Monday, March 21, 2011

Am I Living a Life of Power?

Ephesians 1:15-23

Sunday March 20, 2011

What would you say if I told you that when you leave here this morning you will leave with something that will put you on the road to solving all of the problems in life that you face? I'm serious- no kidding around.

In our text this morning the Apostle Paul is telling his brothers and sisters in Christ that he is praying that they would see God in a way that defies the normal. He wants them to see something of God that engages their spiritual eyes with their experience with God. He wants them not only to see God but to also know God. And in knowing God they- us as well- learn God's wisdom and understand God's revelation. I truly believe that these intuitive steps will lead you into a journey of spiritual power that you may not have realized was at your disposal.

The same holds true for us. And so this morning, in as best a form as I can share, I want us to consider the question: Am I living a life of power? To live this kind of life of power from the Holy Spirit calls for us to be clear about Paul's prayer for the Christians in and around Ephesus and that has been engaging Christians for numerous centuries; this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead is now at our disposal in order to live out Christ's life into a dark world.

POWER AT YOUR DISPOSAL:

BATMAN POWER ELECTRICITY HUMAN STRENGTH NOTHING RUNS LIKE A DEERE!

What kind of power are you dependent on? How about the Holy Spirit filling you with his power. How can this be pastor? Well, I've got good news for you today.

What was the Apostle Paul praying for? First, his prayer is that you and I would have…

The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation.

Something that we often forget is that the Holy Spirit has been at work long ago, especially in the Old Testament times. We know that the Spirit "hovered" over the waters of a formless and void earth- depicted in Genesis 1:2. We also know that the Spirit would come upon various people of the Old Testament such as Samson in order to give him special strength in a particular moment.

Isaiah 11:2 prophesies: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (KJV)

According to the Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament there are few thoughts to be considered:

"The Spirit of Jehovah" is the Divine Spirit, as the communicative vehicle of the whole creative fulness of divine powers.

They also suggest that the Divine Spirit is composed of three characteristics: the first relates to the intellectual life, the second to the practical life, and the third to our direct relation to God. In their understanding the Hebrew word chocmâh which is translated wisdom is the power of discerning the nature of things through the appearance or what we perceive to see. And then the Hebrew word bı̄nâh which is translated understanding (or revelation) is one who possesses the power of discerning the differences of things in their appearance.

This is not a natural common sense that we might think of but rather a working of God's Spirit in our heart and mind.

Barnes May make you wise to understand the great doctrines of the religion of the Redeemer.

Here in Ephesians 1:17 Paul is expressing in his prayer that Christians everywhere reading this would know what the Holy Spirit's wisdom is for our lives. Not a common sense kind of thing or an intellectualism but a true wisdom that comes from God.

The writer of Proverbs depicts Wisdom in this manner (Proverbs 1:20-22): Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses; at the openings of the gates of the city she speaks her words: "How long will simple ones love simplicity? For scorners delight in scorning and fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words know to you." In the next several verses Wisdom responds to those who have refused the call to Wisdom as well as disdains the counsel that Wisdom offers. In verse 28 Wisdom then replies to rejection: "Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me. [Why?] Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord… (33)But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure without fear of evil."

For us as followers of Jesus Christ we need God's Spirit of Wisdom in our everyday life. When we have his wisdom by which to live and operate our lives, something energetic happens within our spirit.

But we cannot stop with just having the wisdom or eyes of the Holy Spirit. We also need His revelation so that we can have understanding.

That is, revealing to you more and more of the character of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and of the nature and results of his work. The Holy Spirit is the Author of all wisdom, and the Revealer of all truth. Paul's prayer is that God would grant to every believer the Holy Spirit to make them wise, and to reveal his will to them. (Barnes Notes on the Bible)

This is critical to our lives as Christians.

Watchman Nee points out that so many Christians want to emphasize our personal problems and how these problems can be solved. We want answers to our personal prayers. This may be why so many Christians are so weak- they only pursue God so that he will solve their predicaments. What they want from God is having God do nothing but deliver them so that their life might be peaceful and happy. This is a self-centeredness that we must constantly battle against. (Watchman Nee The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation pp. 16-18)

Yes, we do need the Lord's help in solving our problems. Yes, we need his healing hand on our physical beings. Yes, we need him to help us figure out our money shortages and the like. However, this is getting the cart before the horse.

Even when it comes to spiritual issues we can become so self-centered in our pursuit of holiness and having victory over sin.

What Paul is pointing out is that the most important aspect of our lives is to know God himself personally. We can never reach where God wants to take us if we remain focused on what we want out of the relationship.

"Hey, I've got needs, Preacher. My kids won't behave. My fuel bill is past due. My spouse has health problems. I thought God was a loving God who would take care of me like a Father does his own children. What are you saying?"

I'm saying that when settle in your heart that you want to know Jesus first; when you are resolved to allow the Holy Spirit to give you His Spirit of wisdom and revelation; when you let Him have his way with your life and get to know God more and more, you'll discover a power for your life that you cannot believe you missed all this time.

This spirit of wisdom and revelation is so that you can know God better- not get all of your problems solved. However, I am very confident that when we know God better, our problems have a way of being dealt with in miraculous ways. (And not just in some kind virtual internet reality miraculous but a real-life happening.)

