Archive for the ‘Other Sermons’ Category

(prepared for a Tuesday Morning Staff Meeting)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-2

“The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
says the Teacher.
‘Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.’”

What a great way to start off the morning and an awesome start to our week, right? Everything is meaningless. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of what I’m saying this morning.

Ecclesiastes is my favorite book because it puts everything into perspective. It reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I feel like I should be doing it in the first place.

A sober reminder like my alarm clock was this morning.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a morning person.
I like sleeping in.
I hate my alarm clock.
Which was my mom this morning…

When I set my alarm, I doom myself to the fate of waking to an alarm, for what reason? Because there is something I need to do, and without a sober reminder I would sleep right on through it.

Often I get up and my first thoughts aren’t about what I have to do, I honestly don’t even remember why I set the alarm in the first place until after my morning routine.

This makes it ever more important for us to set our alarms right now so we’re prepared for what’s to come. We have to be intentional. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the type that wakes us up in the morning.
So what are we setting our alarms for?

Skip to chapter 3:1-5

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2     a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3     a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4     a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

The list goes on…

This begs the question, what are we prepared for?

Perhaps more importantly, what are we unprepared for?

The cold reality is that we don’t always see things coming, and when the storms of life hit or things go unexpectedly crazy we have to be ready. Not just as people, not just as staff at a church, but as men and women on the front lines of a very real war against a very real enemy and as what may be the one thing that collides with a person’s trajectory to hell and points them to Jesus.

As my friend Paul said Sunday, Jesus prayed that we would be sent into the world to redeem it. (John 17:13-18) What idiot goes on a mission unprepared? We need to set our alarms to prepare for whatever may come our way.

Pray that when the time comes that your preparation is fruitful and rises up within you and everything is automatic, much like my morning routine, so we can praise God for the work He is doing through us in the midst of the world when we remember what was sown into us beforehand.

We just read in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything right? Well, let me leave you with this thought…

Ester 4:14, you know the story…
“14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Jeremiah 29:11-13, God knows what plans he has for us. Romans 8:22-30, we are called according to His purpose.)

The time for us is now, our time is ticking.

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Romans 12:1-2,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

We’ve probably all heard this once, if not a million times. But there’s reason to look at it again, and again, and again. This is a choice we must constantly and consistently make, especially as representatives of Christ in each of our own areas and examples to those who come behind us. On a narrow road to a narrow gate with many distractions and detours, filled with construction and confusing signage, people need to know God’s will and direction just as much as we need it in our own life, sometimes it will be our obligation to bring it to them and we need to be prepared.

Romans 15:1-4
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

There were those who came before us, thank God, that laid a foundation for us to work with and grow from. Christ came to take on the reproach that we were destined to face. “Reproach” honestly confused me a little so I looked up the definition to make sure I understood this scripture the right way, “reproach” means “The expression of disapproval or disappointment” or to address someone with such expression. Jesus Himself left heaven to remove the largest obstacle, sin’s death grip, and bear the weight of our well earned disapproval and disappointment. We too must bear the weight of those weaker than us and become a living sacrifice, not living as we would will but instead as an example to others so that we can inject God’s will and plan and purpose into their lives and build them up. In doing so, let us not forget that this is first and foremost our worship to God. Secondly our duty to one another in Christ.

Galatians 6:1-6
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load. 6 Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”

It’s imperative that we watch our steps, in our personal lives and in our ministry, for our own sake and the sake of Christ’s reputation through us. We don’t need to compare ourselves and our giftings to others, and we don’t need to be discouraged by our weaknesses. We’re human. We’re different, none of us have the same fingerprints, or purpose, or giftings, or strengths. But we all have something, and God put you where you are now so that you can use that something.

1 Timothy 4:6-16
“If you point these things…”

(from verse 4 and 5, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”)

“out to the brothers and sisters,[a] you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

In our respective areas, we all want to be good ministers, hopefully. What we need in order to be good ministers is simply the renewing of our mind, to become a living sacrifice, to train ourselves in godliness, living in the will of God. I don’t know about you, but often when I would hear this scripture they point out “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” as if it were some rebellious spirit of inspiration, but I don’t see anywhere that is says “and when you get old you can stop doing these things”. All it says to me is that it’s never to early to start and always too early to stop. We need to set the example and pour ourselves into this diligently. We have before us the opportunity to save anyone listening, and all we have to do is what we can.

I believe Scripture can speak for itself, so let’s pick up again where we started off in Romans 12 to wrap this up…

Romans 12:3-8
” For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a]faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Simple. Many of us, many gifts, one powerful God, one mission. Let’s do it.

