September 23, 2012

Why We Worship - Sep 23, 2012

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For years the Gallup Research Organization has taken a poll which asks people if they attended church last Sunday. The results of this poll have consistently found that roughly 40% of Americans show up in church on any given Sunday. That's around 118 million people filing into pews across our country every Sunday.

No doubt they don't all come for the same reason. Some come out of simple curiosity. Some are brought, by friends or by their parents. Some are attracted by a special event. Some want to skip, but know they'll feel guilty, so they come anyway. Some are responsible for part of the service. Others are struggling with a particular problem or burden, and come seeking relief. Some come out of habit, it's just what they do. Others come because of some blessing that has fallen into their life, a blessing which they wish to thank God for. Still others come to simply hear and learn from the Word of God.

There may not be as many reasons as there are people, but I think we can agree that people come to church for a lot of different reasons.

Why did you come to church today?

Christians may find themselves coming to CHURCH on Sunday for a variety of reasons. But when Christians come to WORSHIP, there is only ONE reason. Our sermon reading for today reveals that "Christ is the reason why we worship."

Colossians 3:15-17 (ESV)

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This reading comes from Paul's letter to the Colossian Christians. If you turn back to the beginning of this letter you'll find Paul greeting his fellow Christians like this. He writes...

"1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father" (Colossians 1:1-2 ESV).

Paul makes it a point to say, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father". Christians need to be reminded that we have peace with God through Christ Jesus. It's not that we don't KNOW this, but we forget it. We are distracted by the worries of this life and often let our troubles crowd in and take away our peace.

The apostle Peter experienced this on the sea of Galilee. You remember the story of Jesus walking on the water. The disciples were stuck in a storm out on the sea of Galilee, and Jesus came to them, walking on the water. At first they were scared that He was a ghost until Jesus said, "Don't be afraid, it's me!" Then Peter replied, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water". And Jesus said, "Come."

At first Peter was fine. He stepped, one foot after the other on the surface of the waves. What an experience! But after a moment his attention fixed on the rough waves and the howling wind. His peace was gone, and he began to sink into the water.

In the same way, when Christians take their eyes off Christ and focus instead on the problems around us, our peace evaporates. Instead Paul encourages us to "let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts".

The "peace of Christ" is the simple truth that because of Jesus, we are destined for heaven. He took all our faults and failings and ugly sins on His own back and He took them to the cross. And through His suffering and death our record of evil has been wiped clean. Connected to Christ by faith, we are lifted up out of the sea of our own sins. We are rescued by Christ's own hand.

 From Christ comes our peace. And from this peace springs our worship.
Now, we can worship God alone, and we do in our own prayers and in other ways. But Christ has not called Christians to be alone in their lives. He has called us to be united to Him, and united to one another. In verse 15 of our sermon reading, Paul writes, "you were called in one body".

In Romans Paul wrote...

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others" (Romans 12:4-5 NIV).

As people who have individually experienced the forgiveness of God in Christ, we are joined to each other in His. We are one body, with Christ as our head. And so, because we are one in Christ, we then worship together as one.

The Scriptures are full of examples of Christians gathering TOGETHER to worship God. In the Old Testament they went to the Temple. Jesus and company routinely went to synagogues. Most of the New Testament letters were written with the express purpose of being read to groups of Christ followers who were meeting in different cities throughout the empire of Rome.

In the book of Hebrews God tells Christians not to stop meeting together as some do. There it says...  

"24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV).

All this meeting together springs from the fact that in Christ we have peace with God. And one of the  main purposes of this meeting together is to maintain our own faith connection to Christ and to grow in Christian maturity.
In verse 16 of our sermon reading, Paul writes,

"16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16 ESV).

We have a tendency to compartmentalize things. We think of worship as what we do here in the sanctuary. But of course, when children learn Bible stories in Sunday School, that too is worship. When adults study the Scriptures together in Bible Class, that too is worship. When Christians talk to each other, trading thoughts about God's word and insights learned from the Bible, that too is worship. And all of this worship leads to spiritual maturity.