It's kind of like Neo in the movie "The Matrix." He looks at Morpheus and says, "What are you trying to tell me? That I'll be able to dodge bullets?" [I think some of you almost think I'm telling you that.] Morpheus looks at him and says, "No, Neo. I'm trying to tell you that when you're ready, you won't have to."

And if we could just get ourselves to wrap our thinking around this idea: get to know who God is. And the rest of Paul's prayer is all about what we do with this spirit of wisdom and revelation. How we allow this to take place in our lives will give us what we need to personify what God's intentions are for our lives. Regardless of who you are. Your prayers will have a power to move God in ways you never dreamed possible.

Remember it's all about putting God first and getting to know Him better. And when you do something dynamic happens that…

Opens the Eyes of Your Heart.

Some of you remember when this church was different. You remember when the platform was on the east side where the glass door entrance is now. You remember when there was a balcony and throngs of children and adults flocked to Sunday School.

Remember when the church was remodeled in the late 50's and early 60's that put preachers like me facing people like you in this manner? Remember when the church mortgage was burned? Remember when Pastor Rob Tripp hung over the north side roof to paint the eave?

Remember when we added the new entrance (now we're entering into my memories of the church)? Remember when we blacktopped the north parking lot?

The point I want to make is that so much of our memories are composed of our eyes- that which we have not only seen but experienced. We see a lot of things and are witnesses to a lot of activities in a given day but we don't always remember those things for various reasons and one of those reasons is that our experience hasn't been engaged with our eyes. But when our experiences become engaged with our eyes something within our being sees the event with internal eyes. And we don't so easily forget what we have witnessed.

The understanding is that power or faculty in the soul by which knowledge or information is received, and the recipient power is here termed the Eyes of the understanding; and we learn from this that Philo (a Jewish scholar who had some pretty Christian things to say during the rise of Christianity) once said, "What the eye is to the body, that is the mind to the soul." (Adam Clarke Commentary)

We have to resist the idea that we are dogs that are too old for new tricks or new knowledge.

Not only does Paul pray that you would receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened but he then proposes that each one of us can…

Know the Hope of God's Calling.

Our forefather, John Wesley, believed that this part of verse 18 was to remind us that we "may experimentally and delightfully know what are the blessings which God has called you to hope for by his word and his Spirit."

You exact hope in your life when you face a difficult circumstance and you simply believe that God will work out the problem for his glory. How do you know this? You might quote me:

Romans 5:5- "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

You may also have tucked in the back of your mind when you face all sorts of problems another verse: Romans 8:23- "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."

And in those moments when you are not sure you can keep going on you remember that verse from Romans 8:28- "And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose."

We must be insistent that in our personal lives we choose to be hopeful in Christ Jesus. To know the hope we have in Christ calls for us to know him better. We cannot see what God has for us unless we know who He is and we cannot know the hope we have in our circumstances unless we know him in a very personal way.

This hope that we have in Christ Jesus moves us now to something that digs a wee bit deeper into our systems:

Experiencing the Riches of God's Inheritance.

We know from verse 11 that the saints- that's those of us who believe in and follow after Christ as Christians- that we are God's inheritance. So what does he mean here?

First, as Pastor Cooper's Pulpit Commentary informed me, this heritage includes our privileges in Christ. Consider this: if you were signed to a sports team you are issued the uniform of that team, given the game plan that this team has and you are on the team- an active participant belonging to that team. You no longer play for the enemy but you now play for God. Furthermore, all of your privileges as a player on that team come from you being a part of the team. As a Christian I now can approach God in prayer about all sorts of problems in my life. As a Christian I am given the privilege of growing more and more into the image of Christ. As a Christian I now possess the very life of Christ inside of me.

Second, the riches of this heritage includes "God's everlasting glory" bestowed upon us as Christ's followers. One day this body will be raised from "corrigible to "incorrigible." (I kind of like the ring of the old King James words on this.) In other words, this broken down body that requires care and surgeries and the like to keep going will one day be raised as a new body without the brokenness brought on by sin.

Third, this rich and glorious inheritance involves an eternal presence with God. When I die my spirit will be with God in his presence in paradise. Remember the thief on the cross? Jesus told him that "today you will be with me in paradise." I don't Jesus was lying to that man and I am certain that because of faith in him this promise holds true for every believer and follower of Christ who does so by faith.

A fourth idea I have about our riches of God's inheritance is our reward given by Christ to the faithful in Christ. "When the chief Shepherd appears you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:4)

God's Incredible Power is for You.

Consider God's incredible power in the context of these Biblical truths for us to think about:

  • Power is seen in Christ's resurrection. Jesus is risen and has ascended to heaven. This takes a power that goes beyond human ability.
  • Power which raises us to new life in Christ. The new life we have by faith in Jesus Christ is because of the same kind of power that raised Christ from the dead. That power now raises you and me from being dead in our sins and transgressions. No human power can do this.
  • Power that places us with Christ. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. (2:6) No human power could do this either.
  • Power which works in us. We cannot do the things of holy living without God's incredible power working in and through us. No human power can live the kind of holy and blameless life that God is looking for. This comes only through Jesus Christ. This why the righteous will live by faith.
  • Power that will one day resurrect these corruptible bodies. That second resurrection will be an incredible moment in human history. No power on earth can take the dead bones- dried out and dusty- and resurrect them into an incorruptible and perfect body like God's incredible power will do in the end of time. (I would love to preach more on this but I need to wait.)

