Intro: There was another survey that came out the other day Carson City and Reno have the highest percentage of people who have lost their jobs. Reno is second to Carson City with 16.9 %. However, I thank the Lord that all our church members today have jobs. We had in the past a few who lost their jobs and by the grace of God they have it now. God is our provider. He gave a promise to His covenant people in the Old Testament and that promise is still true today. “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” Deut. 8:18.
But there is also another side of that promise. “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.” Deut. 18:19
We see here both promises for good and consequence for disobedience. Will God treat us the same way today what He did with His chosen people under the Old Covenant? Because we are now under the New Covenant, has this changed? God’s Word remains the same except that today we are better off because we are under the New Covenant. God gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us so we will have the power to obey. Here’s the prophetic promise God gave before Jesus came. “I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezek. 36:27
The Holy Spirit does not only empower us to obey God’s law but also to remind us when we forget Him as they did in the Old Testament and convicting us of sin. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
Now here’s the truth and principle. The Holy Spirit will have nothing to remind us with if we have not read His Word. Just like our computers there is nothing to pull out when there is nothing stored. The Holy Spirit will only remind us with what we have already read and learned. That’s why it is very important to spend time to read and listen to His Word, read our Everyday with Jesus Bible. What we will learn today is who does the work of conforming us into the likeness of Christ?
“God’s Continuing Work with His Saved Ones”
“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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:3-8, 9-11
When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians he wrote it to people he knew. He was thankful for remembering each person from the church he started at Philippi. He knew every member. He referred to them as partners of the gospel because they have become one in Christ and members of His body. This came about when he had a vision of a man begging him to come over to Macedonia and Paul answered God’s call to go there. The first convert in Philippi was a woman named Lydia. “On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded me.” Acts 16:13-15
Then Paul moved around to seek other lost ones of God to share the gospel with. “Once we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She kept this for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” And that moment the spirit left her.” Acts 16:16-18
This got Paul in trouble because the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money is gone. They started to cause trouble for Paul and Silas telling the people they are Jews and falsely accusing them of doing things that are unlawful to the Romans. So they were put in prison. But while they were in prison, at midnight as they were praying and singing hymns to God, God sent an earthquake and the doors flung open and their chains fell off. The warden woke up and feared that prisoners have escaped and was going to kill himself but Paul stopped him saying that none of them has escaped. He then asked Paul, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Acts 16:31
He then asked Paul and Silas to his house and Paul spoke the good news and all the others in his house believed. The jailer and all his family were baptized right after. His having been jailed unjustly turned out for good to accomplish God’s purpose. He was released the following day and that’s how the church started in Philippi. These were the people plus others Paul was writing to. But is this letter also applicable to us? Yes, because all Scriptures is for every believer whom God has saved to reveal His work and purpose in saving them. “He who began a good work will carry it out to completion.” The call of God to Paul to plant a church in Philippi was worked out by God. Paul called them partners of the gospel because they have been saved by Christ through the gospel. After their salvation, God does not stop to carry out His purpose until their completion? In Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, he revealed to them God’s purpose in saving them. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” Rom. 8:29a
This is the primary purpose in saving sinners that we become like the person of Jesus Christ. Does this come automatically after one is saved? No. There is a process called “sanctification.” This is growing our spiritual life towards spiritual maturity. It starts with being born again when our spirit is made alive by God. And like a new born baby what does it need? Milk. This is the first sign of having been born again because there will be a hunger for spiritual food, the Word of God. “Like new born babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” 1 Pet. 2:2
The Word of God is essential for one’s spiritual growth. The church helps in the growing process but it is the Holy Spirit who gives the understanding and the power to live out what one has learned.“Sanctification” is a continuing process to conform us to be like Christ, starting by knowing Him. This purpose was revealed as the eternal plan of God in His redemptive work to those whom He saves. “God’s elect…who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” 1 Pet. 1:1a, 2
So the first work of God is to feed us with His Word, give us the understanding as to who Christ is, what we have in our relation to Christ and how we are to follow Him. Anyone can claim to be a Christian but if there is no obedience they are deceiving themselves. It means that the Holy Spirit is not yet there. The first fruit of the Spirit is love. And here’s the test if the Holy Spirit is present. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
Obedience to Christ is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. One may not be obedient in everything right away but he will as God works out the process. Sanctification therefore, is the work of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the will of God by making us partakers of God’s divine nature in order to live a holy life. Transformation starts from the inside to live out the life of Christ. The end result is we become like Christ and do the other purposes planned for every one He saved.