In order to be spiritually mature, we need to be in God's Word frequently. Learning, teaching, being corrected by our fellow Christians as the Spirit of Christ directs them to correct us. Like the Scripture says, we start with the "milk" teachings, the simple Gospel of Christ and other easy teachings. But then we build on these milk teachings. We add the "meatier" teachings of the Bible. Things we need to chew on a bit to understand and benefit from. This is one of the reasons why we gather in church to worship - so that God will build us up and make us stronger in the faith, more mature followers of Christ.
But our worship is not all God serving us with His wisdom. Part of worship is also us glorifying God because of what Christ has done for us.

After studying through the book of Psalms, a man by the name of Bill Gothard said that he believes that David memorized the word of God, then personalized it and gave it back to God in the Psalms. This is what we do when we sing isn't it? Aren't our psalms and hymns and spiritual songs just offering back to God what He has already given to us in the Scriptures? I think so.

It's kinda like taking a favorite photo of a loved one and framing it to hang on the wall. The photo remains the same, but we focus people's attention on it with what's around it.

Or think of worship like this; it is like the work of jeweler who takes a perfectly cut diamond and sets it in a golden filigreed ring. The diamond is still the diamond, but it's lifted up to show off it's sparkle.

These two comparisons bring out how important it is to keep Christ as the center of our church services. How impressive would a house be if it was filled with beautiful, but empty frames? How striking would an expensive wedding ring be if you pried out the diamond?

How special would Christmas be without the baby in the manger? Or Easter without the risen Christ? How full of peace would the Bible be without the Savior who makes us His own through His blood, sweat and tears?

No, Christ our Savior must remain the heart of our worship, or our worship will be empty.
Now, I said earlier that worship doesn't just happen in this room. It's also happening in all the other places where we gather together around God's Word. But Paul takes it a step further. In verse 17 Paul says...

"And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17 ESV).

Can we really do everything in the name of Christ? Can you change your oil, in the name of Christ? Can you cook supper, in the name of Christ? Can you drive to work, in the name of Christ? Perhaps it's the formal sound of that phrase that makes this seem odd to us. "In the name of Christ" just means "with reference to Christ". And yes, we can do these things in a way that brings honor to our Savior.

Martin Luther once said that a parent washing dishes could be an act of worship. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Part of parental responsibility is keeping things clean right. And parental responsibility is placed on parents by God. So, fulfilling that task in a simple cheerful way IS honoring God by taking care of the responsibility He gave. It is worship.

The apostle Peter wrote...

" Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:9-11 ESV).

Because of Christ, you and I have been given new life. Eternal life in heaven, and the ability to live and love for God in this life. Like Paul wrote...

"...he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (2 Corinthians 5:15 NIV).
At the beginning of our meditation today, I asked "Why did you come to church today?" How did you reply in your mind?

If your answer was less than noble, ask God for forgiveness. If your answer was the right one, ask God for humility. And no matter why you find yourself IN CHURCH on Sunday, take care to turn your hearts and minds to Christ. Let the peace that His cross gives lead you into the presence of the holy God. Let the gift of His forgiveness lift you into the land of true worship. Teach and be taught, according to God's Word. Sing with heart and mouth to the author of your existence and author of your salvation. And when this hour or two of worship ends, take the spirit of worship with you. After all, your Savior doesn't go back to heaven after church ends. Your salvation doesn't cease to be when the final "amen" is sung. Take worship with you. Take Christ with you. He is the reason why we worship.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

September 16, 2012

Certain of Forgiveness - Sep 16, 2012

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The book of Acts tells us that followers of Jesus were first called "Christians" in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26). It's possible that the title, "Christian" wasn't chosen by the followers of Jesus at all. They already had a name. The were called followers of "The Way". Some believe "Christian" was a term that their enemies began to use. Those followers of Christ, those "Christians".

