Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why I love Expository Preaching

A story is told of a church who bought an old jewelry store building to be their church building.  The story goes that as they went in to the newly acquired building and began to clean it up someone noticed a gold shimmer in the floor sweepings pile.  They wisely collected the pile and had it appraised and sure enough it was gold dust left over from the jeweler’s work.  They took the dust to a refinery and were able to have the dust and debris burned away so that the gold could then be sold. Upon returning to the church building with the great discovery the members had the idea to take up the carpets and clean out the air ducts and take what was collected to the refiner as well.  They did so and the refiner found even more gold dust that was contained within.  It was enough money to fully pay for the building they had just purchased and then some!  They thought they had a great find in just the building alone, but diligent work yielded even more than they could have hoped for!

I see expository preaching that way!  That’s why it is no secret that I love it so much.  As I prepare for each sermon expositorally it is the process of mining the text.  Not just taking an over-view of what it says and gleaning maybe a beautiful picture of Christ salted with pragmatic suggestions for your life improvement, but looking in every crevice, nook, and cranny to find the truth there!  Doing this not only shows me A beautiful picture of Christ; it shows me multiple breath-taking, awe-inspiring, joy filling views of my Lord and Savior!  I see Him and know more about who He is and I see God’s plan to redeem me unfolding across the canvas of time.  Expository preaching yields for me the same result as that church, I go to the text knowing that in it there is a value, but find even more worth and value and treasures than I could have ever thought possible.  The Apostle Paul said that “all Scripture is God breathed”, all of it is “profitable” so that every Christian may be “complete” being “fully equipped” for every good work that our Lord calls us to! I find that studying and preaching in expository fashion best yields this fruit.  It is simply the process of opening up the Scriptures and trusting the Word of God to do its work trusting that His Word will never return void, it will always accomplish that which He sends it forth to do (Isaiah 55:11).  I love seeing the Word of God doing its work in your life and I rejoice seeing your passion for Christ increased as you come to know Him more.  I pray that we always maintain that view on our first love, Christ, and that we never tire of capturing views of Him from Scripture!  I love being on this journey alongside each of you and am honored to be your Pastor.

Four quick reasons I preach expositorally:
1.) It gives the best view of Christ and explanation of His Word (John 5:39; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2.) It helps keep my focus on Christ and His exaltation and off of me. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
3.) It provides a plan for delivering the whole counsel of God to the church. (Acts 20:27)
4.) It best leads God’s people to hearts that burn with passion for Jesus Christ! (Luke 24:32)

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Local Church and Your Sanctification

We should all be aware that the Christian life is to be one of continual sanctification (Matthew 3:8).  Christ has, by His sovereign grace, purchased us to be a people for His own possession.  The beauty of grace is seen, in part, in the fact that Christ pulls us out of the mire and death of our sin and makes us a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).  Being that “new creation” implies change in our life.  To be clear, the Gospel is not about life-change as so many like to portray it these days.  The Gospel is about our desperate need for forgiveness of our numerous transgressions against a Holy God and the incredible sacrifice that has been made on our behalf by Jesus Christ so that that sin debt can be settled once and for all(Romans 3:21-26).  Even so, the pardoning of our sin sets us free from more than just God’s wrath for those sins, it also frees us to serve the Lord Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8).  The product of our salvation is change.  When Christ saves us we receive a new heart and new desires (Ezekiel 36:26).  The Holy Spirit works in us to change the old man into the one that God has created us to be (Ephesians 4:22-24).

While it is true that we are all individually responsible for our own sanctification, meaning that if I fail to pursue holiness as I’ve been called to do it is on me for that failure and no one else, but God has not left us alone in this quest.  Let me elaborate, God sanctifies us by His power working in us through His Holy Spirit that we receive solely because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Just as we are saved by grace, we are sanctified by grace as well.  But God has not called us to merely sit stagnant in our sanctification.  As He works in us, grows us and conforms us more to Christ we are called to respond.  Even our desire to respond and obey and all our striving is given by the Spirit working in us.  To unfold this part of His plan God has placed the local church in our life as a means of our sanctification.  I would like us to consider 3 ways that the local church plays a vital role in our sanctification.

