken into our lives by fellow believers – especially when we have veered off of the Bible’s good and protective path?

Barton Gingrich has written an article for the Gospel Coalition that addresses the problem of minimizing biblical standards by many of this generation’s self-proclaimed biblical Christians. He writes,

“Young evangelicals must choose their master. Right now, too many follow their appetites and desires.”

Who have you chosen to be Master of your life? Whose word do you trust? And almost as important, of whose word will you be skeptical?

Reading Barton’s full article may be a help to you in considering these questions about today’s perspective of sexual morality.

R

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.02.16

The True Vine

by Dan McManus

John 15:1-11

Authentic disciples abide in Jesus by drawing upon his word, which bears fruit in their lives for their joy and God’s glory

The Vine

Throughout the gospel Jesus giving several “I am” statements

These statements present the ideas of replacing and fulfilling. What once was is now fully seen in Jesus.

Here he gives the last of the “I am” statements:  I am the True Vine.

We need to see what is being replaced and fulfilled

In the OT Israel is referred to as the vine. But Israel is often rebuked for not bearing fruit and warned of being cut off

Jesus here surpasses Israel and becomes the very locus of the people of God. No longer is God’s vineyard with the nation of Israel but in the vine of Jesus himself.

The Vinedresser

The Father cares for his vineyard in two ways: Pruning and Removing

v2 tells us the fruit-bearing branches are pruned and the fruitless branches are removed.

The Branches

Those who bear fruit are pruned, v3 you are already clean because of the word.

There is a play on words that we don’t pick up on in the English but is clear in the Greek that the word for prune means to cleanse, purify, prune

The word for clean has the same root which means clean, pure, unstained.

Those who are already clean will be further cleansed.

How is it that they are already clean? Because of the word that I have spoken to you

What is the word? All of what he has said and all of who He is.

Christ is the Word incarnate

Pruning

Pruning is not always pleasant, but it is always good. Hebrews 12:10-11

False disciples are those who do not bear fruit, he removes and throws away.

There are many who pass for branches in Christ but they do not bear fruit and are only connected by profession and not true faith.  

The vinedresser must remove the unfruitful branches for the health of the vineyard.

Abiding and Fruit-Bearing

The imagery of the vine becomes more clear as we see the necessary connection between abiding and bearing fruit.

Authentic disciples (those connected to the vine by faith) abide in Jesus and so bear fruit  v4-5 

Bearing fruit is a necessary result of abiding

Once a branch is apart from the vine it has no hope of bearing fruit. It must remain connected.

Jesus is saying that in him is the life giving source from which fruit can be born.

So how is it we remain connected to Jesus, how do we abide in him?

He points to the way we abide in him by having his words abide in is

v7 “abide in me and my words abide in you”

Notice the flow from vs 4, 5 & 7 “I in you” . . . “my words in you”

There is such a connection between who Jesus is and what he has said he can speak of them interchangeably.

In the vine picture Jesus is telling us he will remain with, abide with us in his words which he sees as his very presence.

This is a profound truth that Jesus sees his word in us as our being with Him

Because Jesus is the Word made flesh, he is God with us, and all of scripture is the testimony of who God is. All Scripture is the testimony of who Christ is

Branches that “abide” in the vine bear fruit because they draw up from the vine’s life giving nutrients to bear fruit.

Authentic disciples abide in Jesus by drawing from his word in order to bear fruit.

This is not about just reading it, it is more than that. It is about drawing up the life giving truths necessary for bearing fruit.

How to we draw upon the words of Jesus?

Psalm 119 gives us many ways in which we abide in the Word

Keep it (v5) apply the Word to our lives

Store it up (v11) memorize scripture

Declare it (v13) speak the Word to yourself and to others  

Meditate on it (v15) think through the intention of the Word and how it matters in our lives            

Delight in it (v16) come to the scriptures with delight because you are coming to Jesus

Behold it (v18) gaze upon the wonder of the Word

Desire it (v20) have a passion for it

Learn it (v26-27) engaging our minds to understand so our hearts might be affected. If we want to feel deeply we have to be willing to think deeply.