Whether it was originally intended as a derogatory name or not, doesn't really matter. What matters is that "Christian" was the PERFECT NAME.

In some cultures people are named or re-named because of some important event that happens in their life. What event in our lives could be more important than the day we came to trust that Jesus is truly our Savior from sin? That He has taken us off the path to hell, and placed us in the waiting room for heaven. What could ever overshadow that?

I'm proud to be called "Christian". Not because of what it means to Americans, or because of any of the numerous associations that people have with this name. I'm proud to be "called" Christian because that name connects me to Christ. He is my everything.

Now, I feel like a hypocrite saying that. I don't always live up to this great name. I dirty the name of Christ by telling people I'm a Christian, and then wrecking the things that I touch. I tarnish the reputation of my Savior by saying things that aren't right. By thinking things that are unfair.

I'm a sinner. But even that doesn't change the fact that of all that I am: pastor, father, husband, brother, friend - the most important part of who I am is this - I belong to Christ.

Today we're going to start another sermon series. The last series was all about Satan's lies, and how to counteract them with God's Word. This new series is going to be all about Christ. Why Christ is the core of who we are. Why Christ is the reason we do the good things that we do. Why Christ is to everything to us.

Today we read Ephesians 1, verse 7. There we'll find that "Christ is the reason we are certain of forgiveness".

Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV)

7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace

In this verse there are five different reasons why we can be sure that our sins, past, present and future, are completely forgiven.

Look at the first phrase again, "In Him we have redemption". In the Greek here, the verb is in the present tense. That's the tense that expresses action in an on-going way. Think of a straight line. To paraphrase, "In Christ we possess redemption NOW".

If you're not a Christian you might wonder, "What is this redemption? Redemption from what?" Paul makes his words crystal clear. He says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins". Just clip out the "through His blood phrase" for a second. Redemption = forgiveness of sins.

In Christ, the forgiveness of sins isn't something that we look forward to, it's something that is our possession RIGHT NOW. If you believe that Jesus is the Savior - you stand forgiven. Paul doesn't say, "In Christ we will be forgiven some day". Paul doesn't say, "In Christ we now have the power to live good lives and earn forgiveness". Paul doesn't say, "In Christ we have part of our forgiveness".

In Him we HAVE redemption - the forgiveness of sins.

Next, I'd direct your attention to that word, "redemption". At the time of Paul the Greek word for "redemption" was used when talking about the "buying back of a slave or captive, making him free by payment of a ransom" (A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature).

Redemption means to "buy back". Jesus Christ is the buyer, we sinners are the bought ones. He's the buyer, we're the redeemed.

Paul even throws in a little phrase to tell us what the redemption price was. He says, "through His blood".

Now, let's pause for a second on that phrase, "through His blood". This is the third thing that shows us that our forgiveness is certain. The price paid to save us from hell was the blood of Jesus. Of course, Paul doesn't mean a few drops of Jesus' blood. With the phrase, "through His blood" Paul is referring to the suffering and death of Christ. The pouring out of His blood unto death. We use this the phrase in English too. We say, "Many soldiers shed their blood on the battlefield to bring us this freedom". We don't mean their little nicks and cuts. We mean when they gave up their life for the cause. When they poured out their blood and died.

Now, let's remember who Christ Jesus is. He's the eternal Son of God made human. What could possibly be more valuable than the voluntary suffering and death of God?

Because the price Jesus paid was immensely precious, we can be sure that there is no payment left on our bill. There cannot be any payment left for us to make. Like Jesus said from the cross, "It is finished".

Okay, let's skip ahead to the next phrase, "the forgiveness of sins".

Now, sometimes we talk about sin we divide it into two categories: original sin and actual sin (sins of action). This distinction comes from the Bible. Like when David says that surely he was sinful "from birth" and that he was sinful even from the moment of conception (Psalm 51:5). Sinful parents give birth to sinful children. That's what we call original sin.

