Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 2 - Reaching in the Name of Christ - Matthew 28:19-20

I began a series of posts last week entitled A Grace Driven Church. In these 5 sermons, I’m going to share with you posts around the acronym of the word Grace. Last time we began with the letter G and talked about Growing in the Love of Christ. How that true disciples will have a deepening relationship with Christ that leads to a definite reformation of conduct… Over the next 4 posts, we’ll be looking at…

Reaching in the Name of Christ
Affirming in the Body of Christ
Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Certainly, we can all agree that Jesus gave us a crystal-clear commandment in the verses I read from Matthew 28 in what we call the Great Commission. So, as I begin today, let me ask you this… When is the last time you shared Jesus with someone? Now, I’m not talking about simply just inviting someone to church. I’m talking about having a heart to heart conversation with someone and telling them why they need and how they can have a personal relationship with Jesus.

If there’s an area in which Christians have failed miserably, it’s in the area of personal evangelism…reaching in the name of Christ. Unfortunately, most unsaved people in our world don’t see us as clear reflectors of God’s grace. They think Christians are unloving, judgmental people. They think we don’t care about them. They think they don’t matter to us. They know us for those things that we legalistically don’t do instead of the things we willingly do for the Lord. The really sad part is, there are those who claim to be Christians who act this way and become the strongest arguments against Christianity.

Did you know the name Christian literally means Christ-like? So, if we’re really, truly saved…if we are Christians, then our lives should reflect that. One writer put it this way, “Either change your name or change your conduct.” Now I don’t believe we should change our name from Christian to something else. But I do think if we are going to reach in the name of Christ, then we need to change our conduct. We need to allow our own personal experience with God’s saving grace to change and deepen our understanding of evangelism.

I have several things I want to share with you today so let me get to it. I want us to reflect on our own salvation experience and remember six basic things about evangelism that will help us share the Gospel with the lost and dying world around us. First of all…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EVANGELISM IS ABOUT SHARING A PERSON NOT A PLAN

Folks…keep in mind that as Christians, we follow a Person not an idea or set of rules and rituals. Did you know you don’t have to be a Bible scholar to share your faith with others? You simply talk to others about the Person you know. Share with them about what He’s has done in your life. You introduce them to the Person of Jesus. Isn’t this the example we see from others in the Bible? Philip met Jesus and then found Nathaniel and invited him to come and see Jesus for himself. When Paul went to a new place to share the Gospel, he would simply tell others how he met Jesus and invited them to meet Jesus.

Listen folks…when we share Jesus with those who are lost, we are introducing them to a real Person. The goal of evangelism isn’t to get a decision from people, it’s to introduce them to Jesus. I want everyone around me to have the same personal, individual relationship with Jesus that I have. When we reach in the name of Christ, we’re simply introducing people to the Person of Christ. So, remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan. Next…

WE MUST REMEMBER THAT EVANGELISM IS DONE IN GOD’S POWER NOT OURS

None of us have the ability to change lives. We can’t convict people of their sin. We don’t draw people to a relationship with Christ. That’s God’s job. Only He is able to do these things. Let me share three verses that make this clear for us…

Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” It’s only AFTER we’ve been indwelled by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can help bring others to Christ.

Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes…”

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Listen folks…understand this…without God’s power, it’s not only difficult to lead a person to Christ…it’s impossible! But when we put ourselves in God’s hands, we become powerful evangelists. We all have to realize that evangelism apart from God’s presence and power is ineffective; but when we allow ourselves to be driven by God’s power, people will repent of their sins and respond to the grace of God.

