May 1, 2022
May 1, 2022
8 Marks Of The Church
The Sanctifying Church
“It’s one of Hollywood’s favorite bits of pseudoscience: human beings use only 10 percent of their brain, and awakening the remaining 90 percent—supposedly dormant—allows otherwise ordinary human beings to display extraordinary mental abilities. In Phenomenon (1996), John Travolta gains the ability to predict earthquakes and instantly learns foreign languages. Scarlett Johansson becomes a super powered martial-arts master in Lucy (2014). And in Limitless (2011) Bradley Cooper writes a novel overnight.
This ready-made blueprint for fantasy films is also a favorite among the general public. In a survey, 65 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, ‘People only use 10 percent of their brain on a daily basis.’ But the truth is that we use all of our brain all of the time.
How do we know? For one thing, if we needed only 10 percent of our brain, the majority of brain injuries would have no discernible consequences, since the damage would affect parts of the brain that weren’t doing anything to begin with. We also know that natural selection discourages the development of useless anatomical structures: early humans who devoted scarce physical resources to growing and maintaining huge amounts of excess brain tissue would have been outcompeted by those who spent those precious resources on things more necessary for survival and reproductive success. Tougher immune systems, stronger muscles, better looking hair—just about anything would be more useful than having a head full of inert tissue.
We’ve been able to back up these logical conclusions with hard evidence. Imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), allow doctors and scientists to map brain activity in real time. The data clearly shows that large areas of the brain—far more than 10 percent—are used for all sorts of activity, from seemingly simple tasks like resting or looking at pictures to more complex ones like reading or doing math. Scientists have yet to find an area of the brain that doesn’t do anything.
So how did we come to believe that 90 percent of our brain is useless? The myth is often incorrectly attributed to 19th-century psychologist William James, who proposed that most of our mental potential goes untapped. But he never specified a percentage. Albert Einstein—a magnet for misattribution of quotes—has also been held responsible. In reality, the concept most likely came from the American self-help industry. One of the earliest mentions appears in the preface to Dale Carnegie’s 1936 mega best seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People. The idea that we have harnessed only a fraction of our brain’s full potential has been a staple for motivational gurus, New Age hucksters, and uninspired screenwriters ever since.
Obviously, this is bad news for anyone hoping to find the secret to becoming a genius overnight. The good news, though, is that hard work still works. There is plenty of reason to believe that you can build brainpower by regularly working at challenging mental tasks, such as playing a musical instrument, doing arithmetic, or reading a novel.”
I like to play Sudoku and June’s Journey (it is a game where you have to find various objects in a scene. My favorite video game of all times is Portal, which is a thinking game. All of those games help to keep my mind sharp. I hope that I am using more than 10% of my brain when I’m playing those games.
There are many common myths about the church that are misguided at best and dangerous at worst
You can emphasize personal holiness as much as you want and be a healthy church
This myth, if believed, can be dangerous because:
It can give someone a false sense of security that they can be truly united together with Jesus without looking increasingly like Him
It dilutes and pollutes the church, which God intended to be potent and pure
We know this is a myth because Jesus said a clear mark of a healthy church would be a church filled with people who are being conformed more and more into the image of the Son
MARK: The Sanctifying Church
The Sanctifying Church and the Teaching of Jesus (John 17:13-19)
John 17:1-26 has historically been entitled, The High Priestly Prayer
Jesus is praying for Himself (17:1-5), His disciples (17:6-19), and for future believers (17:20-26)
In the middle of His prayer for the disciples we see His teaching on sanctification and the means by which His disciples and future believers can continue the process of sanctification
Means of sanctification
Jesus is expressing to the Father that He is coming to Him now
He is praying out loud for the benefit of His disciples, so they can have the full measure of His joy within them
He gave the disciples God’s Word
This brought about hatred by the world
Jesus was not asking the Father to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the evil one
Paul reminds the Ephesian believers that our struggle is not with human beings, but rather it is against the rulers, authorities, and powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12)
Jesus was not praying for isolation, but infiltration
Jesus was praying that His disciples would be sanctified in the world
We see, that sanctification comes by the truth
God’s Word is the truth!!!
The Greek word for sanctification means “set apart for sacred use, cleansed and made holy” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for John 17:17]
Our theme last year was “pursuing holiness”
The Spiritual Life Journal focused on various commitments: holiness in prayer, the Word, service, giving, relationships, the Gospel, and worship
The commitments under the heading “Holiness in the Word” were, to read through the Bible with my Idaville Church family in 2021 and memorize one verse a month with my Idaville Church family in 2021
“A follower of Christ becomes sanctified (set apart for sacred use, cleansed and made holy) through believing and obeying the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). He or she has already accepted forgiveness through Christ’s sacrificial death (Hebrews 7:26, 27). But daily application of God’s Word has a purifying effect on our minds and hearts. Scripture points out sin, motivates us to confess, renews our relationship with Christ, and guides us back to the right path.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for John 17:17]
Hebrews 4:12, For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
“The Greek word for sanctify is hagiazo, which means ‘to set apart for God’s use.’ As Bruce points out:
This involves their consecration for the task now entrusted to them; it involves further their inward purification and endowment with all the spiritual resources necessary for carrying out that task. This purification and endowment are the work of the Spirit, but here Jesus declares the instrument of that work to be ‘the truth’—the truth embodied in the Father’s ‘word’ which Jesus had given to the disciples as he himself had received it from the Father (vv. 8, 14). The very message which they are to proclaim in his name will exercise its sanctifying effect on them: that message is the continuation of his message, just as their mission in the world is the extension of his mission (Bruce, p. 334).”
[Kenneth O. Gangel, John, ed. Max Anders, vol. 4 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2000), 317.]
Bruce is talking about the Gospel of Jesus Christ being proclaimed to all nations
It also includes teaching the nations to obey everything Jesus had commanded them from the Father (Matt. 28:20)
Jesus sanctified Himself, so that His followers could also be truly sanctified
“God’s truth has been given to us in three ‘editions’: His Word is truth (John 17:17); His Son is the truth (John 14:6); and His Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6). We need all three if we are to experience true sanctification, a sanctification that touches every part of our inner person. With the mind, we learn God’s truth through the Word. With the heart, we love God’s truth, His Son. With the will, we yield to the Spirit and live God’s truth day by day. It takes all three for a balanced experience of sanctification.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Transformed, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 98.]
Jesus’ teaching helps us understand that sanctification comes from truth, which is found in God’s Word, the Bible
The Sanctifying Church and the Teaching of the Early Church (Acts 5:1-11)
Sin in the church
We know from this passage that lying was the sin that Ananias and Sapphira were judged on
They had lied to God
They had lied to God’s people
“George MacDonald wrote, ‘Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look, instead of trying to be, what one is not.’” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Dynamic, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 78.]
“They build the front just like St. Mark’s,
Or like Westminster Abbey;
And then, as if to cheat the Lord,
They make the back parts shabby.” [Wiersbe, 78]
The property was theirs to do with what they wanted
They were not required to give all of the proceeds from the sale of the property to the church
But, they were required to be honest about their giving
If we look back at Acts 4, we better understand their desire to make it appear as though they had given the total amount of the sale of the property to the church
Acts 4:36-37, Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Joseph was not the only one who had done this, for from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35)
My guess is that pride was also a contributing factor in Ananias and Sapphira’s deception
They wanted to be counted with those who were giving sacrificially to the church
The result of their deception was death
Sanctification in the church
Why was their lie judged so harshly?