Then these little sinners do sins of thought, word and deed - "actual sins" or sins of action.

In the Catholic Church they teach that Jesus only died for your original sin and that sinners have to erase the record of their sinful actions on their own. Jesus didn't cover those ones.

But, what does the Bible say Jesus paid for on the cross? Original sin? Actual sins? All sins?

In our sermon reading, Paul says that in Christ we have the forgiveness of SINS in the PLURAL. The Greek phrase "the forgiveness of sins" could also be translated, "the pardon of our false steps". In other words, Jesus' death paid for ALL THE MANY THINGS that we have said, thought and done that were evil. Jesus suffered and died to take away all our sins, original AND actual.

And if you have any doubts about the entirety of Christ's forgiveness, just listen to what the Bible says Jesus does for sinners...
"25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Jesus covers it all - original sin, and actual sins.

We've got one final phrase to cover, "according to the riches of His grace". Here's the verse again,
"7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).
"According to" is the key here. If I tell my daughter that I will pay her a nickel for every dandelion that she brings me, and she brings me 200 dandelions, than I'm going to owe her 200 nickels ($10). One nickel according to every dandelion.

Pretty simple terminology right? Well, Paul says we have as much forgiveness as God has grace. So, we ask the question, "How much grace does God have?" Here it helps to remember that grace is, by definition, undeserved love.

We know that God is giving, but just how giving IS God? How can we know? Maybe we could balance the books of the universe to figure this one out. Maybe we could say, "How much have people, angels, animals and things given to God, and how much has God given to what He has created".

Oops. I gave it away when I said, "created". God has given everything and everyone their existence. God is as giving as the universe is large. In fact, God is more giving than this. When God the Son became human and suffered to take our sins away, He was giving Himself. So, not only has God given everything that exists as a gift, but He has also given HIMSELF.

Makes our sins look pretty small doesn't it. Our sins are huge, heavy and ugly - but next to the vastness of God's grace they are nearly invisible. And that grace swallows them up.

But you know, we don't have to reason out how gracious God is. We can look at actual passages in the Bible where He tells us how gracious He is. When will our sins be too much? When will God's grace run out? These passages tell us.

Jesus says...
"...the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out" (John 6:37 NKJV).
The Spirit of God inspired the apostle John to write...
"9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9 NKJV).
When Peter asked Jesus Himself how many times he should forgive his brother, Jesus replied...
"...I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:22b NKJV).
In other words, Jesus says that our forgiving of others should be without limit - just like God's forgiveness to us is without limit. Each and every time we bring our sins to Christ in true repentance saying, "I've sinned. Forgive me and help me never to do this again", each time we are forgiven.

If our forgiveness was somehow supposed to be earned by US, then we could never be sure if we had done enough to satisfy our holy God. But since forgiveness is a gift, given from God, through faith in Christ - we can be sure our sins are no more.

Christ is the reason we are certain of forgiveness.

Let's just do a quick review here.

First of all, Paul says that we HAVE redemption RIGHT NOW. To redeem means to "buy back", which is by nature something we can't do ourselves - GOD IS THE BUYER, we are the purchased. The redemption PRICE IS PRECIOUS - we were bought back with the suffering and death of God the Son. This payment doesn't just cover some of our sins, but all of them - SINS in the PLURAL. Lastly, we have as much forgiveness as God has grace. We are as forgiven as God is giving - and God is the definition of giving, God is love.

Let me read it one last time. Hear it. Savor it. Just be still in the peace it brings...
"7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7 NKJV).
Christ is the reason we are certain of forgiveness.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

September 9, 2012

If You're a Good Person, You'll Make it to Heaven - Sep 9, 2012

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Since July we've been working our way through a sermon series entitled, "The Lies of Satan". Today we examine one final lie. Now, of course we've only looked at a handful of the lies that Satan uses to turn people away from the LORD. As we move through our lives, Satan will uses many additional lies. The lies he uses on me may not be the same ones he uses on you. Those he uses on us may not be the same he uses on others. We need to be vigilant.