We have just finished reading Genesis and in the latter part we learned about the life of Joseph. God had a plan for his life and revealed it to him in a vision when he was a teenager. When he shared the vision with his brothers and father, his brothers were offended and became jealous of him and hated him. When the opportunity presented itself to express what was in their hearts, they were going to kill him but were persuaded to sell him instead. He was sold as a slave and was bought by the commander of the guards of Pharaoh. Because he was young, strong and handsome, he was seduced by the wife of his master. He resisted the temptation and escaped the attempt of his master’s wife to force him to go to bed with her. Because of her frustration she falsely accused him of attempting to rape her and was thrown in the dungeon by his master. In all this, God was with him because he feared the Lord and kept the vision God gave him. He believed and trusted God that He will carry out His will for him. While in the dungeon God used him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. God worked out what He had planned for Joseph and elevated him to the highest position in the government second only to Pharaoh. I will not go into the details because I trust we read our Everyday with Jesus Bible. God then used Joseph to save His chosen people from hunger and starvation due to a long famine in Canaan. All the time Joseph spent in Egypt, I believe he did not know the details of God’s purpose except that he would be in position where his brothers and even his father will bow down to him. This was fulfilled because of the high position that he occupied in Egypt. In His time, Joseph saw God’s purpose in sending him to Egypt. “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save lives by a great deliverance. So then it was not you who sent me here but God.” Gen. 45:5-8a
What God did through Joseph is the same as what God did to Paul. When he was sent to prison it was for God’s purpose of saving the warden and his family. I believe that God will use everyone whom He has saved today to do this work. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28
Notice that it is God who works out everything. But is this for everybody? Only to those whom God has called according to His purpose? With Paul, his being thrown in prison resulted in the salvation of the warden and his family. God also called the warden that through the earthquake it turned out for his good. So when one is already called and saved, do we have a responsibility to God? We are to know and believe God as Sovereign and to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our minds. Loving God is every believer’s highest response in their relationship with God. And this was Paul’s prayer for the believers in Philippi in relation to God’s work and how they ought to respond. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9-11
The object of their love is God and the Lord Jesus Christ. When our love for the Lord grows more and more we will do whatever Christ commands and our faith will be able to accept whatever circumstance God allows to happen in our life whether good or bad. We will receive it with thanksgiving because we know that God is working something for our good that will make us to be like Jesus. Even Jesus had to go through sanctification for our sakes. “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may truly be sanctified.” John 17:19.
So whatever we will go through in our life Jesus went through much more. Did everything go well with Jesus? He was led to the desert without food and water for forty days to be tempted. He was persecuted, insulted, called to be possessed by demons and rejected by men, even by his brothers before he was crucified and resurrected. Jesus was sanctified through suffering and became obedient to death. “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Heb. 2:10
Yet in everything that He had to go through He never asked to be delivered from them but remained faithful to the will of His Father. It was all because of this, “The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” John 14:31
But what if we suffer as a consequence of sin? Will it still be for our good? Here’s what God did to David and the good it did for him. “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good and what you do is good; teach me your decrees…It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Ps. 119:67-68, 71
What is God doing to work what He began in your life? Are you in danger of following other gods and idols that is leading you away from your love for God? Perhaps, God is working to draw you to a personal relationship with Christ in salvation through circumstances in your life. Come to Jesus. INVITATION
Intro: Last Sunday I ended the message with Paul’s passion of the purpose and goal for his life. This came about after he got saved. Let me quote it gain. “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
Have you considered how much you are worth to yourself? This may come in the form of assets, possessions, money, to the company you are working for and to your family. Sad to say that in recent days there were suicides by young people, teenagers who were bullied and demeaned because they were gays resulting in giving up their lives perhaps out of shame and feeling unworthy. What about those who went bankrupt and lost everything and all their worth in life who also committed suicide? In a recent survey, Las Vegas has the highest suicide rate in the country. Guess why? These are lives that were anchored on their worthiness.