First, the Lord was establishing His church through the disciples and He wanted it to be holy and sanctified
“This act was judged harshly because dishonesty, greed, and covetousness are destructive in a church, preventing the Holy Spirit from working effectively. All lying is bad, but when we lie to try to deceive God and his people about our relationship with him, we destroy our testimony about Christ.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Acts 5:3]
This was not the first time that the Lord judged harshly
“It is worth noting that the Lord judges sin severely at the beginning of a new period in salvation history. Just after the tabernacle was erected, God killed Nadab and Abihu for trying to present “false fire” to the Lord (Lev. 10). He also had Achan killed for disobeying orders after Israel had entered the Promised Land (Josh. 7). While God was certainly not responsible for their sins, He did use these judgments as warnings to the people, and even to us (1 Cor. 10:11–12).” [Wiersbe, 79]
When the Lord was establishing new things, He wanted them to be established correctly, with integrity and honesty
Paul shares warnings from Israel’s history with the Corinthian believers before he says, These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor. 10:11-12)
We all have the capacity to deceive and lie, not only to other human beings, but also to the Lord
After Ananias’ death we read, and great fear seized all who heard what had happened (Acts 5:5)
After Sapphira’s death Luke writes, great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (Acts 5:11)
This was the correct response – reverence – to God’s righteous judgement on Ananias and Sapphira
The church needed to not only emphasize sanctification, but they needed to practice it
God takes sanctification and holiness seriously, and so should we
But what do the apostles have to say about sanctification?
The Sanctifying Church and the Teaching of the Apostles (Romans 8:28-30; 1 John 3:1-6)
The primary thought from these verses is, conforming to the likeness of his Son
Sanctification is just that, becoming more like Jesus in our attitudes, thoughts, speech, and behaviors
“God’s ultimate goal for us is to make us like Christ (1 John 3:2). As we become more and more like him, we discover our true selves, the persons we were created to be. How can we be conformed to Christ’s likeness? By reading and heeding the Word, by studying his life on earth through the Gospels, by being filled with his Spirit, and by doing his work in the world.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Romans 8:29]
Notice that the way to sanctification is again pointing us to God’s Word – it is where truth is found
But it also includes being filled with the Holy Spirit and doing His work in the world
1 John 3:1-6
Wiersbe outlines vv. 1-3 very well [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Real, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 107.]
What we are – children of God (v. 1)
What we shall be – like Christ with a glorified body ready for heaven (v. 2)
What we should be – purified, holy, sanctified (v. 3)
“For a child of God to sin indicates that he does not understand or appreciate what Jesus did for him on the cross.” [Wiersbe, 108-109.]
“One of our resources, then, for living a more holy lifestyle is pondering and meditating upon who Jesus is, who we have become in him, and what our life is likely to be when we see him.” [Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, ed. Max Anders, vol. 11 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1999), 190.]
As followers of Jesus Christ, we still sin sometimes
What John is referring to is willful, continual, habitual sin
“An unbeliever who sins is a creature sinning against his Creator. A Christian who sins is a child sinning against his Father. The unbeliever sins against law; the believer sins against love.” [Wiersbe, 108]
We are not trying to deliberately disobey God, grieve the Holy Spirit, or take lightly Jesus’ sacrifice
We understand the importance of revering God
If we continue to sin, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, then we don’t truly understand or appreciate Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on the cross [Wiersbe, 108-109]
Jesus came to take away our sin
The sacrificial system required a perfect lamb to be sacrificed in order to cover over their sins
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)
His perfect sacrifice did not cover over our sins, but took them away
Abiding in Christ
The key to not sinning is found in “living in Christ”
“To abide in Christ means to be in fellowship with Him, to allow nothing to come between ourselves and Christ. . . . It is this communion (abiding) with Christ that keeps us from deliberately disobeying His Word.” [Wiersbe, 110]
“Biblical terminology does not say that a Christian has two different natures. He has but one nature, the new nature in Christ. The old self dies and the new self lives; they do not coexist … The Christian is a single new person, a totally new creation, not a spiritual schizophrenic. It is the filthy coat of remaining humanness in which the new creation dwells that continues to hinder and contaminate his living. He is no longer the old man corrupted, but is now the new man created in righteousness and holiness, awaiting full salvation (Rom. 13:11) when he dies and is given a new body (p. 164).” [John MacArthur cited by Anders, 192-193]
The Apostles want us to understand that becoming more like Jesus takes reading and heeding God’s Word, being filled with the Holy Spirit, pondering and meditating on who Jesus is and who we have become in Him, and abiding in Christ.
We not only see this mark proclaimed to us through teaching, but also through a picture
METAPHOR: A Holy Nation (1 Peter 2:9-12)
Who we are, in Christ
Chosen race, royal priesthood, holy nation, God’s own possession, people of God, recipients of God’s mercy
The holy nation represents a nation that is pursuing sanctification
The reason is so we can proclaim the excellencies of God
Who we used to be, prior to Christ
Not a people
Not recipients of God’s mercy
What we should do as a result of following Christ
Abstain from fleshly lusts
“Sinful desires” is best understood as “strong desires motivated by selfishness.” [Anders, 1999]
Keep your behavior excellent/live such good lives/practice good deeds
Accusations [Anders, 1999]
Christians were accused of being disloyal to Caesar
They were accused of hurting local businesses, because they spoke against idol worship
Speaking against idol worship got them labeled as being godless
Peter is encouraging the believers to show the Gentiles, through their changed/sanctified/holy lives, that the accusations are not true or valid
The result of living this holy, sanctified life would be that the Gentiles would glorify God when Christ returns
So, how does this apply to our lives?
APPLICATION (how will we know if this mark of The Church marks Our Church?)
We will see evidence of God’s supernatural work in our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass (NASB1995)
The work of sanctification is the work of God in our lives as we submit to Him
We will see evidence of God’s sustaining work in our lives (Philippians 1:6)
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (NASB1995)
The perfecting work in us is God’s sanctifying work – making us more like Jesus
We will see evidence of our part in the sustaining work of God in our lives (Philippians 2:12-13)
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (NASB1995)
The working out of our salvation is again the process of sanctification
We will see evidence that we are being sanctified by time in Scripture (John 17:17)
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth (NASB1995)
This takes us back to what we learned about sanctification from Jesus, the early church, and the apostles
We will see evidence that we are being sanctified through timeless obedience (Titus 2:11-15)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you (NASB1995)
Obedience over the long haul – denying ungodliness and worldly desires, living sensibly, righteously and godly, and looking for Jesus second coming
Our desire is to have a church filled with people who are being conformed more and more into the image of the Son (Jesus)
Idaville Member Survey from RESTOR Renewal Ministries
There was one of the five survey questions that was in the top ten of least difficult for us as a church
“I can confidently say that being part of our church has deepened my desire to be more like Christ.” (7 out of 10).
This is encouraging!
