Jesus – Light in our dark world (21 Dec 2014)

There is much good in the world. Yet, there is so much evil too. In the Bible, evil is portrayed as darkness, and holiness and life are portrayed as light.

Into our world of darkness, God promised a Saviour who would come in the future:

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. (Isaiah 9:2, NLT)

In God’s timing, Jesus came into our world:

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThe one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:9–12, NLT)

Jesus said later:

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. (John 12:46, NLT)

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12, NLT)

A few centuries later, the testimony of one man who believed he was close to death is moving. Cyprian moving worlds express what countless Christians have experiences after having trusted in Jesus for salvation:

When the persecution began again, in 249, a lawyer and even a senator in the government of the Roman empire, a man named Cyprian (200-258), believing that he was on his deathbed, wrote a letter to his friend Donatus. “Donatus,”—he said, in effect,—”this is a cheerful world indeed as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands, you know very well that I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheaters men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a company of quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not: they are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians,—and I am one of them.

Joseph and Mary – faithful servants of God (14 Dec 2014)

Mary, and then Joseph, trusted in God’s plan, despite the fact that their plans for marriage and life together didn’t turn out the way they had expected.

In Luke 1:26-38, Mary found that she was to give birth to Jesus, but she would be pregnant before being married. Yet, despite her fear, she trusted in God’s plan.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetSimilarly, Joseph found that his fiancé was pregnant, not by him (Matthew 1:18-25). But instead of breaking up quietly and not making a public spectacle of Mary, having had a dream in which an angel spoke to him, he married her and brought up Jesus as his own son.

However, not too long after the birth, things took a turn for the worse. Herod was after Jesus, so to avoid the bloodbath that to occur soon, Joseph, Mary and Jesus became refugees in Egypt, until King Herod died (Matthew 2:13-15).

Despite their world being turned upside down, both Joseph and Mary trusted in God’s commands, even though they didn’t fully know the significance of what they were doing at that time.

We too can trust that God is in control, working out his purposes in our lives, even if it appears that things have gone terribly wrong.

The Lord is near. 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.  (Philippians 4:4–7, NIV-84)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  (Romans 8:28, NLT)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  (Psalm 37:7, NIV-84)

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

Worship Jesus as King (7 Dec 2014)

Some people seem to love royalty, whether it is royal weddings or royal births, whether it is the fantasy princesses of Disney films, or the House of Windsor in Britain.

In Matthew 2:1-12, we see not three wise men or three kings, because the Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were.  But we see three kinds of royalty. (i) The kings (maji in Greek) from the East, (ii) King Herod of Jerusalem, and (iii) King Jesus.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetDespite being high on the social ladder themselves, the maji recognised that Jesus was someone much more significant, and worth travelling a long time to bow and worship before him. Herod’s calculation of how long they travelled since his birth, and how old Jesus might be by then, meant that he killed all up to the age of two years old, indicating that Jesus wasn’t just a newborn child, but an infant possibly around one year old.

Yet, Herod’s response, like all despots who eliminate contenders for their position, was to try to kill Jesus instead of worship him.

While many people today might be more ambivilant than wanting to outrightly kill Jesus, they nevertheless don’t fall into the category of going significantly out of their way to worship Jesus.

Jesus came this first time to save and atone for the sins of all who will trust in him (John 3:16-17). But he is going to come again, not to save, but to judge.  And everyone will acknowledge that he is King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:9–11).  For those who have trusted and depended on him for forgiveness and salvation, that day will be welcomed and they will not fear his return.  But for anyone who had resisted his forgiveness, or who remains in their sin, that day will be greatly feared.  Even Jesus’ opponents will bow the knee and acknowledge that he is King of kings and Lord of lords, even if they do so reluctantly and without being saved.

It is far better to bow the knee to Jesus now, and worship him as the maji did, than to acknowledge him later as King, but without eternal salvation.

Worship Jesus as King, today, while we still can!

Church (7): Can we build it? Of course we can!

Jesus said: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV)  That is, the plans of the evil one will not win over Jesus’ plans to build his people and bring them to an eternal home.

Jesus is building his Church.  As his followers, he is using us… just us… Can we do it? Yes we can! Of course we can!