Incline your heart to it (v36)

Trust it (v42) does knowing biblical truth lead us to trust it?

Sing it (v54) this is a wonderful way to draw up from the vine

Believe it (v66) a confident conviction that every word is true and good.

Hope in it (v74) when everything around us seems to be in chaos we can be steady, because our hope is in the Word

Love it (v97) to cherish it through meditation and obedience

Rejoice in it (v162) we can take great joy in this great treasure.

Pray it:  the whole Psalm is a poetic prayer that all these things about the Word would be a reality in his life

This connects us back to John 15

v7 Abiding in Jesus and his words abiding in us lead us to pray

When the authentic disciple is abiding in Jesus and drawing up from the vine his prayers will be inhabited with the will of Jesus.

We will pray according to his desire for us—that we would bear much fruit and he says it will be done for us.

Obedience, love, Joy, and glory are all tied together vs 8-11

Abiding in Jesus and bearing fruit happens in the soil of love.

Jesus tells us, we are loved with a perfect love, and so remain in it through obedience.

Jesus is our example!

He has never questioned the Father’s love

He has always remained in the Father’s love through obedience.

Obedience and love are wrapped up together 1 John 5:3

God’s Word is not merely commands to us; it is an expression of love.

v11 Jesus explains his desire through this teaching that they we have true joy.

Last week we saw that Jesus gives HIS peace, and now we learn he also gives HIS joy!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.18.16

‘God is with us, are we with Him?’

John 14:15-24

Jesus Farewell Discourse (John 13-16) is preparing his followers for his departure and their continued service

 

God is with us in his Trinitarian nature

Jesus has already given them implications of his being One with the Father

To trust Jesus is to trust the One who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (v6)

He is the fullness and the revealing of the Father (v9)

Throughout chapter 14, Jesus has given reasons why God being with them brings hope and confidence: 

In chapters 14-16, Jesus repeatedly adds that the Holy Spirit will also be with them

Jesus will send “another Helper”. The Greek word for ‘helper’ means “to come alongside”

The Holy Spirit comes alongside to fulfill Jesus’ work in us and through us

Throughout this discourse, Jesus keeps coming back to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper”

He wants to magnify this great reality about God with us

By nature, the Holy Spirit is all God is; and by inclination he is all God intends (Romans 8:9-11)

Jesus also frequently mentions the Holy Spirit in his post-resurrection appearances

When Jesus presents our mission, he adds that the Holy Spirit will enable us (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:46-49, John 20:21-22 & Acts 1:8)

Jesus says, the Spirit who is already with you, will be forever “in” you

The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a significant difference between Old and New Testament believers

Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit simply help us without indwelling us, as he did in the Old Testament,?

The answer is that God’s great purpose in salvation is to bring us into communion with the Triune God (v20)

The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth”

Jesus combines these titles three times in this Farewell Discourse

The help brought by the Holy Spirit is not just empowering, it is full truth

We need this because Satan who is called the ‘ruler of this world’ in v30, is also called ‘the Father of Lies’ in John 8:44

Living with a Trinitarian perspective is not theological minutia

This is God’s nature; as a Triune being, he is a relational and communicative person

What a wondrous reality! God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are committed to us

 

What does it mean for us to be with God?

We are to be as fully committed to God as he is to us

In the middle of assuring the disciples that he would be with them, Jesus says our love for God is shown by obedience (vs 15, 21, 23 & 24)

Why bring that up here?  It is a reminder that God is with us, so we can be with him

God saves us into a relationship; that relationship requires obedience

Disobedience is sin, and sin ‘separates us’ from God

Obedience doesn’t maintain our salvation; it verifies and honors our salvation

God does not leave us as “orphans” (v18), so we should not abandon him

An orphan is without parental care; God will never leave or neglect his covenant responsibilities to us

Jesus repeats the connection between love and obedience four times – this is serious!