1.) The church is God's method for the formative and corrective discipline of the body.
The failure of the individual affects the whole body.  1 Corinthians 12:1-30 teaches us that the church functions best when it functions as a single unit.  Each person exercising their spiritual gifts for the benefit for the other person and through that God is glorified in the unity of the Body.  Just as no part of the human body is without purpose, so it is with each part of the Body of Christ.  Each person in the local church plays a significant role in the sanctification of the other members.  One person’s sanctification is helped as other members exercise their gifts in service towards that person to help them grow in vast areas of their walk with Christ.  Conversely, that person’s gifts being exercised help them to sharpen themselves and they grow through their useful service to their brethren. As we serve others in the Body of Christ and are served by them as well, we grow spiritually to look more like Christ.

2.) The church is God's method for the watch care for the soul – Hebrews 13:17

God has ordained Elders and Deacons to watch over their flocks not for the purpose of commanding them or ruling with an iron fist as though a regime.  Rather, they are there for your benefit.  They are there to unfold God’s Word for you and lead you towards conformity to Christ.  Paul said in Romans 12 that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; our minds are renewed by the Holy Spirit through engaging them with God’s Word, and faithful Pastors are one of the means God uses of applying the Word to your mind. So we are to be plugged in to a local church and we are to be submissive to our leaders, as they submit to the Lord, for they are caring for us and watching over us.  Rightly engaged this relationship will bring joy to both parties.  As the Pastor leads a believer away from sin’s dangerous snares that person is more sanctified and as the person submits to their Pastor’s leadership that Pastor’s joy is refreshed.  A Pastor with joy for his ministry will be a Pastor who lovingly guides his flock towards Christ.

3.) The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children. -  Hebrews 10:24-25

The church is God's method for the practical sanctification of His children.  The way believers grow in the practical ins and outs of Christianity is through the local church.  One purpose of our gathering for corporate worship and Biblical fellowship is so that we can “consider how to stir one another up to love and good works”.  Are not those two things directly connected to Christ conformity?  We learn to fulfill the greatest commandments by knowing how to both love and serve the Lord our God and our neighbor in a Biblical and Christ-like manner (Psalm 27:8,11) As we grow as a body and an individual and are thereby further sanctified, we display Christ to the world.  They see us reacting to success with humility, worship with reverence, temptations with resolves for righteousness over fleshly indulgence, persecution with an increased zeal for Gospel proclamation, and trials with unshakable trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is the heart of what is meant by shining our light in such a way that men see our good works and glorify our Lord (Matthew 5:16).

by Pastor Jason

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Do we become Angels when we die?

Probably the most universally recognized "religious" symbol in the world is that of an Angel.  They are drawn as fat little cherub-like babies, brilliantly illumined figures with long flowing hair, holding trumpets, holding harps... All sorts of images exist of them.  Equally as known as their visage are the common misconceptions and cliché phrases about what they are.

Probably the most common statements heard are that:
1.) People who go to Heaven become Angels when they die.
2.) The people who have become Angels are watching down over us from Heaven.

Let's address those two statements, although I'm sure there are PLENTY more, by looking first at what Angels are according to Scripture.

Angels are Created Beings (Colossians 1:16).  God created them.  We know this because God created ALL things.  It also seems that Angels are male.  They are never referred to with a feminine gender anywhere in Scripture.

Angels have a certain degree of moral choice available to them because 1/3 of them were able to sin and join Lucifer in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12-14; Ezekiel 28:12-18).  But there is no redemption is available for them.  Those that joined Satan in his rebellion remain to this day condemned and damned for all eternity.  (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6)

An Angel’s purpose is to glorify God and do His will.  (Psalm 103:20).  They eagerly wait to God’s will. One way in which Angels do this is that they watch over Believers and war against demonic powers.

Those Angels are NOT our loved ones who have passed away.  Angels are not omniscient nor are they omnipresent, but they do watch over us.  Whether or not each person has a specific "guardian" angel assigned to them is unclear, the idea in general that angels are watching over us the same result is clear.  God has provided for our care.

There are only two Angels given specific names in Scripture.  Gabriel (Luke 1:19) and Michael (Jude 9).  Other than that, Angels are referenced by three different terms.

a. The “Cherubim”  The cherubim were given the task of guarding the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24), and God himself is frequently said to be enthroned on the cherubim or to travel with the cherubim as his chariot (Ps. 18:10; Ezek. 10:1–22).

b. The “Seraphim”  Another group of heavenly beings, the seraphim, are mentioned only in Isaiah 6:2–7, where they continually worship the Lord and call to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).

c. The Living Creatures: Both Ezekiel and Revelation tell us of yet other kinds of heavenly beings known as “living creatures” around God’s throne (Ezek. 1:5–14; Rev. 4:6–8). With their appearances like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle, they are the mightiest representatives of various parts of God’s entire creation, and they worship God continually (Rev. 4:8).