The apostle Paul also had something of worth in his life. He was a very religious man that we call today a fanatic and sincere to his religious beliefs yet lost. And one day after he was saved by Christ, he said this of all his accomplishments. “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Phil. 3:7-9
What radically changed Paul? Paul realized that there is one who has all the worth one can ever imagine and yet gave it all up and made himself nothing. He is none other than Christ Jesus. Here is what was revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself andbecame obedient to death – even death on the cross.” Phil. 2:5-8
What did Jesus mean by making Himself nothing? Was He worthless? Of course not! Jesus gave up His rights as God, laid aside being Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omni-present, but made Himself human and subject under the authority of God as His Father and He being a Son. Though He was God before coming down to earth Paul says we cannot grasp His being equal with God and that will remain a mystery to us. It is beyond us to understand what happened to God the second person of the Trinity when He was sent down to earth and took on a human body so He can die for the sins of man. And because of this, Paul changed his attitude and his worthiness when he compared himself to Christ that all his accomplishments became nothing to him but rubbish. All his religiosity did not count a thing with God. In fact he realized this truth from the prophet Isaiah, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isa. 64:6
Paul then gave up all of himself to Christ for this one reason “For Christ’s love compels us (me).” What about you and me, how do we respond to Christ’s love?
“Surrender all for the love of Christ”
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matt. 10:37-39
What does Jesus mean with His statement of losing one’s life after finding it and then finding after losing it? The context of this statement is based on the demand of Christ for those who have acknowledged Him as Lord. This is the cost of having received salvation and committing themselves to the terms of God’s covenant in salvation. Together with the cost it comes with a consequence to the family. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” Matt. 10:34-36
I have had experiences after sharing the gospel to people of different religious backgrounds rejected Christ because of how it will affect their family ties. One very common excuse is, “I was born with this religion and I will die with it.” I believe the reason behind this is that they will turn their backs and be disloyal to their parents who brought them up in this religious belief. When I was in Angola, Africa I had the opportunity to share the gospel to two Catholic priests in their convent. They welcomed me because they would get a free ride from us when they travel to the capital. They admitted that they know the gospel, they know what to do with it but they could not turn their backs and face their families who look up to them and I’m sure proud of their being priest in their hometowns in Ireland. That’s nothing compared to Muslims who embraces Christ. They will be treated as infidels by their families and in danger of death. Unconverted Jews will disown their children if they follow Jesus and leave their religion of Judaism. That means one can lose his inheritance if they have. Roman Catholics will not go to that extreme but certainly will affect family relationships. I have experienced this and it took 22 years before my older sister became one with me in Christ. I had other relatives who became cold to me but that is very mild compared to the others.
When I heard the gospel I was ignorant of all these consequences for I have not read through the Bible especially about this cost. All I knew was I was a sinner and already condemned to hell. What mattered to me then was I want to be saved from everlasting punishment. The cost to me at that time was to give up all the sins I knew I have done against a holy God in repentance and surrender my life to Christ as my Lord in order to be saved. Only then did I experience a mild rejection from my family and relatives. Why, because I was no longer one with them in their religious belief. I have changed sides and to them I have turned my back to what I grew up with and have been passed on to me.
Our text today is a test to ourselves as to who do we really love? Who do I love most above anyone or anything in this world? In the gospel of Luke, he reported what Jesus said at another time to another group what it means to be a disciple. Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27.