We don’t have the freedom to define how we love Jesus. Some Christians minimize biblical teaching by saying “I just love Jesus”

But love is more than feelings; the Bible defines love by its actions

Action Jesus gives is to obey God’s word; these are the only actions we have to give God

Jesus calls us to be obedient as he was 

1.  Compartmentalized obedience is disobedience 

2.  Half-hearted obedience is disobedience

3.  Common disobedience, doesn’t provide any cover

4.  So called “justified” disobedience (when we think we have been mistreated or we deserve a break) is just plain ole disobedience

5.  Oblivious disobedience is still disobedience

God gave us his word and he speaks through it, so we are responsible to know what’s in it

We are also responsible to examine our hearts, because not all sin is easy for us to see   

Jesus moves in only one direction – which is to serve the Father’s eternal purpose

If we live ignoring or disobeying where Jesus is going, we are not with him

But if follow this path, even in weakness the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are with us

DON’T FORGET GOD ON YOUR VACATION

Vacation season is upon us, and whether or not this is when you are on the road, it is a good time to consider how we honor God while we travel.

Sam Bierig encourages us in this article to make sure we don’t allow excuses to keep us from being in church on Sundays when we are away.

I will add two other important areas we should not let slip aside during vacations.

Giving – the expenses of your church don’t diminish when you are on vacation. Make sure you remain supportive of your church family whenever you cannot attend a service.

If you don’t give regularly to your church during the rest of the year, keep this in mind: you expect your church to be faithful in its ministry to you, so you should be faithful in making that ministry possible. You are part of the ministry of your church!

Devotional time – vacation definitely flips over our regular schedule, which is the point of going on vacation! Still, find some time to be with God.

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but we have all experienced vacations turning into times of frustration. We need our hearts equipped by God wherever we are. Our God is worthy of living for him in all situations – including the times of getting away which he so graciously makes possible for us.

When you go away to be refreshed, keep in mind that meaning time with our good God is refreshing.

FULLY YOURS

absolutely

entirely

positively

thoroughly

totally

wholly

from A to Z

altogether

every inch

heart and soul

all in

Many Christians sing about living fully for Christ on Sunday mornings, but then are hesitant to express the same commitment to him in prayer on Monday mornings.

We know what the Great Commandment says about loving God with “all” of our heart, mind, soul and strength – but we squirm when God presents us with the details.

Yet, the wonderful truth is that God is good, wise and perfect!

Everything that God asks of us, will be for our greatest good

There is no degree of faithfulness that we will exercise now that we will not be wholly thankful for in eternity

There is no half-heartedness or compromise now that we will not regret when the Lord appears

On one hand, as “believers” we believe in the goodness of God, yet at the same time – we don’t believe it as fully as his goodness deserves. We are like the man who called out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief”.

All of us stumble in how we live, but a more serious condition is when we knowingly hold back from even the idea of Great Commandment Living.

We are afraid that life will not be as good. But that is a theological impossibility. Life may not always be easier (in the moment) when we live fully for God – but it will always be better!

Maybe you are aware at this moment of an area where you struggle to entrust your life completely to God. Or, perhaps there is an inconsistency between belief and practice that you have not noticed.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to see obedience clearly. And the Holy Spirit wants to guide us into all that is wise. If we will earnestly ask God to reveal what it means to live fully for him, he will bring increased clarity to us.

But we don’t have to worry about God dumping too much on us at once; he knows we can only take one step at a time.

To help us think through where our steps may need to begin, consider which of these statements are difficult for us to honestly declare before God:

Take the leadership of my life into your hands

Take all my sinful desires away

Show me the practices I need to eliminate from my life

Lead me into gospel sharing opportunities today

I trust whatever you want to do with my life

Sift my heart for what does not belong

Take me out of any relationship that doesn’t honor you

All that I have is for your use

Convict my heart where I need it

Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me

Show me where my life is not consistent with your Word

If you can identify what is difficult for you to declare before God, begin asking him for the grace to step forward in trust. But you also need to take hold of that grace as he gives it. If there is someone you can trust, ask them to pray for this with you.

If all of this seems too hard, consider how wonderful it will be to honestly tell God, “I am fully yours!”

THIS IS POWERFUL!

5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

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.