The resurrection of the dead is a stupendous work of God; it requires his might in sovereign action: an action of power.

Every believer needs to realize the kind of power that changes your life.

God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and defeated sin and death in the process. This took incredible power. This is the power that changes your confessing heart from a sinner into a saint. And when this happens… well, I'll wait until next week before I talk about this part.

Christ in the heavenly realms:

Do we really know who we are claiming to be our Lord and Savior? Take a look at the last four verses:

Jesus is seated with God in the heavenly realms, "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also the one to come."

Have we figured out who we are messing with here and saying that we are Jesus' disciples? I wonder if sometimes we just throw around the very idea of Jesus and being a Christian without really considering who this man is and what he's all about.

"and God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."

Just when I think I've got it all figured out as the leader of this ship I begin to realize that this ship- this Church- belongs to Jesus Christ.

There is so much being said out there in the world about our bodies. Do you want the government telling you whether you can have a certain operation or not? Dude, it's my body, I'll do what I want.

How about Jesus? This is his body and we must allow him the leadership and shepherding of this ministry. We are only the stewards of what he has blessed us with.

Ephesians 3:20-21 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.

Now go and live a life of Holy Spirit power by getting to know who God is in a very personal and real way. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6:33

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Funeral of Alice Ordway

PRELUDE- Hymns by Carol Wright (with video)

Scriptures

Psalm 1  1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. 4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.  6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Job 19:25-27 25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

John 11:25-26  25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Romans 31-39  31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

   "For your sake we face death all day long;
   we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered."

 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Congregational Song- Hymn #352 Victory in Jesus

EULOGY

Alice Ordway was born on August 31, 1961 in Hart, Michigan to James and Hilda Coleson. She passed away last Wednesday March 9, 2011 in Shelby at the age of 49. She is survived by her husband of nearly 20 years, Steve Ordway and their son, James (or as we all know him, Jimmy). As well, her mother, Hilda Coleson of Silver Lake; Harold Coleson of Franklin, Indiana, Helen Fitzpatrick of Hart, Ruth Musil of Hart and Donald of Pentwater; many nieces and nephews; and lots of friends. She was preceded in death by her father, James Coleson.

Alice was a 1979 graduate of Shelby High School. Afterwards she attended Grace Bible College in Grand Rapids where she studied Bible. Following college, she served as a nursing assistant at Spring Arbor Nursing Home where she met a young fellow named Steven Ordway. A friendship developed and grew into courtship that grew into marriage on June 29, 1991.

Alice was a friends friend. In fact, Alice was everybody's friend. So many people loved her and enjoyed her friendship over the years. She had no enemies and if she did they didn't stand a chance with all the friends she had.

She was a woman of the simple life. She didn't look for the fancy or the latest trends- just keep life simple and she was happy. She loved to read- especially her Bible. She also enjoyed Christian television programs.

Alice was someone who thought of others. One of my favorite gifts I have ever received as a pastor was a an American Indian Nativity Set in honor of my Indian heritage. She spearheaded a team of children that went out to her mom's garage and painted the various figurines. She always thought of the needs of others before her own.

Alice loved to laugh. She loved to see the humorous side of life. Her smile was infectious.

Alice loved to serve. She and Steve thought of their local Church as important. She served as our Church Secretary for three years as well as was on the Church Board where she was able to share lots of ideas.

Alice loved her family. She loved her husband and son immensely. She was always keeping track of Jimmy's school activities and needs.

Alice was loved by all of us. I hope she knew that. We loved her because there was something extra-ordinary about her. We probably could never figure out but I wonder if it was just the way she respected us and who we were? We're going to miss her greatly. But now she is resting in peace with our Lord's eternal presence.

PRAYER MEDITATIION- Pastor Jack Cooper

Special Song- In Christ Alone (Owl City video)

MESSAGE- Being a Conqueror in Life

Following the tragic news of Alice's death, I began to consider how I might preach this message today. A variety of scriptures came to mind to some degree- more or less. However, the passage from Romans 8:31-39 kept coming to mind. And then when I received Alice's Bible from Steve and began perusing through it I found that Alice had highlighted these verses with this thought written below: "Script for sick heart."

Alice certainly knew what it was to be down and hurting. A good part of why she had to step down as our Church Secretary was due a serious shoulder injury that was hampering her. Just recently though, she had called me to tell me that when the snow melted away she wanted to start coming into the office at least a day, maybe two, a week and volunteer.

Maybe your heart is sick today and you need this scripture. Perhaps all of us are sick to some degree- whether we realize it or not- and need to hear these words: "What shall separate us from the love of God?" and learn that nothing- absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God.

And so this morning, taking a cue from this passage of God's word and especially from verse 37: "…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." I want to talk to you about being a Conqueror in Life.

So this is where we will begin our journey this afternoon of striving to bring a certain level of understanding of our situation and where we go from here.

