Spiritual Companions

 

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Spiritual Companions

Romans 16:21-24 (KJV)
21  Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosi-pater, my kinsmen, salute you.
22  I Tertius, who wrote thisepistle, salute you in the Lord.
23  Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.
24  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bewith you all. Amen.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

We begin this first Sunday in 2019, coming to the final portions of the letter we have been studying together for quite some time.

I want to thank each of you for your continued prayers and support as we’ve endeavored to embrace and grow from the teachings and doctrinal truths that Paul has shared with us.

Today, as we prepare to wrap this series up, we find ourselves at a place where Paul had just finished exhorting and warning believers to be watchful.

He shared that we as believers who love the Lord and the church are to guard against divisions in the church, to live soberly and righteously and to do that which is right and good and pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

Here in this portion of the letter we learn about the power and the blessings  of having spiritual companions and partners in our lives.

Thought:

Those of you who’ve been saved for a while have learned that we often need others to help us accomplish our day-to-day walk with God and to be fruitful for HIM.

You can’t do this thing by yourself and after you’ve grown up a bit and had a few hard knocks, you willcome to realize that you need Spiritual companions.

Paul comes to the close of his letterAND he mentions several men, several companions if you please who have been part of Paul’s life and his ministry.

So today what we want to do, is to examine some facts about each of these men.

We want to learn about and study these men and to glean some truths about the importance of Spiritual Companions and partners, in the life of the believer.

If you understand that say AMEN.

Every believing child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul had a spiritual companion whose name was….

  1. Timothy the “fellow-worker”

Romans 16:21a (KJV)
21  Timotheus my workfellow

1 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)
17  For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

Philippians 1:1a (NLT)
1  This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus

Philippians 2:22 (NLT)
22  But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with mein preaching the Good News.

The first person that we are examining in today’s lesson in a ministerial companion by the name of Timothy, or Timotheus.

Paul was blessed by the partnership and companionship of a young man called Timothy, who’s name literally means “one who honors God”

Those of you who may have studied or read about Timothy, know that the partnership between Paul and Timothy was a very special one.

Paul not only related to Timothy as his spiritual son in the Lord, but he also valued him as a co-worker; placing the ministry and work and service of Timothy on an equal footing with himself.

You will notice that Paul referred to Timothy AND himself as slaves of Jesus Christ.

In terms of their mindset, Paul considered Timothy to be a like-minded brother.

In terms of their commitment to the word, Timothy AND Paulwere driven by the same motivation and desire to see people’s lives changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Timothy was faithful and he stood and ministered right alongside of Paul, as a faithful co-worker and he did his best to assist and support Paul in any way he could.

He was a co-worker, he was a spiritual colleague, who complemented and added value and effectiveness to the life and ministry of Paul.

Thought:

Now there are several thoughts that we want to consider and embrace here, so let us proceed.

Thought number one is this: Timothy was often referred to as Paul’s Spiritual Son, it is a term that denotes great affection, but it is also a termthat speaks to the order and nature of their relationship.

Paul valued and appreciated and loved Timothy, but Timothy understood and embraced the reality that Paul was the leaderin their relationship and that dynamic didn’t take anything away from Timothy.

Timothy was very likely quite gifted in his own right, in fact he was so gifted that Paul put him in charge of being the Pastor of a church that was started by Paul.

Timothy embraced and flowed in the reality of the spiritual dynamic that existed between them,because he knew that what powered and directed their relationship was not man……. but rather it was God.

Timothy understood that God had called HIM and ordained him to serve as the assisting partnerto one of God’s other servants and because of that he was faithful; he was right there, in the spot that God had placed Him in.

And he served and did his job well, because he counted his partnership with Paul as service unto the Lord.

This brings a second thought to mind and a question that I’d like to pose for your consideration and here it is…

To whom have you been called to be a Timothy to ?

Who’s Timothy, are YOU ?

Now again, this question may not be for everyone listening to the sermon today, but I am absolutely sure, that this question applies to more than just one person.

Who’s Timothy, are YOU ?

What gifts or tools or talents do you have in your life that can complement and support and enable what God is doing in the life of another believer.

Here’s a third thought and I caution you in advance of this word, that this thought may make someone uncomfortable.

Paul had the blessing of having Timothy as a “ fellow-worker” in his life.

A partner in the ministry, a confidant, a comrade and a companion who could come along side of him and help him.

Paul flowed in and enjoyed the blessing of that reciprocal relationship, because it was completely void of competition and ego.

Thought:

It is sad but true, that sometimes God wants to put us in relationship with each other; he wants to send us to partner as someone’s Timothy, or he wants us to receive the support and partnership of another brother or Sister in Christ, but we short circuit the blessing of what God is trying to do in our lives, because of our fleshly competitiveness and insecurity.

Every single one of us, needs to ask God to open up our eyes and open up our understanding and to open up our hearts and minds, so that we can find the place and be open to the blessing of Spiritual companionship: pray and ask God to show you how to be the Paulor the Timothyin the life of that special person.