So, we must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…and evangelism is done in God’s power not ours. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER IT’S NOT WHAT WE SAY IT’S WHAT WE DO

You know there are a lot of professing Christians out there who think it doesn’t matter how they live their lives. Listen folks…the Bible has a lot to say about how we live our lives as Christians and I can guarantee you will never win anyone to Christ if you live like the devil around them. Let me share just a few verses with you that talk about proper Christian living…

Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

James 2:17, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Do you want to have a positive influence for Christ on the people around you? Your family…your friends…your neighbors…your co-workers? Then your Christianity has to be more than just words. Your life has to match what you claim to be.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…and evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SHARE THE WAY

Paul describes this perfectly for us in 1 Corinthians 9 when he says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Listen folks…effective evangelism is flexible in nature. We have to understand that the message of the Gospel has not changed and will never change, but the method of sharing the Gospel can and sometimes must change. Types of sermons and methods of delivery change, types of music have changed over the years. We must be willing to do anything and everything we can to share the Gospel and win people to Jesus.

I read a story about a man leading a conference and talked about using contemporary Christian music in the church as a means to introduce the message of Christianity to people. Afterward, an elderly woman walking with a cane came up to him. He braced himself for her criticism. She said, “Young man…I want to have a word with you about what you said tonight. I want you to know that when it comes to music, Montovani is about as contemporary as I get unless it’s the weekend and then I’ll loosen up and enjoy some Lawrence Welk.” Then she pointed her cane at him and continued, “But if rock n’ roll is what it takes to get people back in church, all I’ve got to say is…let’s boogie.”

Now…understand that we will never replace sermons with songs but we have to be flexible enough in our methods of presenting the Gospel to reach our ever-changing world. Most of you know that I spent several years running around all over the Midwest singing gospel music. Now was my singing better than all those pastor’s preaching? Absolutely not! It was just a different way to share the Gospel with those who might not listen to its message any other way.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do and there is more than one way to share the way. When it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER EVANGELISM IS A REAL JOY NOT A RELIGIOUS JOB

Listen folks…one of the greatest experiences you will ever have as a Christian is leading someone else to Christ. I remember a time with Pam in the home of another couple and being able to pray with them as they accepted Christ, and the time I spent in Bulgaria back in 2003 and seeing so many people make professions of faith, and sitting across from my friend Steve and Steak N Shake and praying with him as he gave his life to Christ.

Being a Christian and sharing our faith with others isn’t always easy but there is joy in serving the Lord. Amen? We shouldn’t look at being a Christian as a job. A Christian is who we are. He has saved us, redeemed us…changed us and we have the privilege and honor of sharing that with others.

We must remember that evangelism is about sharing a person not a plan…evangelism is done in God’s power not ours…evangelism isn’t what we say it’s what we do…there is more than one way to share the way and it’s a real joy not a religious job. Then finally today, when it comes to reaching in the name of Christ…

WE MUST REMEMBER WE ARE SHARING GOOD NEWS THAT MEETS REAL NEEDS

All of our unsaved family, friends, neighbors and co-workers really need to hear what we have to say about Jesus. The things we tell them and show them about Jesus’ love have direct application to their lives. Ephesians 2 tells us that without Christ, people are spiritually dead and without hope. Colossians 1 says they are prisoners in the domain of darkness…enemies of God and cut off from Him.

So, our witness is literally good news to them! What we have to say is relevant to them in the here and now…but more importantly it’s relevant to their future. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 tells us that without a relationship with Christ people are destined to spend eternity in hell. I’ve told you before, I got saved for the old-fashioned reason…I didn’t want to die and go to hell.

The reality of hell should be a powerful motivation for us to evangelize those God sends our way. It was the main theme in Jesus’ evangelistic ministry, wasn’t it? Jesus shared stories like that of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16 which plainly told of the agony and desperation of those forever separated from God. Jesus confronted the Pharisees, the scribes, the tax-gatherers, the politicians, the rich, the poor…anybody and everybody…with the hard truth that they would die in their sin and face eternal condemnation unless they repented and put their faith in Him. We need to understand that evangelism is serious business. We have what people need…we know the good news of the Gospel and we need to get busy sharing it.