Hopefully this sermon series has helped us to be more conscious of Satan's lies - so that we can readily identify them and counter them with God's Word. We must continue to train in God's Holy Word. The more we study God's word, takes notes from God's Word and absorb God's Word, the better we'll be able to see the deceptions that Satan lays in our path. Be in that Word dear Christians, and take the threat of God's enemy seriously.

The lie that we're going to examine today is this: "If you're a good person, you'll get to heaven." To begin with we read from...

Romans 3:9-24 (NIV)

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Now, we can't really know which lie Satan uses the most. But this one is probably right there at the top of his list, "If you're a good person, you'll get to heaven."

Perhaps Satan uses this lie so often because he knows our tendency to judge ourselves in comparison to the people around us. As Christians we may say that we believe that all sins are equal, but sometimes I'm not so sure we believe it.

Jonathan Acuff says it well when he writes...
"...we only believe all sins are equal when our circle of friends is equal. It's easy to believe that when none of your friends has done anything with bigger consequences than something you've done. It's easy to believe all sins are equal when the worst sin you've heard confessed is that someone in your small group doesn't love their enemies enough. But it's a lot harder to believe that when you run into big, "gross" sins.

The idea of sin equality gets shaken up when you meet a guy who cheated on his wife or stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his company or used to work at a male strip club. It gets flipped upside down when a girl in your church admits she's had multiple abortions. Suddenly when you bump up against those things, the safe, comfortable belief that 'all sins are equal' gets bruised a little. Like being relieved that someone behind you ran the red light even worse than you did, you think inside, 'At least I haven't done that. Sure, I've made some mistakes but I've never done that. That's a big sin right there."

And then you've got a little caste system going. You don't measure your sins against God's Word. You measure them against what other people are doing. You start to define holiness by a standard other than God's. The funny thing is, that approach usually works in your favor. If you look hard enough, you can usually find someone who's blowing it far worse than you, and knowing that you're not like them makes it a little easier to be like you" (Stuff Christians Like p.196)

The Devil knows how humans work. Not only do we judge our own goodness in comparison to others, we also have a nature that is intrinsically arrogant. The Scripture itself reveals that that human beings naturally place our own thoughts on a level above others.
"Every way of man is right in his own eyes but the LORD weighs the heart" (Proverbs 21:2 NIV).

"There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth" (Proverbs 30:12 NIV).

"Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them" (Proverbs 26:12 NIV).
You don't have to look far to see people who think they're way better than they really are. Ever watch the show "American Idol"? If you haven't seen it, it's a singing competition in which people compete to earn a record contract and the title of this year's "American Idol". Part of the draw of the show is the amazing singers they find, but part of the draw is also the terrible ones. People come and sing before the panel of judges thinking that THEY have amazing voices that everyone else loves to hear. Surely they're as good, if not better than the people on the radio.

But they're not.

And when they get the boot from the panel of experienced voice judges, a lot of them get angry and refuse to believe it. In their mind they're the next superstar. In their own eyes, they're not just good, they're great.

Now, even if you're not that deluded, Satan will wager that he can find some part of you that says, "I'm pretty good."

But we're not talking about a mere singing competition when it comes to who gets into heaven. Here the stakes are big. This is eternity we're talking about. And still, Satan's lie that we can be good enough takes hold.

Inside the human soul there is also something called, "wishful thinking". The thought of an eternal existence in hell is so terrible, that we close our eyes to the possibility of it. We think, "Man I hope that doesn't happen. Surely that can't happen, that'd be unthinkable." And we hide under our wishful thinking like a child under a blanket, hoping that hell is some divine joke. That in the end God will just say, "Ha! Gotcha! Come on in everyone! I didn't really mean all those threats, that was just to make you be a little nicer."