Did Jesus really mean for us to hate our families? What about hating ourselves? If we have a choice to hate ourselves or to hate our families, which do you think would an unbeliever rather hate? Every so often we hear especially among celebrities and the rich that their marriages are ending in divorce. What does that tell us? The most probable cause is infidelity because a spouse has found another woman or man. So who does he love more, his wife or himself? Obviously he loves himself and does not care about his wife but only his pleasure that he finds in another woman. This explains what Jesus meant by hating any relationship by loving them less and loving God more if they want to follow Jesus. Following Jesus as His disciple becomes a priority before family and self.
In the gospel of Matthew Jesus is addressing His disciples and telling them the cost and consequences of having followed him. This is what they are to expect. Are His words still true today? Yes it is. And when this happens it only affirms and shows that you and I are truly His disciple and how we are to live in our love relationship with Christ. Who do I love most? Is there anyone that comes in between my love for Christ? This would be spiritual adultery. But when I love my Lord Jesus Christ above all, is it reasonable that I will not love my wife, children, parents and family? My love for my family will be out of my obedience to Christ. I am even to love my enemies and that is only possible because of the divine love produced in me by the Holy Spirit. Will I divorce my wife for someone else? Never! For God says, “I hate divorce.” If we are His disciples, this is what Christ expects of us. “Whoever finds his life will lose it.” When one has already this life, meaning eternal life, this life is to be lost to Christ. Total abandonment and surrender to the One who gave you and me this life. This I believe is why Paul realized this truth to lose and abandon his life to Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Gal. 2:20a
To Paul his life is no longer of any worth to himself but lost it all for Christ. Then Christ will have full control to live His life in Paul. Paul was totally surrendered to Christ giving up all his rights to himself so Christ can do whatever He pleases to do through him. His only will was for God’s will to be done in his life, His way. “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil 2:13
Then “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This is not to give up one’s life as a hero and be martyred like Gandhi. He didn’t do it for Christ’s sake. Giving ones life for his country but not for Christ is of no worth to Christ. But losing one’s life for Christ’s sake for his glory will have eternal worth. But what do we find by losing our life here on earth? You will experience what He promised. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
In another version this is rendered, “and have it abundantly.” Can we fully know and understand to what extent having a full life mean? My conclusion is this, we can experience the life Christ lived on earth as human with the divine nature of God. In fact we already have that when we received Christ as Lord by giving us His Spirit to live in us. This is what we have and what we will experience when we lose our life to Christ in full submission and surrender die to self. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Pet. 1:3-4
How do we participate and experience fully His divine nature? Only when we lose our lives to Christ and He lives His life in us. That’s why we are remembering today and proclaiming His death because if Jesus did not die to pay for our sins we will be the ones paying for it in hell for ever and ever. Paul never forgot, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2
How much is your life worth to you? By surrendering your all to Christ, all His worth will be in you, thus you become worthy of Him.
Intro: After three years of discipleship what came next for the apostles and the disciple of Christ? Do you know that it takes three or more years to wean a child? This also is a picture of spiritual growth. When Samuel was weaned his mother Hannah gave him up to serve in the temple with Eli the priest. So is it fair enough to say that those who have been saved and after growing in knowing Christ, obedient and are being conformed to the likeness of Jesus ought to be doing what Jesus came to do, preaching the good news of the kingdom of heaven. Today we will look into what is God’s business and what is the main thing that God saved us for. I believe this is the appropriate title of this message, a question for us.
“Is Christ on Mission with You?”
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them”…”Men of Israel listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” … “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 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.” With many other words he warned them; and pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted the message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:1-4, 22-24, 36-41
In our reading last Wednesday from our Everyday with Jesus Bible in Matthew, we read about the centurion who came to Jesus on behalf of his sick servant. He was commended by Jesus for his faith in the authority of Jesus. Here’s what he said,
“For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Matt. 8:9
Let me now reword these three action words from this passage that the one in authority has the right to demand as the three “C’s,” Commission, Condition and Completion. Christ did all these.