Do we want to be a grace driven church? Boy, I hope so. Let me ask you again the question I asked you way back at the beginning of this sermon. When is the last time you shared Jesus with someone? Are you doing your part to evangelize the world around you. Are YOU reaching in the name of Christ?

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Grace Driven Church Part 1 - Growing in the Love of Christ - Matthew 4:18-22

I’m going to begin a series of posts today that will take us through the end of May. The series is entitled A Grace Driven Church. Over the next 5 weeks I’m going to share with you sermons that use an acronym of the word Grace. So here’s what we’re going to cover…

Growing in the Love of Christ
Reaching in the Name of Christ
Affirming in the Body of Christ
Caring in the Nature of Christ and
Exalting in the Glory of Christ

So, as we begin today, let me ask you this… What motivates you to do what you do for the Lord? The reality is as a Christian, the love and grace that He’s extended to us should motivate us in such a way that we no longer live for ourselves for live for Him. God’s love and grace should drive us…

To minister to the needs of those around us…
To desire the fellowship of other Christians…
To make evangelism a priority in our lives…

Most importantly, God’s grace should motivate us to become true disciples…to grow in our love for Christ. So today we’re starting at the beginning of our acronym…GRACE…with G…Growing in the Love of Christ. Having experienced God’s grace personally gives us a taste of His love and makes us want more. So, grace prompts us to GROW in our love of Christ. It drives us to become better DISCIPLES…to get closer to God.

Let me ask another question… What exactly is a disciple? I think we’ll begin to find the answer to this question by looking at the calling of Jesus’ first disciples. So, let me read Matthew 4:18-22.

What this passage tells us first and foremost is that a disciple is someone who learns by following someone else just like these for men did with Jesus. Today when Jesus calls people to follow Him…when people commit to being His disciples…their lives will be marked by two things and that’s what I’m going to share with you today. Notice first…that a true disciple is someone who has a…

A DEEPENING RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST

Contrary to a popular misconception in our day, Christian discipleship is NOT a religion. It is NOT memorized words and verses or religious activity. Christian discipleship is a relationship. A maturing disciple of Jesus is simply someone who has a relationship with God Himself that is alive and dynamic and growing.

Did you know that we were custom-designed for an intimate relationship with God? Humans were created to literally walk side-by-side with God through life just like Adam and Eve did in the garden before they sinned. Because of this, people constantly search to fill this void…this emptiness…that sin and separation for God has created. Not only do we as human beings desire a relationship with God, He desperately wants a relationship with us. So discipleship is first and foremost a growing, deepening love relationship between Jesus and those who’ve accepted His free gift of salvation.

Now all of us know that it’s challenging to have a meaningful friendship or relationship with another person. It takes work and time and sacrifice. Well, think of the frustration of trying to build a relationship with Someone Who is invisible and untouchable. Is it even possible to have a personal relationship with an unseen God? Let me say, “Absolutely YES!” Let me share with you a few things you can do to develop a personal relationship with Him.

Simply open the door of your heart. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” What door is He talking about? The door to your heart. Jesus is ready and willing to have a personal relationship with you but the choice is yours. So many Christians don’t seem to realize that God offers us so much more than just fire insurance…so much more than a ticket to heaven when we die. So, you want to develop a personal relationship with Him? Open the door to your heart and let Him in.

The next thing you can and must do is spend time with Him. All relationships are built on communication and closeness…and that takes time. Building a relationship with God requires regular conversations with Him through prayer and exposure to His Word. It amazes me that we as Christians have direct access to God and so few actually take advantage of it. Every new day gives us an opportunity to spends some quality time with God. Listen folks…no relationship will grow if you don’t give it time. To have a personal relationship with Him we must…open the door of our heart; spend time with Him…and…

Commit to be where He is working. All of you should know by now that one of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Henry Blackaby who said, “Find out where God is working and join Him there.” Many of you went through the Experiencing God study we did on Wednesdays a while back. In that study, Dr. Blackaby challenged us to understand that God is always at work around us and that He wants to involve us in His work. It’s our job to see where God is at work and then to join Him in His work.