Steve, your wife was a wonderful woman of God. She loved our Lord so much. And now she rests in his arms until that great day of Resurrection that all Christians look forward to. Jimmy, your mom loved you so much. She was always so proud of you. I hope you both can find that place of peace in Christ in spite of the circumstances.

So how can you be a conqueror in life? It starts by having…

Christ into your life. We learn from Colossians 1:26- "Christ in you the hope of glory."

In Christian terms, we believe that the person who admits that they are a sinner, believes that Jesus died for their sins, confesses Jesus as Lord and believes that he was raised from the dead is saved. This person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ.

To be a conqueror in life means that Christ is in your life. When you are a believer in Jesus Christ he then intervenes for you before God according to verse 34. This means that Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord who sits at God's right hand acts as our mediator to God. For all of us Christians this afternoon, through our hurt and grieving hearts we can be assured that Jesus Christ sees all of us this and is pleading our case to God right now. And the result is the blessed Holy Spirit bringing comfort to us.

What changes the person's heart is not simply their confession of faith but the work of God in their life. Time and again we will hear the testimony of those who come to Christ and become Christians who sensed something happening in them that they really could not explain. There is an internal excitement that goes beyond emotion.

Alice experienced this in her life. She knew that she was God's child. She knew Jesus as her Lord and Savior. And, yes, she loved her husband and son but she loved her Lord even more.

And this is the call to all of humanity and even to you today: come to Jesus and let him take the lead in your life. I say these things because I know Alice would want me to. I also say these things for all of our thoughtful consideration and how we apply God's word of truth into our lives.

Something else we learn about being a Conqueror in Life and that is:

God's strength is Perfect. This love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord perfects us in all sorts of ways. One way is through suffering. This may seem hard to understand and yet so many Christians over the centuries have testified to God doing extraordinary things in and through their lives because of the trials and tribulations they have gone through.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 in response to a so-called "thorn in the flesh" that Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore [Paul writes] I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

When we realize the human boundaries that hem us in so often and begin to accept some of those as God's hand at work, we will see His perfect strength working in and through our life. When I recognize my limits and what I cannot do, God is able to step in and step up the work of His Holy Spirit in my life.

St. John of the Cross wrote in his classic book The Dark Night of the Soul- "In the first place, the soul learns to commune with God with more respect and more courtesy, such as a soul must ever observe in converse with the Most High." We find ourselves realizing just how weak we are in times of suffering and especially suffering with the question of death that shadows over us today.

To be a Conqueror in Life not only means that God has justified us and his strength is perfect but there is a choice we have to make:

Choose to see God. So often we can blame others and even ourselves for the predicament we are in. Other times we might even dare to blame God for the problems we face and wonder why we are going through what we don't know what to do about. However, there is a freedom for those who are conquerors in life who choose to rather see and hear God as opposed to just trying to gut their way through.

I have a problem with a statement that I often hear: "Well, I just believe everything will work out." Fine, everything will work out, I suppose. If I leave my broken car broken then it will remain broken. But I guess I can psyche myself into believing that it's okay as well and go nowhere in life.

Similarly, if we leave the problems of life to fate then we are going nowhere real fast. However, I choose along with thousands of other Christ believers to trust the circumstances and problems to God's hand.

Alice had highlighted in her Bible several verses and wrote next them, "Choose to see." One of them I want to highlight from 1 Thessalonians 4:13- Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.

When we choose to see God in our middle of our storms we see hope. This hope we see goes beyond life itself. And in spite of the trials we face like the one we share in today, Jesus commands our destiny if we allow him to. We must choose to see God in the midst of our circumstances and even in these times of death. Why? Because "…we do not grieve like others who have no hope." We grieve knowing that there will be a great reunion on that final day of resurrection when the trumpet will blast. We have a hope that is safe and secure.

One day Jimmy was eating peanuts at his grandma Coleson's house. Someone had recently died and they were discussing the tragic news. Jimmy, being Jimmy, listened without comment- continuing to break open the peanut shells. And then he spoke. And when Jimmy speaks you better listen. Alice and her mom listened. Jimmy picked up two pieces of a peanut shell and put them together and said, "She is like this peanut shell and inside she is not there anymore."

Now I don't know about all the theological ramifications of soul-sleep and the end time resurrection- I'm still researching that. However, what I do know is that there is a presence of God that our dear departed sister is now enjoying. The shell is hear but is empty of her life. She now dwells in the hands of the Almighty.

Prayer-

Father God, we come today as people whose lives have been abruptly changed by the death of one whom we deeply love. Alice meant a lot to all of us. This change has brought confusion, anger, loneliness, fear and doubt. In the midst of these varied emotions, we long for peace and for endurance. We want to feel your presence.

As the stark reality of death is portrayed by this coffin, may we remember that Your love is the ultimate reality. May we remember that the reality of Your love is stronger than death and now sustains life on a different plane for this one we love. May we remember Alice and her vibrant faith in Jesus Christ.

Lord, may the memories of precious moments shared sustain the family in this time of grief. We ask for your blessing on Steve and Jimmy especially. And for Hilda and her brothers and sisters we pray your most precious comfort to sustain them as well.