Every believing child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul had spiritual companionswhose names were…

  1. Lucius, Jason & Sosi-pater, the “supportive relatives”

Romans 16:21a-c (KJV)
21  Timotheus my workfellow, and Lucius, and Jason, and Sosi-pater, my kinsmen, salute you.

John 1:41-42 (NLT)
41  Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
42  Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

John 1:41 (MSG)
41  The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”).

Every believer needs and can benefit from the support, partnership and loving advocacy of their relatives.

Paul had been blessed with many important relationships that tied into and undergirded his life as a minister and in his witness as a believer.

There is not a great deal of written material, or confirming scriptures to clearly make this point pop, but here is what we can project based on the use of the word KINSMEN ( you of course may find a different word used in a different translation)

Here Paul uses the word kinsmen. This word refers to someone who is a blood relative or a relative by marriage.

If you are a southerner you might be familiar with the word kinfolk.

Based on the fact that we find this word KINSMEN used, we can reasonably project that the Apostle Paul had other people in his extended family who were also committed to Jesus Christ as Lord.

He had family, he had people who were his relatives, who were gripped with a like-minded passion to see the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, spread to a dying world.

Thought:

Those of you here today, who have the benefit of supportive wives and sons and daughters and sisters and mothers and cousins in your family, ought to thank the Lord for the blessing of that.

Those of you who have husbands and fathers who pray for you and encourage you and partner with you, ought to thanks God for the blessing of that.

Those of you who are ministers and deacons and ushers and Sunday school workers, who are blessed with the good fortune to have family members who will support you and encourage you and not pressure you to abandoned the work of the ministry, ought to thank God for the blessing of that reality, because life for you could be a lot more challenging.

Just think about the person who may be here todayand you see them every Sunday, but at home that person has a husband or wife doesn’t want to have anything to do with their faith.

That brother or sister has to work extra hard, to keep close to God and maintain the integrity of their walk, because there maybe someone pouting at home who is waiting to give them a hard time,when they get back from service today.

Be grateful, be appreciativeof the blessing of having supportive family members in the body of Christ, who will help you.

Every believer and every child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul had a spiritual companion named…..

  1. Ter-tius the “helpful secretary”

Romans 16:22 (KJV)
22  I Tertius, who wrote thisepistle, salute you in the Lord. 

Philippians 2:3 (MSG)
3  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.

Romans 12:10 (MSG)
10  Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Romans 12:10-11 (NKJV)
10  Bekindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
11  not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

This third point and the person who is noted here is very interesting to me and rather eye opening, because like you, I have read this person’s name before, but never really looked into who this person was, or even cared much about him, until it came time to prepare this teaching.

Every believer and every child of God needs to have companions and people to support them in their lives, because no one that I have ever met, is so gifted and capable that they can do everything by themselves.

This man Ter-tius apparently was a personal assistant to Paul.

I use the term personal assistant because today, people don’t like to be called secretary, but that is exactly what Tertius was. He took dictation, he kept notes for Paul. Nothing that I could find here would indicate that Tertius was a preacher, but here we see that he occupied an important position of trust and companionship, in Paul’s life.

Thought:

We all know that Paul himself was a Spiritual Giant.

He was a man of great vision and the call upon his life to reach the Gentile world with the gospel of Jesus Christ was a burning passion on life.

We’ve read about some of the various trials and struggles that Paul went through.

We’ve read about the dangers and stresses he faced.

Members of the Jewish leadership were after him.

  • Three times he was beaten.
  • Two times he had been shipwrecked and one time he spent the entire night in the water.

For this man who carried so much weight on his shoulders , the blessing of having someone to come along side of him to just be a secretary was vital.

Someone who wasn’t looking for fame or a title.

Someone who was willing to make some copies, or lick a few envelopes, or check his power point slides.

Imagine the letters that might not have gotten writtenor sent to the other churches, had there not been a faithful companion and partner, who was willing to be an assistant and just help out.

Thought:

This point really resonated with me personally because of my own experience.

When I came to this fellowship as one of the original members, my first unofficial position at this church was to be the helper and assistant of Pastor Charles.

I had never been in that sort of relationship with a minister before, but for me it was very fulfilling.

Thankfully he didn’t need me to take notes because my handwriting is terrible, but I was good at doing certain administrative and marketing related stuff.

I was happy to go to funerals with him and just hold his bible and so forth.

He had the weight of the Pastorate on his shoulders and he was managing a full-time job on top of planting this church.

I had never been an assistant to anyone, but I believe that God brought us together, because he had plans for both of us.

He put Ter-tius and Paul together, he put Pastor & Sister Charles and my wife and I together with them as a couple and he is still doing the same work in the lives of people today, right here in this church.

Some of you are looking for your spot and here is my first piece of advice for you, look around and see who you can assist.

Pray about where you can help a PERSON who is overworked and underappreciated.

Love deeply by being a humble secretary or assistantto someone.

Put yourself aside and embrace the possibility that can be released and realized in you, by simply playing second fiddle to what God is doing in and through someone else.