True disciples value and cherish their relationship with God. They help it grow deep and strong by inviting God into their hearts, by spending regular quality time with Him and by joining Him in His work. That brings me to the second thing involved in discipleship. Not only does true discipleship involve a deepening relationship with Christ, it also leads to…

A DEFINITE REFORMATION OF CONDUCT

Listen folks…true disciples let their relationship with God to change them. They commit to a process of patterning their lives after Jesus Himself. In II Corinthians 3:18 Paul wrote, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image” Disciples give full control of their desires and decisions to God. All of us should pray like David prayed in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Reformation literally means improving something or someone by removing or correcting faults. Let me share a couple of things about this process of reformation that we all need to understand…

Reformation…improvement…correction takes time. None of us will ever become super Christians overnight. We live in an instant gratification driven world don’t we? We want what we want and we want it now. Folks listen…the reality is that we won’t be totally like Him until we are with Him in heaven. In Philippians 1:6 Paul said, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Discipleship takes time. It is a commitment to a life-long process of change…of reformation. One writer said it this way, “Disciples are made not born.” Saul met Jesus in a life changing moment on the Damascus Road but he didn’t become Paul until several years of mentoring and studying had passed. Becoming a true disciple of Jesus takes time.

Not only does this reformation…improvement…correction take time, it is costly. This is the part that gets most people and keeps them from becoming true disciples. Listen folks…salvation is free but following Jesus and experiencing this wonderful relationship with Him will cost us. Jesus said it this way in Luke 9, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Then he explained it further in John 15, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

The more we become like Christ, the less we are like the world around us and with this change comes a cost. We must give up our sinful habits. We may lose friends who don’t understand the way our relationship with God has changed our lives. Folks…a relationship with Christ is time-consuming and energy draining, but it is totally worth it!!! The real question is this… Are you willing to allow Him to make the changes He wants to make in your life so you can be the disciple He wants you to be?

Did you know that today there are more people dying as martyrs for their faith that in all other years combined? In many Islamic countries, heresy laws make conversion to Christianity a criminal act punishable by flogging, dismemberment or death. In countries like Sudan, tens of thousands of Christians are dumped in the open desert each year without food or water. Yet, Light Magazine reports that in spite of the incredible persecution, the Christian Church is growing faster in Sudan than anywhere else in the Muslim world. I guess they’ve learned that their relationship with God is worth the ultimate cost.

We have it easy here in America. No one is waiting outside to arrest us…or worse…for being in church today. Yet we still won’t commit ourselves to becoming true disciples of Jesus.

Discipleship…Growing in the Love of Christ…involves a deepening relationship and a definite reformation. Which one are you missing?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Empty Promises of Easter - Luke 24:1-12

There was a story told by “Dear Abby” in a response to someone’s question. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions, he come across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his graduation - in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.

As I thought about this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people in this world have done the same thing to God. Literally tossed aside a wonderful promise, because they didn’t understand it, or they didn’t believe that it was possible.

In our world, we are taught “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” So many of us have been taken in by these “empty promises,” that we are leery of anything or anyone that tells us we can have something for nothing.

But, you know what…God has never made a promise that was too good to be true.

The truth is the world is full of empty promises. We watch TV, and the advertisements tell us that we can be happy, sexy, rich, or famous, if we only purchase a certain product. It doesn’t take long before we’ve been fooled enough to know that the world’s promises are full of emptiness. But, God’s promises are different. Instead of promises full of emptiness, on Easter, He gave us emptiness that is full of promise.

I want us to think about the promises of Easter. I have two I want to share with you today and both of these promises are marked by something empty. Notice first…

THE EMPTY CROSS

Because the cross was empty, we have the promise of forgiven sins. Use your imagination today and try to think back, if you can, to that first Easter Morning. It’s early morning…the sun has not risen. A few of Jesus’ followers are on their way to the tomb where Jesus was buried. Their task is a sad one. They’re going to anoint the body of Jesus. As they walk, they come to the top of a rise in the path and they all stop. Motionless and quiet, they stare off in the distance. Just outside the city stands the gruesome reminder of the events of just a few days ago. Silhouetted by the glow of the sky, stand 3 Crosses.