May those times of laughter and crying, joy and sorrow, energy and fatigue, conflict and peace which mark our history with this beloved individual be the foundation of hope which sends us all into tomorrow. May we not strive for healing by the things of this world but by the power of Your Holy Spirit.

Father, place us in Your strong resourceful hands, and do those things for which we cannot do for ourselves. In Jesus name- Amen.

COMMITTAL

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."

 55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
   Where, O death, is your sting?"

 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Committal Prayer

Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, in His wise providence, we now commit this body to its resting place; and we commit the spirit, O our Father, together with every sacred interest of our hearts, into your keeping; praying that you will deal graciously and mercifully with each of us, until we too shall come to you in glory by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the riches of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Biblical quotes NIV 2011 from Biblegateway.com

HAVE YOU SURRENDERED TO GOD’S GRAND PURPOSES?

Ephesians 1:3-14

Sunday March 13, 2011

This message has been developed from "Sermon Starters" by Dr. Wayne Schmidt for this specific Lenten Series.

Francis was supposed to be a knight and a prince of Assisi. The son of a wealthy cloth maker, a soldier who led other soldiers and a man who fought with bravery learned the art of surrender to God. And his surrender changed not only his life but changed the lives of countless others as well as changed the Church at a time when the Church was faltering.

Francis was born in 1181 in Assisi, Italy. He was not a very exceptional student but was allowed to breeze his way through his studies- maybe because he was a rich man's son. As he grew up he had very little interest in the family business. His parents spoiled him, giving him pretty much whatever he wanted.

No one loved pleasure more than Francis; "he had a ready wit, sang merrily, and delighted in fine clothes and showy display." He was a handsome young man- very gallant, and courteous. He was the prime favorite among the young nobles of Assisi, "the foremost in every feat of arms, the leader of the civil revels, the very king of frolic." But Francis also showed a different side to his nature: he seemed to have an instinctive sympathy with the poor, and though he wasted money, yet he found ways to channel money to those in need.

But Francis was intent on living his life the way he wanted. However, God works in mysterious ways and in Francis' life God began to call him and draw him to the most unusual life. Although Francis still joined at times in the noisy revels of his former comrades, his changed demeanor plainly showed that his heart was no longer with them; a yearning for the life of the Spirit had already possessed it. Something was different about Francis. He no longer yearned to live for the next drink or next pleasure.

During one of the town's military skirmishes with an enemy city, Francis was taken prisoner. He contracted an illness with a low fever during which he had a dream that God told him he would lead others with the cross on their shields. Later, he had a second dream that called him to return to his home city of Assisi. He left the battle field- desertion is what I think this is called- and returned. Francis became very different: he prayed, he gave away his things to the poor (even exchanging his nice clothes with a beggar), he took the family things and gave them away. He began to live the life of someone who was called by God to surrender everything.

Not long after his return to Assisi, while Francis was praying before an ancient crucifix in a forsaken wayside chapel of St. Damian's below the town, he heard a voice saying: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin."

Yes, Francis could see that the old chapel was falling down because it was unkempt and unused. Yes, Francis knew that to heed the call to repair this building would cost him; yet, Francis did heed the call that was being place on his life. Not a call to repair an old broken chapel out in a faraway field but to bring a freshness and newness to the Church as a whole.

Francis, against the wishes of his father, townspeople and even the priest that oversaw the empty chapel, gave up everything to repair God's Church. Francis returned at once to St. Damian's, where he found a shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon called back to stand before the city consuls by his father. His father was not content with Francis taking the family money and goods and giving them away. So he sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance. This Francis was only too eager to do; he declared, however, that since he had entered the service of God he was no longer under civil jurisdiction. Having therefore been taken before the bishop, Francis stripped himself of the very clothes he wore, and gave them to his father and said: " Up till now I have called you my father on earth; from this time forth I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven'."

And Francis strode out of the city to never look back again. He established a ministry to literally rebuild St. Damian's Chapel by receiving donated stones. So one stone at a time, Francis rebuilt the Church- physically and spiritually. He established ministries over his lifetime of contemplation, prayer and fasting. He led evangelism excursions all over Italy calling others to a life of surrender to God. Francis went "exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace." The Assisians had already ceased to scoff at Francis; they now paused in wonderment; his example even drew others to him. (Catholic Encyclopedia- www.newadvent.org/cathen/06221a.htm)

St. Francis discovered in worship and certain kinship with nature. He saw the glory of God in all manner of creation. To say that he was an environmentalist would miss the point; he was a man who found God in everything and experienced the worship of God by seeing the interaction of nature. In fact, he himself was known to have interacted with animals and birds. Everywhere you see a picture of St. Francis you will find a bird on his shoulder symbolizing the kind of man of God he was. St. Francis of Assisi was the patron saint of animals, birds and the environment. (Commentary to "The Little Flowers of St. Francis" on website www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/index.htm)

"Have you surrendered to the grand purposes of God for your life?"

It matters not how successful you are in your business and work; it matters not how talented you are as a person; it matters not how spiritually gifted you are as a Christian; it matters not how much money you give the church ministry. And on the other hand, it matters not how poor you are; how little you give; how little you do; how little you think of yourself.

This morning we are all on the same level ground around the cross of Jesus and must answer the question: "Have I surrendered to the grand purposes of God for my life?"

