Sunday, August 19, 2012

Man's Greatest Need -- The Gospel!

What follows are some thoughts that came to me in developing a sermon that I preached on Luke 24:44-49, “The Gospel #101.” Running around in my head were thoughts about the recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado and the criticisms directed toward  Dan Kathy and Chick-Fil-A’ for their stance on Christian values.

The main theme of the sermon was that “believers who are convinced of the transformative power of the Gospel will find ways to share Christ with others.” This truth is discovered in Luke 24:44-49 where we see the core content of the Gospel as well as the core conviction needed for sharing Christ with others.

Why We Need the Gospel
Every problem present in the world can be attributed to fallen sinful humanity, broken people. Why do angry people go on murderous rampages in movie theaters? The same reason angry people murder others with tongues of gossip and tongues of bitterness – sin. Why do marriages struggle and sometimes break down and fall apart? Because people don’t recognize their fallen condition and the need to repent and reconcile and be made complete in Christ. Why do we fail to love one another, to treat one another with kindness, to put the needs of others before ours? Because our sin nature has made us dysfunctional and we are motivated to look out for ourselves. Why do we sometimes walk in the sins of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5)? Because we give in to our fallen impulses.

The Delusion that We Are Gods
One writer said concerning the shooting in Aurora, Colorado that these events are increasing in their frequency because we have lost our sense of the fear of judgement, of accountability, of sin. In other words, everyone is right and no one is wrong – there is no unchangeable standard, no God to be accountable to. And when everything is right and nothing is wrong, everything is messed up. We might as well be honest. Our postmodern culture with its subjective view of truth has deified man. The only absolute truth in our secular humanistic society is that man is completely autonomous – he is god. The age-old lie perpetrated by Satan in Genesis chapter three is alive and well, “you will be like God.” The seeds of this godless weed in our culture continue to bring forth evil fruit.

Calling Good Evil and Evil Good
I stated that every problem present in the world can be attributed to fallen humanity, broken people. Consider this statement in light of all the current discussion on the subject of what’s sinful and what is not. Recently, Dan Cathy was terribly maligned for his comments on the traditional family. In today’s climate to be “for” something “good” is to be subject to harsh criticism. It’s a mystery how you can be hated for standing for something that is “good.” This too is evidence of a fallen world where Isaiah’s words ring true – people call good evil and evil good.

Beyond Toleration to Acceptance
The politically correct litmus test today for acceptance by the world seems to center on the issue of where one stands on the issue of homosexuality. If you believe it is a sin, that it’s part of our fallen nature, and that likewise, people can be transformed by the Gospel, you are classified as a bigot and a homophobic or at best a judgmental person.

What makes the issue of homosexuality confusing to the world and vexing for many believers is that some professing Christians say that they are homosexual and not by choice but by nature. In other words, God made me this way. But here’s what has happened that is different today than in times past. Some Christians have tried to normalize their sinful struggles in a way that justifies them not fighting the impulses of the flesh anymore. I get the struggling with sin part, but why doesn’t this logic apply with other sinful struggles? Could a heterosexual Christian not say, “I struggle with sexual purity and I just need to embrace the fact that I’m going to have multiple affairs?” Or, “I’m a Christian who struggles with lying and I’m just going to embrace that because that’s the way I am.”

You Are Born This Way
But here’s what I want you to hear and it’s very important. Just because a person has a leaning towards some sinful impulse (regardless of what it is) does not mean that they should give themselves over to it. It doesn’t mean that they should cease trying to overcome that sinful impulse. The truth is, we’re all born sinners that’s why we need a savior! Christians struggle with all kinds of sins including homosexuality (See 1 Cor. 6:9-11). But instead of seeking to justify them we confess that we have been washed by Jesus and we seek  to overcome them. We recognize them for what they are – remnants of our fallen nature and we repent (repeatedly) of them.

All sin keeps us from experiencing God’s best and that is why we call all people to repent. None are perfect, but we do not throw in the towel and give up and say “Oh well, Lady Ga Ga must be right, I’m just born that way.” No, God has come to transform us, to change us because we are born that way (2 Cor. 5:17). Repentance has been described as making a u-turn. You realize you’re heading in the wrong direction and you make a course correction and begin to go God’s way, the right way. Salvation is one big u-turn but because we are not yet made perfect, living as a saved person involves a lot of little u-turns. If you’re not going God’s way, it matters little what sin you bound by, it’s keeping you from experiencing life and it is to be repented of.

Reclaiming What Is Yours
The Bible describes the believer as one who is saved and who is being saved. The Christian life is a daily struggle, a daily fight. We repent and we keep on repenting. In Afghanistan our troops would often go into a city where there was a strong Taliban presence and root them out literally house by house. This was very successful but our troops found out we had to keep going back and reclaiming territory already won. That is what you and I must do on a daily basis. We fight sin daily to reclaim what is our’s.

We can never give up the fight against sin. Several years ago Ray Boltz did just that. The writer of such great songs as “Watch the Lamb,” and “The Anchor Holds,” Boltz came out openly as a homosexual. By his own testimony, he said that he got tired of fighting. How sad and tragic, he got tired of fighting sin and gave up, settling for less than God’s best.

Breaking Bad – “It Get’s Easier”
If we don’t fight the good fight of faith, we will slowly sink into sin, become dulled to God, and live a life less than God’s best. In the TV series, Breaking Bad, Walter White plays a chemistry teacher who makes meth. He’s a slow train wreck in action. Each step he takes he crosses another moral line and continues to slide out of control. His wife, Skyler has always been a little uncomfortable with the whole business. Walt notices that she’s particularly uncomfortable with their life and the way things are and he tries to build her up by telling her, “It gets easier.” Sad but true, it does gets easier to slide into the darkness until our conscience is completely suppressed and surrendered.

When we give in to sin, we slide into darkness and the truth becomes suppressed (See 1 Cor. 1:21; Rom. 1:18). This is why we have to resist sin with every thing we have, not give in to it.

Of All the Possible Worlds
Some will ask the question and it is a valid question, “Why did God make us in such a way that these scenarios are potential in us? Why did he make us this way? And why do we still struggle with sin?” Of all the possible worlds that God could have made and all of the possible ways that God could have made human beings, he chose to make us with a free will so that we could exercise freedom, so that we could grow, so that we could truly love. If God removed the possibilities of sin, we could not exercise freedom and there would be no possibility of growth. Likewise, there would be no real love.

Choices Do Matter
What this means is that choices do matter, sin is a reality that must be dealt with, but we are not left without hope for in Christ sins are forgiven and power is given by the Holy Spirit to overcome sin, to make the right choices. What brings about life transformation however, is not knowing about Jesus (the facts), but it is faith in Jesus, giving Jesus our sin, our very selves. That is repentance, going in God’s direction. The Gospel only transforms as it is applied. But when it is applied, when we do repent, the Gospel transforms (Rom. 1:16-18; 1 Cor. 1:18, 22-24; 2:1-5)!

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe






Wednesday, August 15, 2012

James: Faith Works!

Beginning this Sunday, August 19, 2012 I will be bringing a series of messages from the book of James. This immensely practical book has much to say to believers who are serious about living out the teachings of Jesus in everyday life. Perhaps Jame's theme may be summed up in his sharp demand: "Be doers of the word, and not hearers only" (1:22). Genuine faith works.

Invite a friend to join us for worship. This week's message, "Turning Your Trials into Triumphs," is based on James 1:1-18.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe

James 1:1-18 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

James 1:1-18


James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:
To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.

Trials and Maturity

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation, 10 but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities.
12 A man who endures trials] is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
13 No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil,  and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. 18 By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.