“COMMISSION: ” The command goes out from who your authority is. Didn’t Jesus give His disciples this command? “Go and make disciples of all nations.” Jesus Himself was commissioned to come down to earth for God’s purpose.
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.” Heb. 10:5-7
So did Christ come after Adam sinned to fix man’s problem or because God is omniscient who knew beforehand that Adam will sin and has already a planned provision to save man from the penalty of sin? By God’s foreknowledge the Godhead have already chosen before the creation of the world how they will save sinners as they have planned.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” 1 Pet. 1:18-20
After Jesus accomplished His mission who will He send? Is it them or is it us? And what will Christ send us for? For the same reason He was sent for the purpose of Redemption, to seek and to save the lost. He said this to His disciples.
“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:21-23
I have no doubt this is the basis why Catholic priests think they can forgive sins by the authority given to them by Rome. But is this what Jesus meant? Did He give authority to every one of His disciples to forgive the sins of sinners? And if they can, then there is no need to come to Jesus. In our reading the next day, Thursday, we read that Jesus healed a paralytic but before He healed him He said “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven,” after He saw their faith. The faith of the one’s who brought him. Then the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming.” In their thinking they were right because they did not believe in who Jesus was for he was just a man. Here’s what Luke wrote,
“Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven, or to say get up and walk? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Luke 5:21b-24a
So even if we are sent out by our authority, we don’t have the authority to forgive sins but we have the message how sinners can be forgiven of their sins.
“This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46-49
This is the message that can have the sins of sinners forgiven, by repentance and faith in Jesus’ name. So if you have love ones who are not saved and you are not telling them how their sins can be forgiven, then, it is as though you do not want their sins forgiven. But if you love them you will tell them the good news. Jesus will decide to save them or not but you will not have their blood on your head.
“CONDITION:” There is a condition before we go. We need to come to the one in authority. Again Jesus was under authority and spoke only what was given him.
Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teachings come from God or whether I speak on my own. He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” John 7:16-18
Here is how Jesus did the work that He was sent for.
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” John 14:10-14
So what is the condition for us before we are sent out by our Lord Jesus Christ?
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
What is this cross that I must take up? The same cross that Jesus had to take. Cross means death and if we are one with Jesus, then we too must die to self.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in this body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20
In the same way that Jesus was one with the Father who was in him, we too must be one with Christ for Him to live His life in us. This is a decision and choice we must make daily. This is the condition Christ has set before He will send us to accomplish His purpose. If Christ left heaven and sacrificed Himself for us, why shouldn’t we be willing to give up our lives for Him? Was this a small matter to God and for Christ Jesus? Can you imagine if God did not choose us and if Christ did not die to pay the penalty of our sins, what do we have now and where will we go after we die? What good is living here on earth even if you have all the riches, enjoy all the pleasures and glory if at the end you will spend eternity in hell?
Lastly, the “COMPLETION:” This is the doing. After being commissioned and having accepted the condition then we do the work. If we don’t take action nothing will happen. Did Jesus finish His mission, the task He came to do? The night before He was to go to the cross, this was His prayer to His Father.
“I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:4-5
At the cross before Jesus gave up His life and after He drank the bitter cup cried.
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:20
How are we to complete what we are supposed to do? This is what it means to do.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Pet. 2:21
Will we suffer when we follow Christ? For now we are spared from painful persecution. Compared to Christians in the Muslim countries, their life are always in danger of prison, all kinds of suffering and even death. Should we then be surprised if one day the persecution will reach us? Persecution that involves suffering for Christ is the evidence that we belong to Christ for He said, “if they persecuted me they will persecute you also.” We don’t look for it but it will come.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Rom. 8:17
The question now that we should ask ourselves, is God accomplishing His purpose in saving us? God’s purpose for us in this church is, “to know Christ, to become like Him and to make Him known.” We cannot all be at the same level in our spiritual life at the same time. But we must be in one of these stages in our spiritual growth. And at whatever stage we are in our spiritual growth, God will use us for the glory of His Son. We can be:
Witnesses of what Christ has done in your life.