The cross in the middle is the one I want us to see. That’s the cross Jesus was on. Look up at the top – those bloodstains are from the crown of thorns that was crushed into Jesus’ skull. The stains on the ends of the crossbar came from the nails that were driven into his hands. The main beam was soaked in blood – blood from his back – blood that was shed when the Roman soldiers beat him until He was unrecognizable. It also has stains from the blood that poured from his side when a Roman soldier ran a spear through his side to see if he was dead…and…HE WAS.

You see, Jesus really did die and that’s why I want you to see the cross this morning. It is the place where He died…but today, it’s empty. It’s empty of Jesus’ body, but it’s also full…full of God’s promises…full of hope for you and me. The promise of the empty cross is that you and I can stand forgiven. Because it was on that cross Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.

“SIN” – now there’s a word that’s not popular anymore. It’s a word that isn’t “politically correct.” But, the simple fact of the matter is we have all sinned. All of us have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.

So, here’s the problem. According to God’s law, the wages of sin is death. Because, we have sinned, we deserve God’s punishment. We deserve eternal death in hell. But thank God when you look at that empty cross, you see a reminder of God’s promise that you have been forgiven.

The Bible tells us that, “God demonstrated His love to us, that while we were still sinners, CHRIST DIED FOR US!” It was on that cross Jesus offered His perfect, sinless life as a sacrifice for each one of us. The penalty of sin was paid…on that cross…that empty cross. It was there, His blood was shed for our salvation.

Because of what Jesus did on that cross, we can stand forgiven. The first empty promise of Easter is the empty cross…filled with the promise of forgiven sins. Let me share the second empty promise of Easter…

THE EMPTY TOMB

Let’s go back to our story and the ladies headed for the tomb. After pausing briefly to view the empty cross, they continue on their way down the path to the tomb. As they go, one of them asks – “who will move the stone for us?”

Now…they have good reason to be concerned. The stone placed in front of the tomb wasn’t a small rock it was a large boulder. Not only that, the Romans had sealed the tomb, so no one was allowed to open it without permission. But the ladies continue on. As they approach the burial site, they are still wondering about what had happened when they come upon something even more remarkable. The soldiers are all unconscious, the stone has been moved and an angel…glowing like lightening…is sitting on top of it.

The angel says to them, “Don’t be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; He has risen!” Jesus had risen…He was alive and the tomb was empty! And what a tremendous promise that holds. The fact of the empty tomb is the truth of the resurrection of Jesus and the promise to every one of us that we too will be raised to eternal life.

To all those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, death has lost its sting. It is no longer something to be feared. What fear is there when we have the promise that one day we will live forever with Him in Heaven? Why is the tomb empty? Because Jesus is alive! Just as the Angel said, “He is risen!”

It’s been nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. That 1st Easter Sunday, as the women went to the grave, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. They were not yet aware of the wonderful promises of that day.

The empty cross – the promise that their sins were forgiven
The empty tomb – the promise of their eternal life

And those same promises they discovered you can have today...

You can know the freedom of forgiven sins
You can know the promise of eternal life in heaven
You can know Jesus as your Lord and Savior

I think at Easter, more than any other time of the year, we realize that God has made all sorts of outlandish promises. So outlandish, that some people just can’t bring themselves to believe them. I’ve shared a couple of these promises with you today. So, my question to you is this…will you take him at his word?