And if you want a simpler question how about this: "Have I surrendered to God?"

Your answer this morning cannot be an in-between answer; there is no such thing as both/and today; there is only an either/or answer to this question. The answer to this question is about a whole lot more than becoming a pastor or missionary and Sunday School teacher. The answer to this question will and must define everything about your life.

There is no straddling the fence or being a "Johnny-Fence-Rider". (Fresh Fish album from the early '90's) You must fall off on one side or the other.

How must you respond to the question, "Have I surrendered to the grand purposes of God for my life?"

  1. LIVING IN CHRIST.

Six times in this short passage we read something to the effect "in Christ" or "in Him." This is no accident. So what does this mean? Notice three very important realities for you as a Christian:

  • All we are is found in Christ. "We were chosen in him before the creation of the world.
  • All we have is found in Christ. "In him we have redemption."
  • All we hope for is found in Christ. "…our inheritance…"

There is nothing else in the entire world that can do for us what Jesus has done for us and now does for us because of his great love for us. Because of His perfect sacrifice on the cross we can know what it is to be in a true relationship with God.

The kind of live we are called to changes us- it must change us. Otherwise we've not been called to salvation.

Like that hymn many of us love so much: "In Christ alone my hope is found." Absolutely and positively in Christ alone and nowhere else is our hope for anything in life found. And even though life can seem like a roller coaster through the dips and turns and twists and highs and lows of life, as a follower of Jesus Christ you can know the love of God that keeps you and protects you from all evil.

Not only does living in Christ begin this adventure of surrendering to God's grand purposes in your life but also your willingness to…

  1. GRASP GOD'S ETERNAL PURPOSES.

What does God want to do with this world? Does he want to take it over like some kind of dictator? Or does God want to control the world? Or, here's a "novel" thought, God wants to convert the world through an ordinary person like you.

This is where discovering your purpose in Christ becomes so important.

Dr. Wayne Schmidt points out from the booklet "Establishing Your Purpose" (Vision Foundation, Knoxville, TN) these three purposes that God has for each of us to move towards in our Christian journey:

  • God's Ultimate Purpose. This is God's eternal purpose in the long, far-out future and much of which remains a mystery. We don't fully comprehend how God really wants to end all of this world and so forth.
  • God's Universal Purpose. This is God's will for every person. We know that God desires humanity to hear and heed the gospel message. God wants you and everyone else to come to that place of obeying the two greatest commandments: Love God and love your neighbor.
  • God's Unique Purpose. This is God's specific plan for your life. We know that the Apostle Paul makes constant reference to himself as being "called to be an apostle." This is Paul's specific purpose in life. My specific purpose for living will not be exactly your specific purpose but for all of us our Universal Purpose remains the same: to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. And we will all witness in the end of time God's Ultimate Purpose.

As a Christian you are found to be in Christ and being in Christ you come to recognize the purpose to which you are saved. Now you must do something that only you can do:

  1. MAKE YOUR RESPONSE PERSONAL.

God's calling to you for salvation began before the world was created. You were chosen before anything else was created but not just to go to heaven.

Salvation is about whole lot more than going to heaven. God wants to bring heaven to earth through you. This is why he has chosen you, according to verse 4, to be holy and blameless.

What does it mean to be holy and blameless?

God's perception of us is that we are perfect in heart and soul. To God you are a very beautiful and handsome specimen of humanity. When you got saved, Christ removed your blemishes

Ephesians 5:27- "{Jesus} loved the church [that's you and me] and gave himself up for her [again, that's us] to make [us] holy, cleansing [us] by the washing with water through the word, and to present [us] to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (My emphasis and changes)

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well, you are a beautiful person to God when you accept his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into your life by faith. And not only does Jesus' blood remove your blemishes, but his blood removes your guilt. No longer do you need to live in guilt and shame but can now hold your head high knowing that you are born of God.

  • You have to want to for God.

To make your response personal is somewhat like when I got married: I had to respond to the vows; I had to repeat after the pastor; I had to kiss the bride. But that sounds like a coerced deal: "I HAD to." The fact is that I WANTED to respond with "I will"; I WANTED to repeat after the pastor; I WANTED to kiss the bride. I WANTED to answer the call to Naomi's husband!

And to make this call to God's full salvation through Jesus Christ a very personal response means that YOU will respond because YOU WANT TO.

Something else, though, is that this change is a dynamic change. You are changed to be different. Different from the ways of the world, different from the ways of sin and different from the ways of self. To be holy and blameless means that you are set apart for God's holy use.

A friend of mine (Dan Lamos) posted on Facebook the other day this thought:

  • Surrender is the currency of God's kingdom.

For you to truly be holy and blameless doesn't so much call for you to do something but to surrender everything. I can go crazy trying to do everything for everybody every day. I can go crazy trying to do this for God. But the best way to live for Jesus is to surrender my life to his use.

  • Jesus is my coach so I listen and do what he says.
  • Jesus is my leader so I follow in his footsteps.
  • Jesus is my friend and I don't want to disappoint my friend.

Jesus once said, "Many are called but few are chosen." Is this some kind of reference to the failures of so many who come to Christ with faith believing and yet go their own way after the altar experience?