Teachers of the Word of God.
Declarers and proclaimers of the gospel as evangelists.
Preachers of the gospel through the Word.
Where are you in your spiritual life and what are you doing in God’s plan of redemption? Paul is a good model of having the passion and attitude of Christ.
“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”Acts 20:24
Before the end of Paul’s life as he was waiting to be executed, he wrote,
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Tim. 4:7-8
Christ came with a mission. His mission continues and He is calling each one of us to be on Mission with Him as His co-laborer. It is His work and He will work through us, when we are willing. Are you? And why not?
You may be here today but you have not yet received Christ as your Lord and Savior. Come to Jesus in repentance and by faith receive him into your heart.
Intro: We all know that the Devil or Satan is a liar and a deceiver. But has it ever occur to you what got Eve to fall for the Devil’s lie? Here’s what the Devil said after He engaged Eve to listen to him. “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:5
The Devil is also known as “Lucifer, son of the morning,” in the NKJ version. He was the most beautiful and high ranking of the angels but became proud so now, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of dawn! You have been cast down to earth you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isa. 14:12-14
Five times he said I will. Then Eve believed him and sinned, then gave Adam the forbidden fruit and he also ate. Adam willfully disobeyed God’s clear command and so both of them died spiritually. Because of Adam’s disobedience sin entered to all men and all died because all sinned. Thank God, in the council of the Godhead they planned to provide a Savior, to save man from the penalty of sin. “So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”, the last Adam, a life giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first but the natural. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are also those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Cor. 15:45-49.
Who is this man from heaven? God, the Word, the second person of the Trinity, left heaven and came down and became flesh and dwelt among men. He came to give life to spirits who have died because of sin, even for one sin. And those who are given this life are born again, born in the spirit. They are the ones whom Paul referred to as those who are of heaven and chosen beforehand by God even today. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Eph. 1:4-6
Everyone God has chosen for salvation, He chose for a purpose, to be holy and blameless who will give glory to God. But can those who have been chosen and saved really become holy and blameless? Here’s what God says, “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.” Eph. 1:11-12
What has God planned to do with those He has chosen to be saved? “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” Rom. 8:29-30.
If this is God’s will and plan who does the work in accomplishing this? Is it us?
“Who does the work to make you like Jesus?”
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Eph. 5:5:15b-27
First let us see the Biblical definition of the church and who belongs to it. “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Cor. 12:12-13
Only those who have been saved and given the Holy Spirit can truly be a part of this body. Who is responsible in putting together the parts of the body? “But God has combined the members of the body… in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” 1 Cor. 12:24b, 18
Once God has combined you with the body of Christ, which He calls the church you become a vital part of the body of Christ doing its different functions. “Just as each one of us has one body with many members, and these members do not have all the same functions, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Rom. 12:4-5
This was affirmed by Cephas who was told by Jesus that he is now Peter meaning a stone. What he confessed about Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, Christ said He will build His church. And this is how He is building His church. “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built up into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 2:4-5
So, once you and I are saved because we were chosen by God the Father and given to His Son, saved by grace through His death and resurrection we are made holy. Holy is who God is. Adam was perfect when he was created because he was created in the image of God and he was holy. But with one sin, his body was defiled and was no longer holy. The last Adam, Jesus who came from heaven and became flesh is the only human who was holy from birth till His death for he never sinned. Even though he was made sin, the sin did not enter his heart. He bore the punishment of sin on his body as the sin bearer but His heart remained pure. So, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Heb. 2:10-11
Who is the one who will work in us to be holy? Christ will. But here is how we are to respond to Christ for Him to work this out in us. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” 1 Pet. 1:13-14
How is Jesus Christ revealed to us? As we read the Word, the Holy Spirit will reveal the will of God and how Jesus lived His life in holiness. By responding to do the will of God in obedience, the grace of God is poured out in us to do the will of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. That’s how important it is to read the Word of God daily? As His body we are reading the “Every day with Jesus Bible.”