But we don't have to guess about what God's going to do when all people stand before Him for judgment. He says that He'll judge everyone on the basis of what they've done. And His standards of judgment are clearly laid out in the Bible.
"The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20 ESV).

" Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48 NIV).

"10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10 ESV).
Only the perfect person is holy according to God's standards. And none of us are perfect.

As we've moved through this series, one thing I've noticed is that Satan's lies often imply something. Have you noticed that, that there's often something that Satan is communicating between the lines? And when you read between the lines you find the heart of the deception. Satan says, "If you're a good person, you'll make it to heaven". The implication is that we actually CAN be good people. But it's just not true. Not according to God's standards. According to human standards, sure, we can be good neighbors and good friends and helpful, charming people. But according to God's standards we call woefully short.

When I took Greek in college, Prof. Kuehne used to give us quizzes every day. Most of the time all he required was that we got a passing grade. But at the end of some of the sections we'd take tests where we were required to get 100%.

We'd have to memorize and write out declensions of Greek verbs and stuff like that. We'd know what we had to write, so it was fair, but we still had to get 100% before we could move on. If you didn't get a century, you could take the test over, outside of class. But you had to get everything right.

That's what God's standards are like. One sin and you flunk the test. But when it comes to holiness, there are no retakes. And we've all flunked. Our lives are full of red marks, and there is nothing we can do to erase them. There is no purgatory where we can receive a beating as a substitute for our lack of holiness.

That's why the Gospel of Christ is so precious. In the Gospel we learn that Jesus has already passed the test of holiness. And when He suffered on the cross He took away our red marks replacing them with His perfect score.

You see, there is only ONE good human being in God's eyes - His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible calls Jesus, "the Righteous One" (Acts 7:52). On two different occasions during Jesus' ministry God the Father spoke audibly from heaven saying that Jesus was His Son with whom He was well pleased. God the Father was well pleased with Jesus because Jesus was 100% sinless.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes...
"21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
According to God's standards only Jesus is sinless, so only Jesus is good. But Jesus has offered His sinless record to all sinners. By simple trust we are connected to Jesus and get credit for being holy, when we haven't been. We are DECLARED good because Jesus ACTUALLY WAS good and offered Himself as a sacrifice to erase the record of our sin.

We don't have to live in fear of God's punishment anymore. We don't have to close our eyes and make believe that everything might to be alright. We don't have to go on stupidly comparing ourselves to other sinners and deluding ourselves into thinking that we're somehow good enough - in Christ WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH, for in Christ we are perfect.
"3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” w
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness" (Romans 4:3-5 NIV).

Beware the lie of Satan, that if you're a good person by the things you say and do, that you'll make it to heaven. He tells this lie because it take Christ, our only Savior, the only sinless one - out of the picture. With this lie Satan would place us back on the treadmill of earning our own forgiveness. We can run on that treadmill forever, and still not get anywhere. With this lie Satan would place us on the false throne of judging others as lesser people, greater sinners than ourselves, which is kinda like saying one dead body is more dead than another.

Instead, let's hold onto the truth of God. We're all bad people according to God's standards. Every sinner in this room. Every sinner you meet. Every sinner who ever lived. But in Christ, in Christ things are different. Everyone in Christ is a saint.

By the way, the apostle Paul liked to start his letters to Christian churches by calling his fellow Christians "saints". The Greek word "saint" means "holy one". With this little greeting Paul was reminding his fellow followers right off the bat that in Christ they were "holy ones" in the sight of God.

Dear saints, beware the lies of Satan. Stay near to Christ by staying in His Word. By our faith connection to Christ, we will make it to heaven, not by any piddley work of our own, but by the righteousness that comes from God, through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

September 2, 2012

Do Not Judge - Sep 9, 2012

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For the past eight Sundays we've been moving through a sermon series titled, "The Lies of Satan". Each Sunday we've examined a different lie that Satan uses to confuse Christians and trip them up in their spiritual life. The ultimate goal of Satan's lies is to destroy our trust in Jesus, our Savior from sin.