The truth is that being called to a life of being holy and blameless is not a call to a life of constantly committing sins. We are not called to a life of sinlessness that means that we just "sin less" than everybody else. We are called to avoid sin, not to commit sin and to run from sin's temptations. The person who claims to be a Christian and is continuing to engage in willful sin was either never saved to begin with or was once saved and has forfeited their own soul.

The reality for the true believer in Jesus Christ and who is truly following Christ is that we are surrendered to God's grand purpose for our life. We give up our hopes and dreams and everything else in order to bid our Lord's calling for our life. And it is there that we find true satisfaction and joy.

CONCLUSION: CARRYING THE MARKS OF A CHRISTIAN.

So how can you know and distinguish your Christian life from the ways of the world?

When I was a young lad I attended Cub Scouts for about a month. I was excited about being a part of something that involved friends of mine among others. We met a house and were taught what it meant to be a Cub Scout. We had an oath to not only quote but a promise to keep that oath. No problem so far- until the cost of the uniforms came up. There was no way I was staying in Cub Scouts because my family could not afford- or even come close to affording- the price tag of the pants, shirt, bandanna or badges. My Cub Scout days ended hardly before they began. And I was crushed. I wanted to be a Cub Scout but the lack of a uniform would prevent me from doing so.

When I became a Christian something significant happened in my life: I was marked by the Holy Spirit. Men of old prayed over me as I received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. My life became remarkably different; I felt different when I got up from that altar of prayer; I knew my life was different; I understood that my life would be changed from the way I used to live and think.

When you became a Christian there should be something that transpires that changes you. No, you don't need to buy a uniform or badges or a special colored bandanna but your heart is changed. Who you were is now different. Your name might be the same, your hair color the same and all of that BUT you are different.

There are three aspects of this mark of the Christian.

The first aspect of this mark of a Christian: Your Inclusion in God's Family. We both choose and are chosen- two sides to the same coin, so to speak. There is God's part which is Him choosing us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless and then there is our choice after "you heard the word of truth" to "believe" that "gospel of salvation."

The second aspect of this mark of a Christian: Your Identification with Christ. "…you were marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance…" God's commitment to us is that he will truly never leave us nor forsake us. By the work of the Holy Spirit we have a power over sin that defeats the penalty of sin as well as removes the presence of sin from our hearts and lives so that we might live lives that are holy and blameless.

The third aspect of this but the most important because it enfolds the other two is this: Your Intentional Acts of Love. Live a life of holiness and blamelessness is really a life of love- Love God with all your heart and Love your neighbor as yourself. Your intentional acts of love will reflect your inclusion in the family of God as well as your identification with Christ.

Men like St. Francis of Assisi lived that kind of life- a life that was fully surrendered to God.

Are you serious about your relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you really want to follow after Jesus?

Are you willing to surrender your life to Him today- at this moment? Are you ready to pursue God's grand purpose for your life.


 

Monday, March 7, 2011

LIKE YOUR OWN THINGS

Exodus 20:17- You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

[General References: Pulpit Commentary, True Spirituality by Francis Schaeffer, MacArthur Study Bible, The Wesley Study Bible]

One of the deepest kinds of sins that sums up every command as well as fills in any loopholes that you might have figured out is highlighted by the Tenth Commandment: You shall not covet.

This one sin encompasses every other sin very simply because to covet is to desire something that is not yours and that God does not want you to have.

To covet means for a person to desire or to take pleasure in. (Expository Dictionary of Bible Words p. 200) That's the generic definition and there's nothing wrong with that on the surface. But now apply the definition to the Commandment:

"You shall not take desire or take pleasure in your neighbor's house. You shall not desire or take pleasure in your neighbor's wife or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

The objective is for you to like and appreciate what you have and not be looking over your neighbor's fence and wishing you had what he or she has.

It may sound harsh and it may sound snotty but it is the reality. And when you don't face reality you face all sorts of problems with your relationship with God.

Notice Ezekiel 33:31- "My people come to you as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain."

God was pointing out the hypocrisy of his people- they act as though they are hearing and want to do the Lord's will but in their hearts- in the very core of who they are- they are selfish and greedy. God has a problem with people are always on the take and looking to get every kind of edge.

This tenth commandment is aimed right at the heart of who you are and who you claim to be. So many have failed in this tenth command. And so my goal today is to help you understand what it is to covet and how you can overcome.

Ephesians 5:3 emphasizes to all Christians the kind of holy lives we are to live. Notice what the Apostle Paul writes:

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people."

When people see your life they should not think of you as a greedy or jealous person who thinks of themselves first. They should see you as the way the Bible describes Jesus. Furthermore, since we can be pretty good at tricking other people by covering up our tracks, God should be able to look at your life and see someone who is not full of greed and jealousy.

Remember, that the ten commandments are about more than just some cosmic killjoy God out there trying to make your life miserable and to deny yourself of those so-called things that make you human.

PRECEPT = PRINCIPLE = THE PERSON OF GOD. "Do not covet" points us to the principle that God wants us to be content with what we have; and this points us to the very character of God who provides to his children.

Whassup with this command?

  • Gets to the thoughts of the individual.
  • Reveals the heart of a person.
  • Slavery to sinful desires.
  • Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.