Romans 10:13 tells us that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

If you’ve never accepted God’s promises for your life, He’s waiting. Don’t put it off, do it today, and know the joy of eternal life that comes from a personal relationship with Christ.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palms In The Garden - Matthew 26:36-56

This Palm Sunday sermon is going to be different than the sermons I’ve shared with you before. Most times when we think of Palm Sunday, we think of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This morning I’m going to focus on a different time of Passion Week and that is the time Jesus spent in the garden as I share with you a sermon entitled Palms in the Garden. (Read Matthew 26:36-56)

Just outside Jerusalem was a little garden…the Garden of Gethsemane. Jerusalem has always been a very crowded city and property hard to come by. The wealthy would purchase private garden spots on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. This Garden of Gethsemane could possibly have been owned by a friend of Jesus and was a special place for Him to go for rest, relaxation and prayer. I hope you have that special place to get alone with God.

Gethsemane literally means oil press. Evidently, it was a place where they would harvest olives from the trees, press and crush them to remove the oil. This is a great symbol of what Jesus was about to go through for us. He was about to be crushed and pressed, so the oil of salvation could flow freely to the world.

Listen folks…we may never understand…this side of heaven…what Jesus went through that night in the garden. It was here in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus surrendered Himself to go to the cross… It was here in the garden that Jesus actually won the victory of the cross when He said, “Not my will but yours be done!”

What I want to share with you today are several palms that we find here in the garden. Notice first the…

PALMS OF SORROW

Notice what Jesus said to Peter, James and John in verse 38, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Jesus was completely engulfed by sorrow because of what He knew He was going to face in the coming days. The sorrow He experienced was caused by several things. First there was…

The emotional suffering He was about to endure – Jesus was going to face every negative emotional attack possible. Think about it…He was going to face…
  • The rejection of His own people
  • The betrayal of Judas
  • The desertion of the disciples
  • The denial of Peter
  • The temptations of satan to have the angels come and take Him back to heaven
Listen to how Luke 22:44 describes the sorrow of Jesus, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”

Just picture Jesus kneeling there in the garden with His palms of sorrow over His face as He sweat drops of blood.

If any of us experienced just one of these things, we would be devastated; but Jesus went through all of it at once! Listen folks…salvation might be free, but it’s not cheap!! Not only was Jesus’ suffering caused by the coming emotional suffering; it was also caused by…

The physical suffering He was about to endure – Jesus knew an old rugged cross was waiting for Him. He also knew the physical torture that He would have to experience before He got to that cross. And listen folks…Jesus wasn’t afraid to die. He faced death with courage and with perfect peace knowing that He was doing the will of the Father. But no one in their right mind looks forward to torture and death. None of us are looking forward to dying! If the doctor gives us a choice between living and dying, we’ll take living every single time! As humans, we have a built-in defense mechanism to resist pain and death.

Can you see the palms of sorrow, as Jesus looks down at His hands, knowing in advance the nails that would be driven through them? But the worst part of His suffering wasn’t emotional or physical. The worst part of His suffering was caused by…

The spiritual suffering He was about to endure – Notice verse 39 with me again, “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” He picked up that cup with His palms of sorrow. In that cup was much more than any emotional or physical suffering. In that cup was the sin of all mankind and it was about to be placed on Him…the sinless, perfect Son of God.

Listen folks…we can’t even begin to imagine the disgust He must have felt at the very thought of having our sin placed on Him…to the point that His own Father wouldn’t even look at Him. When He would cry out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

So, we’ve seen His palms of sorrow…next notice with me His…

PALMS OF SURRENDER

Notice verse 42 with me again, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” In His humanity, Jesus may have buried His face in palms of sorrow…but thank God He looked up to heaven with palms of surrender! Amen?

Let’s compare this garden to another garden. In the Garden of Eden, Adam exercised his own will and brought ruin and damnation to mankind. But in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus exercised the will of the Father and brought salvation and forgiveness to mankind. Adam said, “My will be done” and brought death. Jesus said, “Thy will be done” and brought life. I’m so glad that Jesus did the will of the Father…aren’t you?