“Living Sacrifice” means a life lived intentionally.

In today’s church we still struggle with the same things that we did as a church when Peter and Paul were still preaching and dealing with them. Especially us, who choose to be in leadership positions and who feel a calling on our lives to serve God with more than just our actions, because it isn’t as easy to match our hearts with our words as it is to match our words with our hearts. Just take a look at Peter, even he had trouble with staying true to the gospel that he preached. In Galatians 2:11-13 we see how easily he fell into hypocrisy, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”

Peter, being convinced by fear, then convinced others. It wasn’t until Paul confronted him to his face that Peter corrected himself. Peter focused on doing what was right by people and observing the Jewish laws rather than being as Christ wanted him to be. We need to focus on “Being” and not so much on “Doing”. We need to guard ourselves against religion, attempting to reach God by our actions and doing good deeds, and thinking that if we do A, B, and C then God will be pleased with us. Even worse is to think that if we do A, B, and C then God will not only be pleased with us, but will give us D. Such selfish ways of thinking only lead us astray and distract us from God’s will for our lives. Getting caught up in law and to do lists while attempting to get God to do our biding and make us happy is nothing more than being prideful. When your walk becomes more about what you do and what you want than what God has done, will do, and is doing, and what He wants, then you’ve fallen victim to your pride.

Paul made it clear that doing something for appearances sake or to reach for righteousness before God by your own merit means nothing and will require more from you than you can handle by your own power, “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4) Of course, Paul was talking about circumcision, but this can be applied to any action you take to seem righteous by your own works, Paul confronted Peter about not eating with Gentiles for appearances sake just as he is confronting the Galatians about circumcision in the same way that Christ confronted the Pharisees about their traditions. We cannot continue to live the same way we used to, Paul makes it clear, “If while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker.” (Galatians 2:17-18) However, we cannot go to the other extreme and become religious and seek to be justified by our own right either, as Paul continues “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:19-21)

So, what can we do? How can we live differently or continue to live according to God’s plan? Paul addresses this issue in Galatians 5:16-18, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” God has given us His Spirit freely to work within us and help us to live in our new righteousness and new grace. Aside from God there is no way that we can live for God, without the Spirit we cannot live by the Spirit. We must rely on God.

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? To live by the Spirit means to gratify the desires of the Spirit not the flesh. We all know what the flesh desires, I’m sure even when the church was just beginning they knew clearly, so why does Paul list them in Galatians 5:19-21? What was important about knowing what the desires of the flesh were? Wouldn’t it be more important to give instructions on how to live by the Spirit practically? Let’s take a look at exactly what he said. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” We find our answer in the last sentence, “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”, meaning that this isn’t simply a matter of what we do, but what we are. Only heirs inherit, and heirs of a kingdom are the sons and daughters of the king, so it makes sense that only those that live and act a certain way are sons and daughters of a certain king in a certain kingdom. Being raised to new life as sons and daughters of God will produce a change in our lives that is just as obvious as the desires of the flesh. This change in lifestyle is what marks us, it is by God’s Spirit in us that we have changed, though we don’t do everything perfect, our nature is changed. Living by the Spirit isn’t something that we strive for, it’s not something we need to do A, B, and C to get, it is simply living naturally the way God calls us to. Paul goes on to list some of the qualities of the heirs of God’s kingdom, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

The words Paul uses to describe the qualities and nature of the Spirit is interesting. “Fruit” means that it produces these naturally, not just one but all. You don’t have to tell an apple tree to make apples, or a lemon tree to make lemons, just by nature a good tree will do so. We must live according to our new nature and produce the fruit we were meant to produce through the Spirit. Fruit is meant for others to see and taste, it is the evidence of our faith produced for others to observe and enjoy. Fruit plants seeds; it also gives nutrition to the seeds so that they can grow. If we want to reach people effectively, then letting our “fruits” do their thing may be just what they need. How we display the fruit of the Spirit in our life is important to the spread of the kingdom. How can we apply this? As Christians, as leaders, and as pastors and teachers, we must take our citizenship to God’s Kingdom seriously.  We must constantly guard against conforming to the cultures of this world and crucify ourselves with Christ daily so that Christ lives through us. It starts with love. God makes it clear that His reason for sending is Son is that “He so loved the world”, that He Himself is love, and the first fruit of the Spirit is love. Even if we’re the best of teachers, speakers, and preachers, if we don’t have love we’re just noise. Paul said so himself, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1) Whatever we do, we mustn’t forget love.