Since God desires truth in my inward life then it calls on me to be truthful to myself, truthful to God and thereby truthful to every one else around me. This means that I will do whatever I need to do to force myself to be obedient to this command of not coveting what isn't mine.

I three thoughts about this command with a closing challenge that I pray will draw us closer to our Lord this morning.

The Delusion of Need.

I am amazed at how television works. I can be sitting there minding my own business during a Kentucky basketball game and suddenly realize that the home cooked dinner I am eating isn't cutting it- I need Jimmy Johns or Golden Corral. I also come to the conclusion that my van isn't good enough for a rich guy like me so I need to get a new Chrysler or Ford. And I need a pair of Wrangler Jeans like Brett Favre wears.

Constantly and at every turn we have a societal media that is shouting at us that we have needs that need to be fulfilled. The fact is that most of the commercials we witness through television and other media are not needs at all. Yes, I need to eat in order to live but I don't have to go to Red Robin (YUM!).

  • Turning wants into needs. The devil is good at this if we let him. Habakkuk 2:9- Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!
  • Blurring the lines from what is necessary. There are times I need new things- or at least replace the old thing. I've learned to find the best value for the best price. I don't always get this right but I hope my heart is always in the right place.
  • Don't look at your neighbor's successes. The temptation to covet can be a very subtle temptation. "I wish my wife could be the kind of wife he has." Or vice versa. "I wish my children behaved like their children." "I wish I had a car like they have." On and on we could go.
  • Beware of Ecclesiastical Coveting! Churches are very guilty of breaking this command. We wish our church was like such and such church. We wish our pastor was like so and so's pastor. We wish our congregation was like that congregation over there. We wish we had a church building like theirs; a church ministry like theirs; money like they have; leaders like they have; and on and on the jealousy creeps in.
  • Luke 12:15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

We need to guard our hearts against coveting which is really just plain old greed. Don't be looking over at your neighbor's successful life! Or the neighboring churches.

The Selfishness of Wants.

Micah 2:2- They covet fields and seize them, and houses and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman his inheritance.

This verse really tells the story of so much of humanity: see something you want so you go get it by any means possible regardless of who it hurts.

  • Allowing the world to define us. Our friends who don't know God and who are not there to help us live godly lives are going to strive to tell us what we really need. "You just have to do what's best for you." What a statement from the pit of hell!
  • Allowing our self to be undisciplined. When we don't allow the Bible to define us and give us direction we find ourselves undisciplined in the ways of God. Our minds begin to eyeball things that don't belong to us. Our prideful hearts begin to puff up and we strive to gain something that perhaps God does not intend for us to have.
  • We should love others enough not to envy. I love my wife too much to wonder about other women. I love my friends and brothers in Christ too much to wonder about their wives. This is what Jesus was getting at when he said that a man who looks on a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery with her. (Matthew 5:28)
  • Do we harbor secret satisfaction at another's loss? (Francis Schaeffer) Am I happy when my enemy's demise knocks on his door? Or do I grieve for him?
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23-24- 23 "I have the right to do anything," you say—but not everything is beneficial. "I have the right to do anything"—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

Let's see those verses from the Message Bible: 23-24Looking at it one way, you could say, "Anything goes. Because of God's immense generosity and grace, we don't have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster." But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

If I am going to truly overcome this issue of coveting in my life and if you are going to truly overcome this issue in your life then it requires us to not only be vigilant and guard our hearts but also to seek the good of others and to help others live well.

So how should we live?

The Secret of Contentment.

Everybody wants to be content in life. Everybody wants to be happy, fat and free- so to speak. What is the secret to overcoming covetousness? It is discovering the secret of contentment.

Socrates- "Contentment is natural wealth and luxury is artificial poverty."

  • Contentment is the positive outcome of obedience to the 10th Command. When you learn to like what you already have then you are on your way to overcoming coveting and being content in whatever state you are in.
  • Contentment wants what God wants for me. I really have nothing else to add to this.
  • Contentment is satisfaction within all relationships:
    • Relationship with Jesus Christ.
    • Sexual purity among God's people.
    • Husband-Wife marital relationship.
    • Family structures are honored.
    • Churches are respected.
    • Friendships are valued.

Francis Schaeffer:

If contentment goes and the giving of thanks goes, we are not loving God as we should, and proper desire has become coveting against God. This inward area is the first place of loss of true spirituality. The outward is always the result of it. (True Spirituality p. 13)

Conclusion: Getting Serious for Victory!

  • Seeking forgiveness for the sin of coveting.
  • Giving thanks in all things.
  • Living by faith for everything.
  • Putting to death the sin of coveting.

Colossians 3:5- Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

PRAYER OF CONTENTMENT:

Father, I know that contentment with godliness is of great benefit.  It brings about a lasting peace and grateful heart that only You can give.  Help me not to covet the relationships and material goods that belong to others. Help me by the Counsel of the Holy Spirit to surrender all of myself and all I have into your care.
May the character of who I am and the fruit of my actions be the result of my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, living in and through me. May I look to You for proper balance in the people and things You have blessed me with and give me a righteous attitude that all things are gifts from your gracious hands. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


 


 



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