Satan tries to keep us busy and gives us alternatives to being faithful to God’s will. Every day we answer the question of my will or thy will when comes to things like giving, serving, witnessing and working.

We sing the song I Surrender All and some should just be honest and instead of singing, “All to Jesus I surrender” they should sing “Some to Jesus I surrender, some to Him I freely give…I will sometimes love and trust Him, in His presence sometimes live!” Listen folks…He deserves better than that!

With complete and total palms of surrender Jesus willingly gave all…and so should we!

So, we’ve seen His palms of sorrow and His palms of surrender. Last today, let me share with you His…

PALMS OF SUBMISSION

Look at verse 50 of Matthew 26, “Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.”

Jesus knew they were coming. He could feel ground shake from the trampling of marching feet. He could hear the shouts of the mob…see the lights of the torches and hear the clanging of the swords. But Jesus didn’t run or resist. Instead, with palms of submission, He did what He’d already committed to the Father that He would do. He had fully surrendered to God…but now He was submitting to man.

The Scripture tells us there was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs who came out to arrest a carpenter, the Prince of Peace…the Son of God! Judas betrays Him with a kiss…and now Peter is finally awake…he had been asleep, along with the others…which might actually explain why they all forsook Jesus and fled. They had been sleeping when they were supposed to be praying!

So, in verse 51 we see that Peter is now awake and he does what he does best…something rash…something without thinking! He pulls out a sword and tries to kill one of those who’d come to arrest Jesus. Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away, picks up the ear and miraculously reattached it. Jesus chose the cup of the cross…He chose submission over getting His own way.

So, what’s in your cup today? Is there sorrow or suffering? Is it emotional? Is it physical? Is it spiritual? Will YOU surrender it to God? Will you say, “Thy will be done?”

It’s God’s will for you to be saved…and that takes submission. It’s God’s will for you to be faithful and that takes submission. Can you truthfully and honestly sing, “All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give?”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sealed With A Promise - Ephesians 1:12-14

Are you glad you’re a Christian? I know I am!!! How do we know we’re not only saved but safe? Not only saved but secure in our relationship with the Lord? We’re safe and secure because we're not only saved, but sealed! Folks…make sure you understand this about salvation…

First and foremost, salvation comes from the Lord. We are saved by grace, through faith…it’s a gift from God. And nowhere in Scripture does it teach that we are saved by God’s grace but kept saved by our good works. Salvation is not about us holding on to God but God holding on to us. We are saved and kept saved…secure in our salvation by Jesus. If salvation isn’t all about Jesus, then it’s all wrong!!!

The Bible teaches us here in Ephesians 1 that God has secured our salvation by giving us the Holy Spirit as a deposit that guarantees our inheritance. We’ve not only been saved by God, but sealed by God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Now…it’s very important when we study the Bible, for us to interpret words within their Biblical context. This word “seal” meant something very significant to the believers in Ephesus…it brought up a specific image in their minds. What do you think of when you hear the word seal?

For some, a seal is an animal that can balance a beach ball on its nose. For others a seal is something used for canning fruits and vegetables; and for others a seal is something that keeps your engine fluids from leaking out.

What I want to share with you today are the three primary meanings of this Biblical word “seal.” The first meaning is a...

FINISHED TRANSACTION

Have you ever had something notarized? If so, then you know what it means to have something sealed. In other words, it’s a done deal, it’s official! Think of it like a business transaction… God took all the sin on your account…all the lust, the greed, the lies, the impure thoughts, the gossiping words…all your evil deeds…God took it all, and placed it on Christ’s account. Jesus paid for those sins when He died on the cross…and when He paid your debt, He paid it in full! When you got saved, God sealed…or finished…the transaction!

But listen folks…that’s not all…it’s actually a 2-part transaction. God not only takes your sins and places them on Christ’s account, but then He does something even more wonderful. He takes the righteousness of Jesus and He places it on YOUR account!