Now, if you've missed some of these meditations, they've been posted on the church website at You can go back and listen to them, or read them, and you can even comment on what you find there and add any insights of your own. Again, that's, just go to the "church" tab.

Now, we're almost through this sermon series. We've got two lies left. Today's lie from Satan is a particularly interesting one because it is actually a quote from Jesus Himself. How does that work? How can a quote from Jesus be a lie of Satan?

Well, it works like this, effective lies often contain some truth. A "good lie" is actually a true statement that has been twisted just a bit. Today's lie is a great example. Here it is, "Do not judge".

Satan turns this statement of Jesus into a lie by ripping it out of context and assigning a new meaning to it. Satan says, "See Jesus doesn't want you to judge anyone. So, don't ever tell people that what they're doing is wrong. That, would be judging them."

But how about we get Jesus' full statement? Let's let Jesus fill in the details and explain what He means. Turn to Luke 6, verse 37.
"37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Luke 6:37-38 NIV).
If you scan a little farther back you'll see that Jesus has just gotten done instructing His followers to love their enemies and to treat others how they themselves want to be treated.

By saying "Do not judge" Jesus isn't forbidding Christians from ever making judgments about someone else. He's simply stating a general principle: people will treat you the same way you treat them.

I think we've all experienced this general truth. Maybe you were particularly patient and forgiving with a frazzled waitress, and when the check came, the employee discount had been applied. Your kindness was returned.

Or maybe you experienced it the other way around. Maybe you were in a grumpy mood. When you snapped at someone, they snapped back. Your rudeness was returned.

Jesus sums up this general principle by saying, "...with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (verse 38). Or, in other words, what comes around, goes around.

Satan is pretty sneaky when he snaps off that little phrase, "Do not judge". The idea that judgment has no place in the life of a Christian is ridiculous. When you read the Bible you find lots of places where Christians are specifically told to make judgments about things and about people. Christians are to choose the good things and reject the bad.

Turn to First Corinthians 5, verse 9. There the apostle Paul says...
"9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked person from among you'" (1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NIV).
One of the places where Christians are expressly told to make judgments is within the fellowship.

Being a Christian means following Christ. We trust Christ's promise that all our sins have been erased by His sacrifice on the cross. As we follow Christ our way of living changes. The Christians life is one of re-aligning our thoughts, words and actions with God's way. When a fellow Christian refuses to be corrected by God's Word, then we are instructed by God to remove that person from the fellowship.

The whole purpose of this is to drive home the fact that they have begun to stand against Christ, and therefore no longer stand under the umbrella of faith and forgiveness. They've pushed Christ away and embraced sin instead by their on-going impenitence. We're instructed to bring this to their attention with the judgment of spiritual separation.

This isn't to say that God wants Christians to judge people lightly, without careful consideration or compassion. God doesn't want our judgments to be shallow. He wants our judgments to be an exact reflection of His judgment.

Turn to John 7, verse 24. Once when Jesus was in Jerusalem He healed a man who hadn't been able to walk for 38 years. Jesus told him to get up and walk and miraculously, he did. Instead of being overjoyed, Jesus' critics noted that this miracle had been done on the Sabbath, the day when the Jews were supposed to rest from work. Jesus responded to their cold hearts by asking...
"...are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." (John 7:23-24 ESV).
The purpose of the Sabbath was to ensure that the people had one day a week to rest from work, and be spiritually restored by attending Bible Class and Worship. Jesus' healing of a crippled man wasn't contrary to the spirit of the Sabbath day at all. Now the man could actually go and worship with everyone else!

But Jesus' critics only saw the surface - it was a miracle, a "work", done on the Day of Rest. This is the kind of judgment God doesn't want us to make. Shallow judgment. Judgment based only on appearance, not on substance.