I am excited that most of us have a deepened desire to be more like Christ
Notice that the primary word in the sentence is desire
I think the next question helps us understand that while we have a deepened desire, we don’t really know how to act on that desire
One of the remaining four questions was in the top 10 of most difficult for us
“The people in our church understand what ‘sanctification’ means and the means God uses to sanctify us as Christians.” (4 out of 10)
I hope everyone of us can now define sanctification – becoming more like Jesus Christ
I also hope that we now know the means that God uses to sanctify us
Jesus taught us that sanctification comes from the truth, which is found in God’s Word the Bible
The teaching of the early church helped us understand that God is serious about sanctification and holiness in His church
The Apostles teaching helped us to understand that becoming more like Jesus takes reading and heeding God’s Word, being filled with the Holy Spirit, pondering and meditating on who Jesus is and who we have become in Him, and abiding in Christ
Spiritual Life Journal
There are two commitments in the Spiritual Life Journal that apply to God’s Word
“I am committed to read through the Bible with my Idaville Church family in 2022.”
“I am committed to memorizing one verse a month with my Idaville Church family in 2022.”
I would encourage everyone to make those two commitments
The daily Bible reading guide is close to the back of the journal and the monthly memory verses are in the very back
I want to encourage you to take it two steps further
After reading the daily Bible passage, journal what God is saying to you through His Word
Share what God is teaching you with another person
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to reading through the Bible, journaling, and sharing what God is teaching me with others.
Where did the remaining three questions fall?
The three remaining questions all fell in the middle
“Our church has helped me to make a plan for my own personal sanctification.”
I do not know that we have helped each person make a personal plan for their own sanctification
We have definitely provided resources for you in the Spiritual Life Journal
Pastor Marc and I would love to meet with you, if you would like to develop a plan for your own personal sanctification
The initiative has to be on your part, otherwise it will not last
My Next Step Today Is To: Set up an appointment with Pastor Stuart or Pastor Marc to discuss my personal sanctification plan.
“It’s clear that the leaders in our church are consistently growing in their Christ-likeness.”
I trust that this will be more evident as we all pursue becoming more like Christ
“Our church consistently teaches on and encourages personal and corporate sanctification.”
As holiness and sanctification come up the various passages of Scripture that we are studying, I will make an concerted effort to highlight sanctification and encourage everyone to seek to become more like Christ
Our theme last year was “Pursuing Holiness”
We want to continue to do that even this year and beyond
“Our leadership strives to be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus, so we can lead more to Jesus.”
Three+ Uniques – “Preaching and teaching God’s Word.”
Through the weekly exposition of God’s Word, we all have the opportunity to learn more about Jesus and who we have become in Him
We can learn about abiding in Him and how to do that
Proven Process – “Sunday school and Discipleship groups.”
Sunday school and discipleship groups are an great way to learn the truths of God’s Word
When we learn the truths of God’s Word then we can become more like Jesus
“Have a 10% increase in the number of people attending Sunday school and/or discipleship groups.”
“Have a 10% increase in the pursuit of holiness as evidenced through salvations, baptisms, and accountability.”
The altar is open this morning with members of our prayer team. You can come forward today and kneel at the altar or pray with one of team members about anything. It may be about something the Holy Spirit has spoken to you about through God’s Word. It may be something you are dealing with personally. You come as the worship team plays quietly and then leads us in the closing song.
8 Marks Of The Church
The Sacrament Observing Church
“There are bodies buried in Hoover Dam.
This is one urban legend that just won’t die. While there were many fatalities involved in the making of Hoover Dam, zero involved workers slipping into the mix and being covered up with concrete. It’s not hard to see its prominence in the human consciousness though, with six bodies buried in Montana’s Fort Peck Dam.”
“The dam was built in interlocking blocks. Each block was five feet high. The smallest blocks were about 25 feet by 25 feet square, and the largest blocks were about 25 feet by 60 feet. Concrete was delivered to each block in buckets, eight cubic yards at a time. After each bucket was delivered, five or six men called ‘puddlers’ would stamp and vibrate the concrete into place, packing it down to ensure there were no air pockets in it. Each time a bucket was emptied, the level of concrete would raise from two inches up to six inches, depending on the size of the block. With only a slight increase in the level at any one time, and the presence of several men watching the placement, it would have been virtually impossible for anyone to be buried in the concrete. So, there are no bodies buried in Hoover Dam.
The ‘official’ number of fatalities involved in building Hoover Dam is 96. These were men who died at the dam site (classified as ‘industrial fatalities’) from such causes as drowning, blasting, falling rocks or slides, falls from the canyon walls, being struck by heavy equipment, truck accidents, etc. Industrial fatalities do not include deaths from heat, pneumonia, heart trouble, etc.”
There are many common myths about the church that are misguided at best and dangerous at worst
You can emphasize the sacraments as much as you want and be a healthy church
This myth, if believed, can be dangerous because:
It neglects the two main ways Jesus desired for us to identify with Him and His Gospel, together
It robs us of the two most compelling and consistent reminders of what Jesus has done for us and our union with him
We know this is a myth because Jesus said a clear mark of a healthy church would be a church filled with people who remember Him and remember they are united with Him through observing and practicing baptism and communion
MARK: The Sacrament Observing Church
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of Jesus (Luke 22:14-20; Matthew 28:19-20)
Communion (Luke 22:14-20)
This is Luke’s retelling of the Last Supper
Jesus and His disciples are enjoying the Passover meal together
This will be the last time that Jesus eats the Passover with them until it finds its fulfillment in the kingdom of God
Jesus was not going to drink wine with them again until God establishes His kingdom on earth
Jesus then explains the significance of the bread and wine as it pertains to His death
The bread represented His body that He was giving for them
Jesus experienced a scourging that actually killed other men
He had a crown of thorns embedded in his head
Nails were hammered through His wrists and feet
A spear was thrust into His side
Jesus’ body was given for us!