Here are nine reasons we can be confident that God will build his Church:

1 We can do it through the different abilities/gifting we receive from God

Click image for Sunday's service sheet

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service,” (Ephesians 4:11, NIV-84)

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. ” (Romans 12:6–8, NLT)

2 We can build the church through the gifts of the Spirit, which are given for the common good

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV-84)

Paul is more specific in his letter to the Ephesian church regarding spiritual gifts:

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. ” (Ephesians 4:11–15, NIV-84)

Don’t seek personal glory, but the common good:

“A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church. I wish you could all speak in tongues, but even more I wish you could all prophesy. For prophecy is greater than speaking in tongues, unless someone interprets what you are saying so that the whole church will be strengthened. ” (1 Corinthians 14:4–5, NLT)

3 We can do it because the same God is working in each of us in different ways

Paul’s point in 1 Cor 12:1-11 is that the diversity of gifts is through the same Spirit

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. ” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7, NLT)

4 We can do it if we all work together – no-one is indispensable

“Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. ” (1 Corinthians 12:14–26, NLT)

5 We can do it at the discretion of the Spirit of Christ

“It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have. ” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NLT)

6 We can do it through the power that comes from God

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. ” (Ephesians 3:14–21, NLT)

7 We can do it because we have been entrusted with the responsibility to do so

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: ” (1 Peter 4:10, ESV)

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:3–8, NIV-84)

8 We can do it if we walk in humility and love

“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. ” (Ephesians 4:1–3, NIV-84)

9 We can do it because of Jesus victory over sin and death

“There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: [quoting from Ps 68:18] “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” ” (Ephesians 4:4–8, NIV-84)

 

Serving God as part of his Church is a glorious privilege, and a blessing. Albert Schweitzer said:

“One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

Church (6): What is fellowship?

Why do you think we call ourselves Colin Glen Christian Fellowship?

While we answer that question in brief here, we considered what the word ‘fellowship’ means in today’s sermon.

Fellowship is not simply having a club where we all feel accepted. It is that. But it is so much more.  Church fellowship is the best experience you can have between people, but it is so much more than simply experiencing love and care and being supported by others.  Fellowship is not simply about us, it is based on God.  We have fellowship with each other, because we have fellowship with God.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetThe word which is often translated ‘fellowship’ is in the original Greek ‘koinonia’.

We read that the early Church had fellowship among their first activities:

All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. (Acts 2:42, NLT)

Paul also mentions ‘partnership’ (koinonia) in the gospel:

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3–5, NIV84)

Yet, fellowship isn’t primarily a human-human experience, but a God-human experience.  It is in the first place grounded in a relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. ” (1 John 1:1–4, NLT)

“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. ” (1 Corinthians 1:9, NIV84A)

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. ” (2 Corinthians 13:14, NLT)

Fellowship has a moral/spiritual dimension therefore.  We cannot have fellowship with each other if we are sinning against each other:

So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6–7, NLT)

There is much more that could be said about fellowship.  If you are looking for true fellowship with Christians, seek first fellowship with God.  If you don’t know how to do this, a simple prayer like this one may help:

Dear Father in heaven, you know all about me and my situation.  I am truly sorry for my sins, where even my best efforts do not reach your standard of holiness.  I accept that I deserve your judgment, and that on my own there is nothing that I can do to improve myself enough or make up for my sins.

Please forgive me.  I know that I can be forgiven because Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross in my place, for my sins.  I know that you will forgive me because of your great love for me, in Christ.

Please heal me from the brokenness of the past.  From this moment on, please help me to trust in the risen Jesus, not only as Saviour, but also as Lord of my life.  Thank you for the Holy Spirit in my heart to give me the strength and guidance I need to do your will, and to teach me from your Word, the Bible.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you for your great love and forgiveness, my new relationship with you, my new life in Christ, and for the certainty of eternal life with you for ever.  Amen.

 

Church (5): Worship and praise

A woman with a lovely soprano voice sang the hymn ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ while making breakfast. The visitor staying remarked how spiritual she was in her everyday duties. She replied:

“Oh, that’s the hymn I boil the eggs by; three verses for soft and five for hard”

Click image for Sunday's service sheetSometimes our praise can be merely functional, or our lips can be moving but our hearts are not worshipping God. As Jesus said:

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. (Matthew 15:8–9, NLT)

In contrast, we are to worship ‘in Spirit and in truth’. Jesus also said:

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23–24, NLT)

We ought to praise and worship God, because he is worthy of our praise:

Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever. (Revelation 5:13, NLT)

You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased. (Revelation 4:11, NLT)

Praise and worship should be directed towards God.  Praise is not primarily for our benefit, but when we focus our hearts and thoughts on God, we are blessed in turn.  We can praise him in a special way at Sunday services each week.  But we can worship him through all of our lives in between too.

Let’s worship God and give him the glory and praise that he deserves, and which is our privilege to give, if we have been reconciled to him by faith in Jesus Christ:

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our maker (Psalm 95:6, NLT)

Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Sing to the LORD; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. (Psalm 96:1–2, NLT)

Such were some of you!