The biblical teaching on the existence of angels is a constant reminder that there is an unseen world that is very real. It was only when the Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant to the reality of this that the servant saw that “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17; Ps. 148:2; Heb. 12:22).

The world may dismiss talk of angels as mere superstition, but Scripture offers it as insight into the state of affairs as they really are.  Even Satan himself disguises himself as an "Angel of Light" (2 Corinthians 11:4). In Galatians 1, Paul warned that fallen Angels may even appear and try to distort the truths of the Gospel and deceive people.  He said that we are to consider such a one accursed.

1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is but one God and one mediator between God and men and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore we are not to pray to or seek out contact with Angels.  If God needs to contact us utilizing Angels He will do so and make it clear that is what happened because they will speak His truth and nothing contradictory.  I'm not certain whether I feel they do or do not appear in visible form today but they are present nonetheless.

When we are protected from some danger, our slipping foot gains footing somehow... or a car swerves and misses us somehow when a crash should have been inevitable.  Anytime we are spared from some apparent danger we can attribute it, I think, to God commanding His Angels concerning us.  (Psalm 91:11-12)

Now, how about our loved ones that pass?  Well the Bible says that their bodies go into the ground and there they wait for the return of the Lord Jesus.  We know that the moment a believer dies their soul goes immediately to Heaven.  (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)  So if your loved one has passed on and they had been born again through Jesus Christ, take heart, they are not  an Angel but they are in Heaven with the Lord Jesus Christ, ever before His throne, praising Him, and they suffer no more, neither will they ever taste deaths bitterness ever again.  When Christ comes again they’ll receive their physical bodies back only now they will be glorified and perfected, unstained by the sin curse of this world.

I understand that a clichés like "God got a good angel", "They are an Angel now and watching over me.", etc.. I get that it is intended to bring comfort to the grieving.  And I'm not trying to be callous and certainly not trying to hurt feelings or offend but rather trying to point you to a living hope in Jesus Christ!  I would simply suggest that rather than dwelling on your loved one being an Angel and speaking of them as such, seek your comfort from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Cast your burdens upon the Lord and He will sustain you.  (Psalm 55:22; Hebrews 4:16)

 Trust in the Lord.  He is your refuge.  You need not believe that your deceased loved ones are Angels in order to find peace... there is a greater peace available and His Name is Jesus!  He is greater than the Angels (Hebrews 1).  He is the King of Kings and the Savior of sinners.  He has come and died so that you might have life!  Hope this helps you glorify God for His provision of Angels and cleared any misconceptions you may have had.

by Pastor Jason

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Name Above All Names

Scripture teaches that one name stands above all others. It is the only name that must be revered,
proclaimed, preferred above all others and called upon for salvation. That name is Jesus.

Jesus’ name must be revered. In His teachings on prayer in Matthew 6 He told His disciples they
should begin prayer, ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9) Since God the Father and Jesus are equally God their names must be equally revered. Using the name of God or Jesus in or as cursing is disgusting but to revere (or hallow) those names means we speak those names soberly and reverently. We should never use either name lightly or irreverently in an effort to justify our plans or claim they are blessed.

The name of Jesus must be proclaimed. Peter and John were imprisoned (see Acts 4) because the priests and Sadducees were upset that those men proclaimed In Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

Peter had spoken healing in Jesus’ name to a crippled man who could not walk. Those religious leaders could not deny the miracle but they thought they could simply threaten Peter and John and they would stop proclaiming Jesus’ name. They replied, instead, “For we cannot help speaking about the things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) They were convinced they must obey God rather than man and continued proclaiming Jesus’ name.

The name of Jesus must be preferred above all others. In Philippians 2:7, 8 Paul writes about Jesus taking on the form of a servant and becoming obedient to death on a cross. “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (v 9-11). Jesus is the only One to every knee must bow.

The name of Jesus must be called upon for salvation. Paul writes, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans l0:13) Some people try to argue (foolishly) that there is more than one way to salvation and to claim there is only one way is arrogant and wrong. But Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John l4:6) His words make it certain that He is the only way to salvation!

Jesus—Savior, Lord, name above all names!

Written By: David Oldfather

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