That’s what He was helping His disciples understand through the Last Supper
The wine symbolized His blood that would be poured out for all humanity
The lacerations that were opened up on Jesus’ back during the scourging caused His blood to flow
The crown of thorns being embedded in his scalp created open wounds that allowed His blood to be poured out
The nail holes in Has hands and feet created openings for blood to flow
The spear, thrust into His side, allowed the blood and water that had accumulated in His torso to pour out
Perhaps the disciples did not understand the significance of what Jesus was saying at this point, but within a day they would understand completely
Jesus was modeling for the disciples what they were supposed to do – it was not just emphasizing the importance of the Last Supper, but it was actually participating in and observing the Last Supper again and again
Jesus also instructed His disciples about baptism
Baptism (Matthew 28:19-20)
Matthew 28:16-20 has the heading, Jesus Gives the Great Commission
This is the mission of every church
It is our mission – Pursue, Grow, and Multiple Disciples
It is a the top of our bulletin
We have banners at the front of the sanctuary
We are now including it at the bottom of our weekly email updates
It’s included on page 3 of the Yearbook
It is part of the message on the inside cover of the Spiritual Life Journal
It is on the back of all three Challenge Coins
Part of the growth process of a new believer is recognizing the need to go through believers baptism
Believers baptism is an outward expression of an inward decision
The believer is letting others know they have given their lives wholly to Jesus Christ – He is their Lord and Savior
Jesus modeled baptism
In Matthew 3:13-17 we find Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist
John is reluctant to baptize Jesus, because He knows who He is
He feels like he should be baptized by Jesus
Jesus tells him that His baptism is to fulfill all righteousness, which appeases John and he consents to do it
As Jesus comes up out of the water we see the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove and we hear the voice of God the Father approving of Jesus
Jesus modeled the importance of observing the sacrament of baptism and He commissioned us to continue to observe it
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of the Early Church (Acts 2:38, 42)
Baptism (Acts 2:38)
As we have mentioned over the past few weeks, Acts 2 is talking about Pentecost
This is the time when God poured out His Spirit on the Apostles and they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness
Peter is the primary Apostle who addresses the crowd and at the end of his address we see the crowd’s reaction
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do.” (Acts 2:37)
Peter’s response (Acts 2:38-39)
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39)
We see that the early church not only needed to repent (180 degree turn), but also needed to be baptized
Peter is not saying that baptism forgives our sins – repentance is what does that
Baptism aligns us with Christ and other disciples of Christ
“Acts 2:38 should not be used to teach salvation by baptism. If baptism is essential for salvation, it seems strange that Peter said nothing about baptism in his other sermons (Acts 3:12–26; 5:29–32; 10:34–43). In fact, the people in the home of Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized (Acts 10:44–48)! Since believers are commanded to be baptized, it is important that we have a clean conscience by obeying (1 Peter 3:21), but we must not think that baptism is a part of salvation. If so, then nobody in Hebrews 11 was saved, because none of them was ever baptized.” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Dynamic, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 42.]
Peter is making it clear that baptism is an important part of being a disciple of Christ
He encouraged the crowd to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ
This was significant, because John the Baptist was already baptizing people with water for repentance
“John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God to forgive their sins and had decided to live as he wanted them to live.” [NIV Life Application Bible, footnote for Matthew 3:11, pg. 1646]
This was before Jesus had died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again to take the punishment for humanity’s sins
From that point on, those who believed in Jesus and repented of their sins, would be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ – identifying with His saving power through His death, burial, and resurrection
Peter used many other words to warn the crowd and he pleaded with them (Acts 2:40)
The result was that about 3,000 accepted the message, repented, and were baptized in one day! (Acts 2:41)
The early church not only taught about the importance of baptism, it also taught about the importance of communion
Communion (Acts 2:42)
The new believers devoted themselves to four things:
The Apostles’ teaching
Fellowship – koinōnia
It certainly can have the idea of sharing everything – having in common, which we see in Acts 2:44-45
“Here the believers fulfilled the words the Lord gave his disciples just before the crucifixion: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).” [Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, ed. Max Anders, vol. 5 of Holman New Testament Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 1998), 31.]
Breaking of bread
This is referring to the Lord’s Supper/Communion
It was probably part of a regular meal
They would conclude the meal by remembering the body and blood of Christ, until He returns
Prayer – corporate prayer
It is noteworthy that these new believers were participating in these four things on a daily basis (it was a unique feature around Pentecost, but was not maintained or practical in later New Testament settings) – we don’t practice that today, but perhaps we should
The early church not only taught about baptism and communion, they also observed and practiced it
The Sacrament Observing Church and the Teaching of the Apostles (Romans 6:1-4; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Baptism (Romans 6:1-4)
The Apostle Paul makes it clear how baptism connects us to Christ
“The picture in baptism points two ways, backwards to Christ’s death and burial and to our death to sin (verse 1), forwards to Christ’s resurrection from the dead and to our new life pledged by the coming out of the watery grave to walk on the other side of the baptismal grave (F. B. Meyer).” [A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 4711.]
Paul also taught about communion
Communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
This is one of the passages that I use when we observe communion together
Paul received this message from the Lord when he was in Arabia for three years (Galatians 1:15-18)
Jesus enlightened Paul to what happened at the very first Lord’s Supper
Paul is then passing this message on to the Corinthian believers as something they should be observing and practicing
The Apostle Paul not only taught the importance of baptism and communion, he observed and practiced them
METAPHOR: The Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23)
“As the body of Christ, we’re the locus of Jesus activity now, just as His physical body was during His earthly ministry.” [Matt Kyser]
“Through baptism, we are not only united with Christ in His body, but picture His death and resurrection to the world around us.” [Matt Kyser]
Greg Laurie talks about how they observe baptism at a cove on the beach in Orange County California – inevitably there will be people walking along the beach who stop to ask what is happening (sometimes those individuals believe in Jesus and are also baptized)
Wade and Seth were baptized in the Pacific Ocean when the church we attended in Southern California had their own beach baptism – there were people who stopped and asked what was happening
In 2019 I had the privilege of baptizing Wyatt and Alayna Derr at Fuller Lake with other individuals we didn’t know watching
Also in 2019 Alger Melton and I baptized Randy Bouder at a boat ramp in the Susquehanna River and a another family arrived while we were doing it
“As the Body of Christ, we are nourished and directed by Him as the Head of His Body, and are reminded about this every time we take communion.” [Matt Kyser]
APPLICATION (how will we know if this mark of The Church marks Our Church?)
We will see regular baptisms (Acts 2:38)
In 2021 we had seven people who were baptized
In 2020 we had one person baptized
In 2019 there were eight people baptized
We will share communion on a regular basis (1 Corinthians 11:25)
Our normal practice has been to observe communion at the beginning of each quarter (January, April, July, & October)
We also observe communion during the Maundy-Thursday and Good Friday services
We will see baptism as:
A sacred act (Acts 2:36-41) [the early church]
A sign & symbol (Romans 6:1-14) [Apostles]
A sacred initiation (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
We are all connected to the Body of Christ as disciples of Christ
We are one unit made up of many parts
We all have different areas of giftedness that the Lord uses in cooperation to allow the body to function correctly
We will see communion as an opportunity to:
Remember Jesus (Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Remember to repent of sin (Read 1 Corinthians 11:27-32)
We are going to observe communion following the message
I don’t know how it works, but we see here that many among the Corinthian believers were weak and sick and some had died
It appears that the weakness, sickness, and even death were a result of not recognizing the body of the Lord when they practiced the Lord’s Supper
“It is a serious thing to come to the Communion with an unprepared heart. It is also a serious thing to receive the Supper in a careless manner. Because the Corinthians had been sinning in their observing of the Lord’s Supper, God had disciplined them. ‘For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [have died]’ (1 Cor. 11:30).” [Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Wise, BE Series Commentary. Accordance electronic ed. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 129.]