Churches should not be places where people try to keep up appearances of being either better than others or putting on the appearance of being godly when the reality is very different.

One reason the Apostle Paul gives for not thinking too highly of ourselves, is how he speaks to the believers in the church at Corinth.  He tells them that they ought not to judge others outside of church, because God will do that if they don’t turn to him for forgiveness and mercy.  (Although they are to judge themselves, and to root out evil and not let it get established in church.)  But also, they were to remember that the immoral lifestyles that they might be tempted to look down on were exactly the same way that some of them used to live themselves; “Such were some of you” 1 Corinthians 6:11.

Click image for Sunday's service sheetBut thankfully, he reminds them of God’s grace and mercy in Christ Jesus, whereby they have been cleansed of their sin, been accepted as God’s holy people, and have been justified or declared not-guilty.

While not everyone lived an immoral lifestyle before turning back to God, it is helpful to remember that believers are in no position to look down on others.  Instead, we are to invite them to turn to God, and away from both gross immorality or polite selfishness, through the forgiveness that comes by trusting in Jesus alone.

“Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ” (1 Corinthians 6:11, NLT)

Praise God for his grace and mercy to sinners such as us.

Church (4): Love others!

How many Christian charities do you know of?  There are loads!  What’s more, many of the earliest charities or charitable organisations were set up by Christians who had a love and concern for those in need.

We ought to love and care for others, not simply because being charitable is fashionable these days, but because that is part of our calling in life.  Loving others isn’t simply something which is an optional or sideline activity that we ought to do – it is to the core of our reason for living.

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Luke 10:27 (NLT)

Click image for Sunday's service sheetNone of us loves others as we ought to.  We find it hard to love those close to us as we ought to, never mind those we don’t know, or our enemies, or those in other parts of the world.  But loving others is still our duty.

Part of our sin problem before God is that not only have we loved God and put him first in all areas of our lives, but we haven’t loved others as we ought to too.

Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) to convince the religious man that God’s standard wasn’t a low pass mark, but perfection.  When Jesus told the man who questioned him; “Do this and you will live!” (Luke 10:28 NLT), he was at the same time telling him two things:

  1. This is how you ought to live all the time with respect to loving others.
  2. This highlights how much you have failed to live a sinless life before God.

While the parable of the Good Samaritan can be argued to be primarily an evangelistic message, highlighting the man’s need for grace and mercy through faith in Jesus Christ, it also highlights God’s high standard for godly living.  We fail to understand the impact of this parable, and the entire encounter with this religious man, unless we see both these aspects.

Jesus wants us to live lives where we love our neighbour perfectly.  But that is only possible (i) once we accept that we haven’t done it as we ought to have, (ii) accept forgiveness for our sins through faith in Jesus Christ, and (iii) rely on his renewing power by the Holy Spirit to be able to live the way we were supposed to in the first place.

Praise God for his holiness, his grace and mercy, and his enabling by the Holy Spirit for us to be the kind of people we ought to be, through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

Church (3): Go… and make disciples

What do you think when you’ve got an opportunity to share the gospel?  Do you worry what people will think of you?  Do you worry whether you’ll share it well enough?  Are you concerned about being on your own with such a huge mission in the world?

Don’t worry, God is with you.  It’s a glorious thing we have been called to do, to take the gospel to the world.

People already know right from wrong

Click image for Sunday's service sheet‘Natural revelation’ is found in many things in life, as Paul outlines in Romans 1:19–20:

“They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:19–20, NLT)

Also, people know right from wrong, and know what they should do, without ever having come across God’s Word in the Bible:

“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” (Romans 2:12–16, NIV-84)

So, everyone knows about God from the world around them, and about sin and right/wrong from God’s moral law which is written within their own hearts.  We don’t need to tell people that they are sinners – we just need to remind them!  We are often not telling them something new, we are just making their consciences more sensitive, we are reminding them of things that they had pushed away at the back of their minds.

But the gospel is only known when the message is told, using words!

Paul argues in Romans 10:9-15 that people cannot be saved unless we go and tell them.  How can they go unless they are sent, Paul continues.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”” (Romans 10:9–15, NLT)

In a recent blog, Ed Stetzer writes:

There’s a popular saying often repeated by Christians. It has found new life on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you have even uttered these words, commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.”

I think we can appreciate what many are getting at when they say something like this. As Christians, we should live in such a way that our lives point to the person and work of Jesus. However, good intentions cannot overcome two basic problems with this quote and its supposed origin. One, Francis never said it, and two, the quote is not biblical.

The gospel requires—demands even—words.

So let’s preach the gospel, and let’s use words, since they’re necessary.

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 is the Church’s mandate to go and tell the good news about Jesus Christ.