Let me ask you a question. What does it take to get into heaven? Give me only one word that describes the requirement to enter heaven… Do you know what it is? It’s “Perfection.” The Bible says that no sin will ever enter those heavenly gates. Some will say, “God will let me in…He’s a God of love!” Yes…that’s true. He is a God of love but He’s also a holy God and this holy God turned His back on His own Son when He bore our sin on the cross.

So, the only way to get into heaven without a relationship with Christ is to live a perfect life…not a good life, but a perfect life! Is anyone here perfect? Does anyone know a perfect person? Listen folks…it’s takes perfection to get into heaven…and if you don’t have perfection, you’re gonna need to find it somewhere. The beauty of it is this… We can never achieve perfection in ourselves, but we can receive perfection as a gift!!! Only one Person can give that to you because only He could afford to purchase it for you…and that person is Jesus.

Hebrews 7:28 says, “The oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”

Our salvation is so simple a child can easily believe and receive it, and yet so deep, we can never fully grasp just how far-reaching it truly is. The very thought that you can lose your salvation is shallow thinking, compared to the depth of what salvation really is! Folks…if you’ve been saved, you need to understand that God doesn’t see you as a wicked, dirty sinner that’s been forgiven. He sees you clothed in the very righteousness of Jesus. He sees you justified…as though you’ve NEVER sinned! Now tell me that’s not something to be excited about.

As a Christian…when you stand before God, you’ll hear Him say, “Welcome to heaven” because your salvation is a done deal. It’s a finished transaction…sealed by the very Holy Spirit of God. The second Biblical meaning of that word “seal” is…

OWNERSHIP

In Paul’s day, Ephesus was the very center of the lumber business. It was located on a river, which was used to transport logs from the logging camps to the mill, downstream. Each camp would have its own seal, stamped on the end of the logs, so the mill knew who to credit. Some people who own cattle and horses will brand them so they can be told apart from others should they get away.

My Bible tells me that I’m sealed or branded by God. I am His property. Regardless of what happens in this life, I am still one of His sheep. Remember the story of Job? Listen to what Job 1:8-12 says…

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. Does Job fear God for nothing? Satan replied. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face. The Lord said to Satan, Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger. Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Listen folks…Satan had to ask God’s permission to touch Job, there was a hedge around him that said, private property, no trespassing because Job belonged to God. So, what does it mean to be sealed? It means a finished transaction; it indicates ownership and the third meaning is…

SECURITY

Think of security like sealing a letter in an envelope but far more of course. Let me give you a better example. In Matthew 27:66, the Romans put Jesus in the grave, rolled the stone over the entrance, and then sealed it. Now, history says they would take a string on either side of the stone held by hot wax, and then the seal was pressed into the wax as it dried and hardened. Some might say, “Sure, but that seal was broken, it didn’t last.” That’s right…but let me ask you this, “How long will the seal of the Holy Spirit last?”

Ephesians 4:30 answers that question for us. That verse says we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God until the day of redemption.

So, we see not only the meaning of the seal but the promise of the seal. Verse 14 of Ephesians 1 tells us that the Holy Spirit is God’s “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.” Let me share with you some of the things the deposit of the Holy Spirit guarantees us…
  1. A new home in heaven
  2. A new body – I’m not sure about you but I’m very excited about this one!
  3. A new city
  4. A reunion with our Christian friends and loved ones
  5. Eternal joy – No more tears, sorrow, crying, hospitals, pain, bills…
  6. Eternal fellowship with Jesus
Listen folks…the reality is if the walls of heaven were particle board instead of Jasper; the streets were gravel instead of gold; the gates chain link instead of pearl and I end up with a shack instead of a mansion…I’d still want to go to heaven. Why? Because Jesus is there, and Jesus will be what makes it heaven! Amen?

Understand this…it’s not presumptuous to say you know you’re going to heaven. Scripture is clear…

1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

The real question today is this… Are you ready to go? Do you have that personal individual relationship with Christ that saves you and guarantees your eternal future in heaven?