Warren Wiersbe says that the Lord’s Supper can be a blessing and provide spiritual growth if we come with the right attitude
How can it be a blessing? Wiersbe gives us four ways:
We should look back (vv. 23-26a) – broken bread reminds us of Jesus’ body and the cup reminds us of Jesus blood shed for us
We should look ahead (v. 26b) – we observe the Lord’s Supper until he returns
We should look within (vv. 27-28, 31-32) – we do not have to be worthy to take communion, but we do have to do it in a worthy manner (“we have to examine our own hearts, judge our sins, and confess them to the Lord”) [Wiersbe]
We should look around (vv. 33-34) – we have to discern the Lord’s body (the church) and be unified and loving (love one another)
Remember to reconcile with other believers (Read 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 33-34)
The Corinthian believers had tainted the Lord’s Supper by allowing cliques to develop and selfishness to prevail
The rich brought a lot of food and ate together, while the poor had little to no food and were not included with the rich
The agape feast was supposed to be a meal that included everyone and provided for all
Remember to rejoice at His return (Read 1 Corinthians 11:26)
Our desire is to have a church filled with people who remember Jesus and remember they are united with Jesus through observing and practicing baptism and communion
Idaville Member Survey from RESTOR Renewal Ministries
There was one of the five survey questions that was in the top ten of least difficult for us as a church
“Our church provides regular, consistent opportunities to receive communion.” (9 out of 10).
Once a quarter and around Easter
Communion is for disciples of Jesus Christ – those who have believed in Him and repented of their sins
It does not have any significance for someone who is not a disciple of Jesus Christ
They are not remembering the broken body of Jesus or that His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of their sins
We will be observing communion at the end of the message today
Today could be the first time you observe communion as a disciple of Jesus Christ
Romans 3:23 (all have sinned)
Romans 6:23 (wages of sin is death)
Romans 5:8 (God demonstrated His love for you)
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (Jesus fulfilled Scripture through His death, burial, and resurrection)
Romans 10:9-10, That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
My Next Step Today Is To: Be saved today by confessing with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in my heart that God raised Him from the dead.
Where did the other survey questions fall?
Three of the remaining four questions were in the top 15 of most difficult for us
“There is regular teaching in our church on the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion.” (11 out of 15)
I hope that today was helpful in understanding the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion
I will strive to provide regular teaching about the meaning and purpose of baptism and communion, especially when they come up in Scripture and when we observe these two sacraments
“Our church provides regular opportunities for people to be baptized, and I can remember the last person who was baptized in our church.” (13 out of 15)
Most of us know that we usually provide one baptismal service a year, which is right after church and right before the VBS picnic in August
We are not limited to just this one baptismal service each year or to one location (the parsonage pool)
There are local churches that have a baptismal in their sanctuary that would welcome us
There are portable baptismal units that can be used indoors
Here are the names of the people who were baptized in the past three years
2021 – Stewart Gebhart, Silas Brown, and Joe, Marsie, Alister, & Josephine Wynn
2020 – Keith Strine
2019 – Willow Toney, Christopher Sauble, Jennifer Sauble, Brenda Wible, Jeremy Melton, Randy Bouder, Wyatt Derr, Alayna Derr
We are committed to observing baptism whenever individuals are ready to take that step of faith
“The people in our church know what baptism is, why it is important to their life and the life of the church, and have been baptized.” (14 out of 15)
I hope that today’s message has helped everyone to understand what baptism is and why it is important to your life and the life of the church
If you have not participated in believers baptism, I would like to encourage you to take that step of spiritual growth
My Next Step Today Is To: Indicate my desire to participate in believer’s baptism.
The fifth question is in the middle as it pertains to most or least difficult for our church
“The people in our church know what communion is and why it is important to their life and the life of the church, and look forward to receiving communion.”
We are a family that is loving, caring, and welcoming
This includes times around the Lord’s Table (communion)
It also includes helping new believers take the growth step into baptism
Our leadership strives to be led more by Jesus, to lead more like Jesus, so we can lead more to Jesus
We want to follow the lead of Jesus, the early church, and the Apostles as it pertains to observing baptism and communion
As we lead more to Jesus, they will participate in baptism and communion
Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples
This comes from Jesus commission in Matthew 28:19-20, which includes baptism
Have a 10% increase in the pursuit of holiness as evidenced through salvations, baptisms, and accountability
As we prepare for communion this morning, I would like to open up the altar for remembrance, repentance, reconciliation, and rejoicing.
A BLANK CHECK
Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom--I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.' "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."
Our church’s theme for 2021 is holiness and today is the last of four messages on holiness. Our memory verse for January tells us why we are to be holy. It is because God is holy and he has set us apart from the world to be his own. We are to strive to be more like Christ every day because as Christians God has given us the responsibility to continue Jesus’ work on the earth, which is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, just as he did.
Paul, the writer of Romans, spends the first eleven chapters of this book teaching the theology of the Christian faith and expounding on the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught an understanding of our sin problem, our need for salvation, our sanctification and the sovereignty of God that is central to our faith as Christians today. In Paul’s teaching in Romans, we have been given some of the most well-known verses in the Bible on these subjects, such as, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans chapter 3 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. Then in Romans 6:23 we see what we deserve because of our sin, “For the wages of sin is death.” What we deserve is a spiritual death, an eternal separation from God. But praise God, the theology of Christianity didn’t end there. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God took care of our sin problem and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. All this was done while we were living in rebellion against Him. Romans 10:9 tells us what our responsibility now is: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The ball is in our court. God doesn’t force us to accept Jesus. But salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Finally we see the culmination in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the good news for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are following Him. Now in Romans 12, Paul says, “So What?” Now that we’ve made a decision for Christ, what’s next?” Now that we are saved, how should we act? It is nice to say we are to be holy because God is holy. But is holiness in my daily life even realistic? Paul’s going to show us that holiness is definitely realistic and it is practical as well. In Romans chapter 12 the way that we achieve holiness is through sacrifice which brings us to our big idea this morning that: Our holiness will be seen in being a “living sacrifice” to God and others.
There are three points this morning. First, the Exhortation to Sacrifice; Second, the Expression of Sacrifice and third, the Evidence of Sacrifice. Let’s look at the exhortation to sacrifice which is found in Romans 12:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Paul starts off with the word, “therefore”, meaning that what follows is a continuation of what came before in chapters 1-11. He is urging us to act on the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he just taught. But he doesn’t just say “do something.” He gives us a logical reason why we should act which is because of God’s mercy towards us. God didn’t have to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. He could have left us in our sinful state and to the consequences of our sin. But as John 3:16 says, God loved the world so much he sent his one and only son to die on a cross to take away the sins of the world and all we need to do is accept his son and we can have eternal life with him instead of eternal separation from him.
So because of what God did for us, the reasonable thing we should do in response is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This response is reasonable and spiritual. What would your response be if a total stranger paid your bill at a restaurant? The reasonable response should be gratitude and maybe that prompts you to pay it forward and pay someone else’s bill in the future. In the same way, our response to what God has done for us should not only be gratitude but action. It should motivate us to obedience. Next, our response should be spiritual. In the OT, worship and gratitude was accompanied by sacrifice. In that time God had instituted animal sacrifices, which was the way for the Israelite’s to worship God and to show their gratitude to him for what he had done for them. But once Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, once for all, they no longer needed to sacrifice animals in order to do that. Now our sacrifices are spiritual acts of worship. This spiritual act of worship comes from the heart and the mind and requires a sacrifice from us. But we don’t just make a sacrifice to God we are to “be” a sacrifice to God, not a dead sacrifice but a living sacrifice.