What else does Christ do? “Cleansing her by the washing with water through the word.” Water in the Bible has many references to the Word of God. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” John 3:5
Some interpret this as being baptized. There is reference that this refers to the physical birth. But here’s the interpretation that is affirmed written by Peter. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Pet. 1:23
When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, He used water. Peter protested and didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet. Jesus told him that “unless He washes his feet he has no part of him.” So if the water symbolizes the Word then when we sin, the Word of God will convict us of our sin through the Holy Spirit. Then as we confess our sins we are cleansed from all unrighteousness. This is also how we ought to walk. “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.” 1 John 1:7
Is Christ’s cleansing a onetime act? No. This is going to be a lifetime work to make every member of the church radiant as His bride. We just recently went through the book of Revelation and it revealed Christ as the Bridegroom and the church His bride and there is going to be a wedding in heaven one day. “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Rev. 19-7-8.
Who is the one who makes the bride ready? How do we make ourselves ready? Is it us who makes us ready or Christ? I submit to you that it is still the work of Christ to make His bride ready for the wedding. Here is what He said to His disciples. “I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5.
The fruit here means two things. The fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of God’s work through us in evangelism come when we are remaining fully in Christ. This happens when we die to self and Christ is the one living in us. Galatians 2:20
How does a radiant church look like? We are to be like Christ, just as He was, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful words. After he provided purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Heb. 1:3
What the people saw when Christ was in human form was the radiant light prophesied by Isaiah regarding the coming of Christ. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”… “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.”Isa. 9:2; 42:6
No doubt the light here is referring to Jesus who will come down from heaven and be the radiance of God’s holiness the exact representation of His divine nature and character. He is the last Adam, the second man from heaven. Although He laid aside His attributes of God as, His “Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence,” He is the God who created all things, the second person of the Trinity. He is the author of the New Covenant. His death and resurrection is the good news that saves. He is the One whom Paul says who does the work, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Phil. 2:13
This is how He works in us. “You however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Rom. 8:9
The Holy Spirit both represents God and Christ. He reveals the will of God and He lives the life of Christ in us. When we are in total submission to Christ as Lord, the Spirit empowers us to live the life of Christ when He was a man not as God. For we are to be conformed to the likeness his Son as man the last Adam, and not to be like God. And we will because this is the will of God. Without stain means that we become pure in the heart. The prayer and our desire should be like David’s, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Ps. 51:10
And when we sin, His blood purifies us from all sins after we confess. What does wrinkle mean in the spiritual? Our well pressed clothes after use gets wrinkled. What do we do to take out the wrinkle? Wash then heat up the flat iron especially if we are ironing a linen, it has to be very hot. This is the chastening we commonly refer to this as God’s spanking when we get out of line and walk not in the way of the Lord. The other blemishes are our personality. We all have different but faulty personalities. This is who I am as an individual. I have many blemishes that need to be removed. Who does the cutting off? It is the gardener who does the pruning to cut off dead branches. And this is what we are told will surely experience. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his good purpose.” Rom. 8:28
The continuing work of Christ is we will become more and more like Jesus, holy and blameless in our walk as we are being prepared for His wedding.
Christ works this out through the gospel that we are to live daily by this truth, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
For the resurrected Christ to live in us we must die to self and Christ will work all these, that’s why He gets all the glory and in turn glorifies his Father.
Are you in total submission to the will of God yielding to the Lordship of Christ?
Intro: Today is the start of a new year. This is a time we usually make a list of resolutions what to change or improve over what we have done or failed to do in 2011? If you reflect farther back to the year before last how did you fulfill the resolutions you made? In the business world they do an inventory of how they made out this past year. Of course their goal is to know how much profit they made. We also as a church have to make an inventory how much progress we have attained of the purposes from the inspired word of the apostle Paul that he is also pursuing. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:10-11.