Oh, how easy it is to judge people by appearance without even getting to know who they are and what they're all about. We see how a person is dressed and how they look and we think we know all about who they are and what they're about. We hear one passing comment we label the person who said it, "That kind of person".

The religious leaders of Jesus' day had quite a bad habit of judging people on the basis of their own opinions, and not on the basis of what God's Word says.

Turn to Mark 7, verse 1.
"7 The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2 and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)
5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“ ‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’
8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions" (Mark 7:1-8 NIV).
Don't judge people like a Pharisee, judge people like Jesus did. The Pharisee said, "I'm better than others because I'm less of a sinner. I do all these great things that come from a long and venerable tradition". Jesus said, "People are all sinners who need God's forgiveness and salvation, regardless of their traditions."

The first step to escaping a sinfully judgmental attitude is to recognize the fact that there are no "better sinners". We're all on the same level in God's eyes. We're people who haven't kept His commandments. Only through Christ Jesus and His Cross are we cleansed and forgiven.

A judgmental attitude does two things. It leads us to withhold our own personal forgiveness from someone, and it also prevents us from doing any constructive correction.

When someone does something wrong, we might log that thing away in our mind. Like I said before, we log it in our mind and label that person as "that kind of person".

By logging that sin away in our mind, we're holding a grudge. We're not forgiving that person. And the other thing we're not doing is actually approaching that person to talk about what they did.

But God's Word clearly says we should do otherwise. In Galatians 6, verse 1, Paul writes...
"6 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:1-2 ESV).
The law of Christ is LOVE. Love that takes action. Love that seeks to correct and restore people to God.

Telling someone that they're doing wrong, isn't a sinful judgment. The world tells us that's "judging them" in a bad way. But this just isn't true. Sinful judgment comes when we log things in our minds without doing anything about it. Sinful judgment assumes that people are static and unable to change. When we actually step up and say something in a spirit of love and compassion, that's not sinful judgment, even if it is a word of correction.

And when sinners are touched by Christ's love and forgiveness, amazing change can happen.

Jesus went to a dinner once at a Pharisees house. While He was there a woman entered the house and quietly approached the dinner table. There she humbly washed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them try with her hair, and put fresh perfume on them. All the Pharisee could think was this...
"If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39 ESV).
The Pharisee didn't stop to think that maybe something had changed in this woman's life. He defined her by her past. She was a dirty sinner and always would be to him. But that Pharisee was wrong. This woman had come to faith in Christ. She knew that because of Him all her sins were forgiven. Her action, though it may seem strange to us, was an expression of faith and thanksgiving to her Savior.

Let's not view people like the Pharisee did, like they cannot change and will always remain the sum of their past sins. In Christ, sinners are declared saints. Through Christ's sacrifice in our place, we are made new.

Turn to Ephesians 5, verse 5. There it says...
" 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them" (Ephesians 5:4-11 ESV).
Through faith in Christ we have become children of light. As children of light, we have to make choices about what we'll do and what we won't. Our personal decisions may make some people feel judged. But you know what, these are our choices to make, not theirs.

If the time comes to say, "What you're doing is wrong, so I'm not coming", than say it. And know that you're making that judgment on the basis of God's Word.

Satan would love it if Christians would swallow the lie that all judging is wrong, because then who would call sin - sin. Who would draw attention to the fact that the human race is messed up and in desperate need of Jesus?

Nobody. And that is exactly why Satan whisper's the lie, "Do not judge".

Prayer: Father in heaven, we are guilty of judging others in a shallow way. Forgive us because of Jesus, in whom we trust. Enable us to be compassionate and loving toward people who don't know you, and who sin against you. Help us to call sin - sin, and to not be ashamed to calmly and deliberately say, "No, we will not approve of sin", even if people call us judgmental. But help us also Lord, not to be sinfully judgmental, holding onto the sins of others, or avoiding the needed task of correcting our brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray these things because we know you hear us through Christ our Savior. Amen.