What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice?” First, Paul tells us we are to present our bodies to God. He means “present our bodies once and for all.” This is not just a one time commitment. It is not just sacrificing our bodies to God on Sundays and Wednesdays when we come to church. It’s is an every second of every day commitment to God. We can’t take a day off. We can’t be holy in one area of our lives and not holy in another. Holiness must permeate every area of our lives twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three- hundred and sixty five days a year. The spiritual act of worship is an everyday worship experience that is a passionate pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.
Second, in urging us to be a living sacrifices, Paul says we need to sacrifice three things in response to what God has done for us. The first thing we need to sacrifice to God is our bodies. Before we became a Christian we used our bodies for sinful purposes but now that we are a part of the family of God we are to use our bodies for his glory and for his purposes. Holiness is sacrificing our bodies as living sacrifices so that God can use us as his instruments in the world.
The second thing we are urged to sacrifice is our minds. The world or this “age” is trying to control our minds but God wants to transform them. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means we are to sacrifice our minds to God for his use and for his purposes. We can’t give our minds to both God and the world. It must be one or the other. But we all know how hard it is to resist conforming to the world around us especially when it is actively seeking to devour us and take us away from the family of God. How does the world try to conform us? It’s insidious because it is actually the same way that God transforms us. We are conformed or transformed by what we read, what we watch, what we listen to and who we hang out with. Are you reading your Bible? Do you watch Christian movies and TV shows? Do you listen to Christian music? Do you hang out with Christian friends?
We are conformed to the world by anything that we put into our minds that is worldly and we are transformed by anything that we put in our minds that is Godly. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Do you want to know if you are a conformer or are being transformed? What are you thinking on and about? Is it true, is it noble, is it right, is it pure, is it lovely, is it admirable, is it excellent and is it praiseworthy? Who controls your mind, God or the world?
This transforming of your mind will result in an outward display of obeying God’s Word. When we make a commitment to holiness as individuals and a congregation that means we are individually and corporately reading and studying God’s Word, memorizing scripture, praying to God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition and the result is that our outward actions toward others will prove that we are pursuing holiness. Holiness is a practical pursuit which is why we put together the Spiritual Life Journal. We will see holiness in our lives as we obey God’s Word as it pertains to his Word, to our service, to our giving, in our relationships, in the gospel and in our worship. BIG IDEA
The third thing we are urged to sacrifice in response to what God has done for us is our wills. Your mind controls your body and your will controls your mind. It is only when we yield our will to God’s will that his power can take over and give us what we need to pursue and practice holiness. We can’t do it in our own power. We do this by knowing what God’s will is and putting it into practice. If we know and put into practice his standards, his desires, his motives and his values it will lead to spiritual growth and holy living. What we feed our minds and wills is what is inside of us and will come out of us. The difference in being conformed to this world or being transformed by the renewing of your mind and knowing what the perfect will of God is, is what comes out of us, is our actions.
These first two verses are not just asking us to sacrifice our time, talents, gifts and abilities to God and use them for his glory. They are asking for us to sacrifice our whole selves to him which includes those things. We need to sacrifice to him what we actually own. Our time, talents, gifts and abilities have been given to us by God. We can’t give away what we don’t own. But we do own our own bodies, our minds and our wills. That is what God wants us to sacrifice to him. The right to ourselves is the only thing we can give and we sacrifice our bodies, minds and wills so that his will can be done through us. That brings us to our first next step which is to be a “living sacrifice” by sacrificing my body, my mind and my will to the Lord for his purposes and his glory.
Our second point this morning is our expression of sacrifice. We express our sacrifice in the church by discovering our place in the body of Christ and seeking to build it up into a unified body. This is found in Romans 12:3-8 and this is what God’s Word says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
In these verses we see what sacrificing and pursuing holiness looks like in our relationships with those in the body of Christ. First, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we should. We are all on a level playing field when it comes to God. No one is better than anyone else. To have sober or realistic judgment means that we realize we are all supposed to be living sacrifices and we owe everything to God. Paul uses an analogy of the human body to show how each believer is a part of the body of Christ. We all have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and we are to use those gifts to build each other up. We belong to each other, we minster to each other and we need each other. We have sober judgment when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church and not for our own benefit. We do this in a couple of ways.
The first is an honest evaluation of our spiritual gifts. We need to know what our spiritual gifts are or we can’t use them for the good of the body. How can you tell that you are using the gifts that God has given you? First, how are you serving here at Idaville Church? If you aren’t serving in some way you need to start. Second, if you are already serving are you happy where you are serving? If not that could mean you aren’t serving in that sweet spot where God wants you to be. It’s like having a job that you hate to go to. How does that affect you? It can be the same way in the church. If you are serving in the church and you aren’t happy then you need to change. It is not doing you or the church any good to serve in that position. God has a sweet spot in mind for you, you just need to find it.
So, if you aren’t serving right now or don’t know how or where to serve, please come see me. If you don’t know what your gifts are or how they can be used in the church, please come see me. If you are already serving here at Idaville and aren’t happy, please come see me. In all of these instances, you can take a spiritual gift survey which will help you better understand your gifts and how and where they can be used in the church. A spiritual gift survey can help you to find that sweet spot that God wants you to be in which will benefit both you and Idaville Church. Also if you look in the Spiritual Life Journal under the heading Holiness in Service you can see the steps that you can take in this area. Our goal at Idaville Church would be to have everyone serving God and doing it in their sweet spot.
That brings us to our second next step which is to take the steps necessary to be serving God in my sweet spot at Idaville Church. When the believers in a church know their gifts, accept them by faith, and use them for God’s glory, then God can bless us in a wonderful way.
The second way we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church is by faithful cooperation. As I said we all have been given spiritual gifts. No one has been left out and our gifts complement each other’s gifts. We have been given these gifts to be used within the church family so that it can be a healthy place to grow spiritually. Everyone’s gift is important and is to be used for the good of the body so we must all must be faithful in using our gifts.
We need to be careful to not use our gifts for selfish reasons instead of for the reasons God intended. Paul in Corinthians had to rebuke them for how they were using their gifts. They had the gifts of the Spirit but they were lacking in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our gifts are to be used by faith and in cooperation together to build up the body of Christ. I like this quote from Weirsbe, “Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play with or weapons to fight with.”
Our third point this morning is the evidence of sacrifice. If the sacrificed life is expressed when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the body of Christ than the evidence of a sacrificed life will be seen in the nitty-gritty of our day-to day relationships. This includes our relationships within the church and our relationships outside the church. We see the evidence of a sacrificed life in Romans 12:9-21, this is what God’s Word says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are called to sacrifice ourselves in our relationships with others by overcoming evil with love. The key to doing this is that our love for others must be sincere. If our love is not sincere we can never do what Paul commands here and will never be able to overcome evil with love. The Greek word for sincere is the negative of the Greek word for hypocrite. Therefore, sincere love is not a hypocritical love. The word hypocrite was used for an actor of that time who wore different masks to portray the different emotions of the characters he played. This means that sincere Christians should not wear masks. What you see is what you get and Paul says that others should see a sincere love from us all the time. Also, it would be hypocritical for a Christian to hate what is good and cling to what is evil therefore we need to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
Paul goes on to show us what this sincere love should practically look like especially in our relationships with other believers. We can only do these things if we are pursuing holiness and have offered our whole selves to God as living sacrifices. BIG IDEA. First, we must be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The same Greek root word was used for loving relationships within families. As the body of Christ we are in a spiritual family and we to love each other like the best earthly families would. This, of course, would be the ideal and not the norm. Next we need to honor one another above ourselves. The mantra “looking out for number one” has been around since the Garden of Eden when Adam, Eve and the serpent blamed everyone but themselves for their sin. We are to put others first as an expression and evidence of sincere love.