Has Paul attained his goal for his life? He was quick to answer himself with this, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 3:12-14.
What is that which Christ took hold of Paul, of you and of me? I believe this is what Jesus took hold of Paul and us, to bring to perfection God’s love for you and me. The reason God sent Jesus into the world was to impart God’s love to the objects of His love. Is the whole world the object of His love? Not according to what He said in His Word. The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jer. 31:3
Who was the “us” that the Lord appeared to as revealed through His prophet? Way back in the time of Moses, God revealed to him who were the objects of His love. “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore, that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” Deut. 7:7-9
Did the Israelites, descendants of Abraham loved God that God should love them in return? No. This is the truth of this as revealed to us by John the beloved, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
Again who are the “us” that the Lord God loved today? Those who have put their faith in Christ and received the love of God and who love God in return. This is who we are now just as those whom God has chosen in the past. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.” Deut. 7:6
Aren’t those who have been chosen and loved by God the most blessed of all the people in the world? But have we fully understood this love of God that is beyond words and human comprehension? This is why Paul had to pray this to those whom God has already saved in Ephesus. “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17b-19
This was also the prayer of Jesus to us who are already saved by Him. “I have made you known to them and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself will be in them.” John 17:26
So then, if there is a resolution that matters to God, I believe this is the question we ought to ask ourselves, how was my love relationship with God last year? What am I going to do about it in 2012? May this be our goal for 2012.
“To Grow More in Love with God in 2012?”
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Eph. 5:25b-27
I had a very strange experience last Thursday. Gina needed to buy one item from Wal-Mart so I decided to just wait in the car. A well-dressed teenage girl was putting envelopes on the windshield of some cars. She put one on my windshield and she probably did not notice I was there. Here’s the red envelope with a decent card that surely have cost something. It says love but no mention of God or where it came from. This is the first strange promotion I ever got.
But what good is love without God? Anyone can love but no one can really love with the love that is produced by God. For husbands to be able to love their wives as Christ loved His church is only possible if they have received the love of God through His Son and that love is produced by the Holy Spirit. Loving God and loving one’s spouse and loving each other will take a lifetime to grow into. It does not come automatically after one is saved. That’s the reason Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus and in other places that we grasp the love of God for us. This love that we cannot produce ourselves because it is divine love. We can only grow in our love for God as we know and experience how much He loved us. Gina and I have been married now for forty five years and I cannot claim that I love her as Christ loved the church. Everyone whom Christ has saved is combined by God with other believers to be the church and each one a part of the body of Christ. For this is where we exercise and put into practice the love of God for God, by loving His people. “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
Who are those whom Christ has commanded believers to love? Other believers Christ has loved. Where are they to be found? They are all over the world. But can we know all of them? Impossible. That’s why God has put together a body of Christ, the local church like ours so we can know everyone and love them in obedience to Christ’s command. This is not just for husbands and wives to love each other but loving brothers and d sisters in Christ who are members of the body of Christ. And what’s the standard of that love? The love that Christ has for each one He has saved. He loved us by giving himself up for her, His church. Husbands are to love as Christ loved His church and every one belonging in His body are to love one another with the same love. Loving as Christ loved is possible because of the Holy Spirit who is in us. He produces that love, first for God and out of obedience we obey Christ commands for husbands to love their wives, wives to love their husbands and each member in His body to love one another. We show our love for God and Christ by obedience to all His commands. “If you love me, you will obey my command.” John 14:15
Why not commands? Command means every command that Christ reveals to us through the Word by His Spirit as we read His Word every day. On the other hand, this is sad and true for those who do not love the Lord. “If anyone does not love the Lord – a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!” 1 Cor. 15:22
But we have confidence that God loved us. “And so we know and rely on the love of God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” 1 John 4:16-17
We will continue next Sunday to expound the message from the rest of the text. We will now remember the love covenant that He invited us to observe. The new covenant by His blood in the Lord’s Supper as the Lord has commanded us to do.