Next, we are not to be lacking in our zeal but we are to keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. We are to be zealous about our worship to God. What does zealous mean? It means we are to be “on fire” or “passionate” about our worship of God and what he is accomplishing in the world. This can be seen in our sharing the good news of Christ with those who don’t know him or serving in a soup kitchen, etc. The Holy Spirit is the one who fans the flames of our passion for God. Are we asking to be filled by the Holy Spirit daily? Are we asking the Holy Spirit to give us passion for God and his son Jesus? Sometimes that passion can be misguided and harmful to the church so Paul tells us our spiritual passion must be used in obedient service to Christ. We need to remember whom we are to have passion for and what our passion is to be used for, which is serving the Lord.
Next, we are to “stay the course” as we fight the spiritual battles the world throws at us. We need to rejoice in the hope that we have that “God Wins” and show patience and endurance when trials and tribulations come our way. We also need to be faithful in prayer. We all know how important prayer is in the Christian walk. We need to be praying for others, for our church and for our world. Next, we show the familial love to the body of Christ when we share with other believers who are in need. We are also called to practice hospitality towards others.
In verses 14-16, Paul seems to shift from our relationships with other believers to our relationships with non-believers and how we are to show the same sincere love towards them. But these same behaviors still apply within the church. He starts off this section by seeming to quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We are called to a sincere love of others that goes way beyond the normal boundaries of human love. We do this by blessing those who persecute us and not cursing them. We are to treat them as God treated us which is by loving and forgiving them, unconditionally. Next he talks about rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Imagine what could happen if we as Christians rejoice with non-Christians over the things they rejoice in or mourn with non-Christians over things they are mourning over. Imagine the impact and witness that we could have on them and the opportunities it could give us to talk to them about the gospel. For instance, we could share with them the reason we can rejoice mourn with them is because of what God has done for us in sending his son to die for our sins and because of that we have the hope of heaven.
If we practice these things it allows us to live in harmony with everyone. The greatest obstacle to harmony in our relationships is pride. Paul urges us to avoid pride and to humble ourselves. We have all received the grace of God and are on the same plane when it comes to sin, salvation, sanctification, etc. so no matter our wealth, prestige or position we are to treat everyone the same and better than ourselves and be willing to do even the humblest of duties. We should also not be conceited or think we are wiser than we really are. This is what will bring unity as we pursue holiness as living sacrifices to God.
The last section, verses 17-21, talks about overcoming evil with good by refusing to retaliate against those who persecute you. A sincere love for others will repay evil with kindness. But as followers of Jesus Christ we are to go one step further. We are to be careful to “do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” How can we do that especially when there are those who believe that what is right is sin? We are to be at peace with everyone as long as God’s good and perfect will allows us to be and it doesn’t contradict God’s moral demands on us. We will not always be at peace with others but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to do our very best to try and live that way.
We are not to seek revenge against someone who wrongs us because God is the only one who can judge. He is the only one who knows all, sees all and is all-powerful. It is God’s right not ours to repay evil in the world. Instead we are to overcome evil with good. This is seen by feeding our enemy if he is hungry and giving him something to drink if he is thirsty. In doing these things we will heap burning coals on his head. This means that by responding to evil with good it may cause them to become ashamed of their actions and perhaps because of our witness seek reconciliation with God. Isn’t that what we want? We want the world to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as we do. This is counter-cultural, this is going above and beyond, this is being a living sacrifice, this is a practical pursuit of holiness in our lives. Which brings us to our third next step which is to pursue a sincere love for others and to overcome evil with good in all of my relationships.
So, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Like I said in the beginning, it’s like cashing in a $1,000 for quarters and going through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there in loving others. Being a living sacrifice is also like giving God a signed blank check and allowing him to continually fill it out and put anything and everything he wants on it. Being a living sacrifice is going all in with God. It is surrendering your will daily for the will of God. Being a living sacrifice is the pursuit of holiness that we have been talking about for the past month. The Israelites were to be a living sacrifice. Daniel was a living sacrifice. We are to be a living sacrifice to God. Being a living sacrifice is what the Spiritual Life Journal is all about. If you have signed the commitments in the Spiritual Life Journal and have started to do the daily bible reading plan and memorize the monthly scripture verse you have essentially given God a signed blank check and have agreed to pursue holiness everyday of 2021. You have agreed to not only grow spiritually inwardly but to show your growth outwardly by your actions. Your growing relationship with God will show that you are pursuing holiness and your growing relationships with one another in the church and in the world will show that you are practicing holiness. You will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your true and proper worship.
The Star: A Journey to Christmas
Welcome and Merry Christmas! Tomorrow is the big day, just in case anyone has forgotten that or your children have neglected to remind you since getting out of school for Christmas break. I’m excited that you’ve joined us this evening as we prepare for one of the greatest days all year. Tomorrow marks the culmination of a journey we’ve been taking together over the past four weeks. The four weeks leading up to Christmas are called Advent, which means “coming.” We’ve been learning about Jesus’ coming that very first Christmas. We have also been talking about His second coming, which will complete God’s ultimate work of redemption. We’ve used the star as our guiding light toward Jesus. This same star guided those wise seekers toward Jesus long ago.
How many of you love a good story. Si Robertson explains in his book, Si-Cology 1: Tales and Wisdom from Duck Dynasty’s Favorite Uncle, he was taught never to lie. He says that he never lied, but the Robertson’s are good storytellers.
Growing up, my family had an Advent time after dinner every evening
My father made an advent wreath that had a place for a daily candle
There were the three purple and one pink candle for each Sunday, but we had white candles for the other days of the week
My father has written several daily Advent devotionals
Judy’s family has some pretty humorous stories that they’ve told multiple years, which I why I know them now
These stories are so funny that we’ll all start laughing and can’t stop
Judy’s Grandpa and Grandma Young would come to their house on Christmas Day to celebrate with them
One Christmas morning as they were driving down the country road to her house, they saw something on the road
Once they arrived, Judy’s Grandma told them that they saw something on the road and thought that Santa had dropped a package
The item on the road was a dead squirrel
Don’t ask me why that story is so funny, but it is
Another Christmas story from Judy’s family was about one of the dogs
Marvin was a mutt and he would do some pretty funny things
He would walk into a room, pass gas, and then walk out like he was disgusted
One Christmas morning, the family got up to find that Marvin had added something special to Judy’s father’s gift – a long, brown, log (poop!)
Again, when that story is told we all begin laughing and can’t stop
Electronic Rugby game
I don’t remember how the story got started, but one year leading up to Christmas my father kept telling me that I was going to get an electronic rugby game
This would have been in the 1970’s and some electronic games were already being produced (the old red football and basketball games)
I played soccer on an intramural team and baseball in the summer, but I had never played rugby
As Christmas morning arrived I opened all my gifts, but never got the electronic rugby game
They probably didn’t make an electronic rugby game
I wish I could remember what I got that Christmas, but all I remember was what I didn’t get
Perhaps each person here tonight has family stories that will be told tomorrow
It’s stories that have been told multiple times, but they make us laugh until we cry
We tell of God’s goodness and healing
Hunting and fishing stories
Those who hunt and fish can tell some pretty wild stories
They talk about the huge buck that got away, as they gather in the evening at the hunting cabin
They also tell the big fish stories without having any proof that the story is true
Black Friday shopping stories
Perhaps some of you ladies have some great stories of success while Black Friday shopping
You had your strategy all planned out for who was going to which stores and what they were supposed to get
Maybe you were standing in line and were the last person to get a particular item before the store ran out
Throughout the world, stories have been the means of preserving history, passing along beliefs and values, inspiring, entertaining, and motivating us. Stories move us. Shared stories connect us and link us to each other. They bring meaning to our lives and help make sense of our experiences. Good stories are messy, full of conflict, suspenseful and moving. They are filled with victory and defeat, struggle and triumph, fear and courage, conflict and love. They draw us into bigger and broader story lines and they make us curious about the storyteller.
As we think about stories, I’d like us to imagine that we’re outside, somewhere wild and open, maybe a mountaintop, maybe a sweeping meadow set against a flowing stream or rolling hillside. It’s a clear night long, long ago. We’re back at the very beginning. This is creation, and into the inky darkness above suddenly God is flinging stars into the sky. Where there was only darkness, now there is gleaming, glittering light.
The Creator knows each one of these lights. He knows which ones we’ll be able to see as human beings. He knows how long they will last before burning out. He also knows about one special star.
This star would pierce the darkness with a unique purpose. It would serve as a herald and a celestial marker. It would signal the birth of Christ, the coming of the long-promised Messiah, come to earth at last to change the course of eternity forever.
This star guided wise men. It lit the night for shepherds. It signaled the way of Immanuel, God with us. It announced the arrival of the bright Morning Star whose light shines brightest, calling us to see Him, drawing us to Himself to seek and find Him.
God’s story is ongoing. The Christmas story spans all of history from creation to Jesus born in Bethlehem to us gathered here tonight. It will continue into the future as we wait for Jesus’ return.
Tonight as we complete our journey to Christmas, we will be look at each of the four elements of the story. These are the four gifts that Jesus brought to us when He came from heaven to earth that Christmas. We will be lighting each Advent candle on our wreath as we talk about the four elements of hope, love, joy, and peace. We’ll also light the center candle, which is the Christ candle.
We began Advent with a journey of hope
Through many years and centuries of history, hope burned for a Savior
The Israelites had waited for the Messiah to come
God had been silent for 400 years
They were anticipating His coming, but they didn’t know when He would arrive
I’m sure as they waited there were times of great hope and times when they struggled to understand why God was waiting
But hope was fulfilled
Christ has come!
God’s promise to send a Savior was fulfilled with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection
Jesus is our ongoing source of hope
We also live in the future hope of Jesus’ second coming
His second coming will complete the story of redemption
The story is not over yet
When darkness rages and deepens around us, we can hold onto hope that Christ will complete His ultimate work
Not everyone is currently hopeful
You might be feeling like you’re hanging on by the last threads of hope
You may be struggling with financial stresses, relational dysfunctions, memories of loss, or commercialized expectations
2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Therefore do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (NIV)
The great news is that Jesus brings hope in the dark times of life
The second week we went on a journey of love
This journey also spans eternity, because God is love
Love is part of God’s nature – it’s one of His many attributes
His love fueled creation
Love drove God to make a way to restore the relationship between Him and humanity
God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus from heaven to earth (Rom. 5:8)
God’s love fuels our relationship with Him – it is through His love in us that we are able to love others as He does
We look forward to the future when God’s love story is complete
We saw on this journey that God has a lasting, conquering, and overflowing love
1 John 4:9-11, 16, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another . . . And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
We are able to love others because God first loved us
Our third journey was a journey of joy
Jesus’ birth was a joyful event
Luke 2:9-12, An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
The good news of great joy was that Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born
The joy for us today is that the same message of good news is for us today – Jesus offers His salvation to us
While we still live in a world where joy and pain coexist, God’s promise is that our joy will be made complete in the future when Jesus comes again
You may not be experiencing joy today
Instead you are experiencing fear (health, finances, relationships, employment, education, spiritual, government, society, etc.)
Those concerns may be stripping you of joy – they may be consuming your waking hours and keeping you awake at night
Through Jesus Christ, we can have joy in life’s journey
Peter told us our walk of faith with Jesus brings us a sense of joy
1 Peter 1:8-9, Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
We looked at the journey of peace this morning
Peace can be so elusive in our world, our families, and our own minds
Yet we see God’s peace throughout the story line of eternity
Jesus came in the past as the Prince of Peace – that is what we’re celebrating at Christmas
Jesus’ peace remains today through the gift of the Holy Spirit
When Jesus returns the second time, we will experience perfect and complete peace – ultimate peace for the world
Peace may be alluding you today because of pain, struggles, anxiety, and stress
You may appear to be at peace outwardly, but inwardly you are a mess
Jesus’ life was filled with hardship
He knew that His disciples and us would experience hardship also
So, He gave them and us the gift of peace
John 14:27, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
God’ presence provides peace
Throughout this journey to Christmas we have learned some very important things about Jesus:
Our greatest HOPE in the darkest times of life comes from having a relationship with Jesus
1 John 1:5-7, This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The greatest LOVE we’ll ever feel is the love Jesus expressed when He died on the cross to take our punishment for sin
John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
The greatest JOY we’ll every experience comes from knowing that Jesus willingly came to save us from our sins
John 3:17, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
We can have PEACE with God by believing in Jesus by faith
Romans 5:1, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Relationship with Jesus
Before we can have a relationship with Jesus, we have to recognize and admit our need (I am a sinner)
Everyone is born with a desire to have their own way
We reject God and His authority in our lives
Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned
Romans 6:23 tells us that there is a consequence for rejecting God and it is to be separated from Him
We have to be willing to reject or turn from sin (repent)
We must believe that Jesus died for us on the cross and came alive again in three days
Through prayer, we have to invite Jesus Christ to come in and control our lives through the Holy Spirit
Perhaps you are ready to experience the hope, love, joy, and peace that is a result of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ
Repeat this prayer after me
Dear God, I have been rejecting You and Your authority in my life. I have chosen sin over a relationship with you. I am ready and willing to reject sin, turn away from it, and begin to follow You. I believe that Jesus died, was buried, and came alive again to take my punishment for sin. I choose to be at peace with You today and to be saved from my sins. I accept Your eternal life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
We have lit all of the Advent candles. We have completed the journey to Christmas. It’s time for us to let our light shine. As a visual representation of that, Pastor Marc Webb and our Elder Laurin Fleming will be lighting their candles from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath. They will be coming down the center aisle and lighting the first person’s candle. That first person will then allow the next person in the row to light their candle. Continue to pass the light down the aisle until all of the candles have been lit. Once all of the candles are lit, we will close our service by singing “Silent Night.”