Every believer and every child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul and had a spiritual companion named…..

  1. Gaius “the people person/man of hospitality”

Romans 16:23a (NLT)
23a  Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church.

Romans 12:13 (NLT)
13  When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

1 Peter 4:9 (NLT)
9  Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.

Apparently, Gaius was a very outgoing and extroverted “people person” who had a great big house that was large enough to host visitors AND the entire church family”

Now for those of you who are introverts, this is the kind of blessing that you need to pray about, in terms of God bringing a person into your life who is the opposite of your introversion.

Introverts often have a hard time connecting with and forming relationships with people, because they are often quiet and reserved.

I myself have a part of my personality that is introverted. I am able to extrovert my introversion because of the ministry, but my natural tendency is NOT to be an extrovert.

Thought:

Those of you who are gifted extroverts, should take some notes here and I love the fact that God is so concerned with each of us, that he attends to and looks toward his goal of forming us into a living breathing spiritual entity….so he brings us into contact with one another, so that we can share the gifts and abilities that we have.

Thought:

Again, let me make sure that I am clear that there isn’t any biblical data or any scripture I can sight that would make me believe that Paul was more introverted than extraverted, but there are some observations that would lead me to that conclusion.

Paul was NOT a gifted orator. His personal presentation and his persona were not impressive and captivating.

He didn’t have the kind of charisma that Apollos may have had, but when he wrote and when he preached, the power of God enabled him to function at a level which was beyond his natural proclivities.

Thought:

This leads me to know that God can use any kind of person.

If you are a wallflower and shy as you can be, God can use you.

If you are a people person, with big recourses who loves to entertain, praise God for you, because that it a gift.

But it is a gift NOT just for you, but it is a gift that can be a blessing and a much-needed help for another believer, who needs the Spiritual companionship of someone just like you.

In other words, there is an introvert who needs the partnership of your extroversion, so that he or she can flow in the ministry or calling of God.

Every believer and every child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul and had a spiritual companion named…..

  1. Era-stus “the city man with great convictions”

Romans 16:23b (KJV)
23  Gaius mine host, and of the whole church, saluteth you. bErastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you

Romans 16:23b (NLT)
23  Gaius says hello to you. He is my host and also serves as host to the whole church. bErastus, the city treasurer, sends you his greetings

There was not a lot of information available on Gaius, but the commentary helps that I accessed indicated that Erastus was called to be a preacherand he accompanied Timothy on one of his mission tours.

Erastus is also mentioned in 2ndTimothy 4:20 as being a faithful companion of Paul, near the end of his life.

Now when we came to this 5thpoint, I gave Erastus the nick name “the city man with great convictions”

You see Erastus, was the treasurer of the great city of Corinth.

He had a good job AND a great pay-check AND A corner office.

He had all of the things that many of us spend time praying and asking God for, but he never allowed that STUFF to supplant the place of God and God’s call upon his life. 

He didn’t allow his possessions to possess him.

He didn’t get so busy with his upscale lifestyle that he would only come to church when he didn’t have brunch or a special weekend planned.

He did not let politics or his position cause him to live a life of compromise.

Erastus had been called to preach and that calling on his life was so strong, that it eventually cost him his big city job.

He was the “city man of great integrity and personal conviction”

Thought:

We all need an Erastus in our lives.

We all need to have the gift of someone in our lives, who is a person of integrity and conviction.

We need the benefit of people in our lives, who can encourage and be examples and role models by the life they live.

Every believing child of God needs to have companions in his or her life, Paul had a spiritual companion whose name was….

Paul had a person in his life who was simply identified as

  1. Quartus “a close brother”

Romans 16:23c-d (KJV)
23c-d  Erastus the chamberlain of the city saluteth you, and Quartus a brother.

John 13:34 (NLT)
34  So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.

We all need to have Spiritual companions in our lives. Paul and the church had a spiritual companion who is identified as a close brother.

This really is beautiful in the simplicity of the point and the simplicity of the word “Brother”

This month, the men of Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship will be holding our 4thMen’s conference and the theme of the conference which takes place on the 3rdSaturday of this month is posed as a simple yet powerful question and the question is AM I MY BROTHER’s KEEPER ?

More than any other relational need, there is a need in the church for true closeness and love between brothers and Sister in Christ.

  • We all need to have that true and honest connection that is sincere and real and unforced…

The fact that the passage doesn’t say anything more than that he is simply a brother speaks volumes, because it indicates that Quartus was an exceptional believer who understood the power and purpose of relationship.

He was a brother who was consistently there.

He was a brother who knew what it meant to be HIS Brother’s keeper

As we start out this brand-new year of 2019 I want you to ask yourself…what can I do and where do I need to position myself to be, so that my life can be about more than just me. 

Is there one to whom I can be “a fellow-worker” ?

How can I truly be supportive of my family and relatives who are in this church family with me ?

Is there someone who needs a helpful secretary AND am I willing to just simply be there to do the little things, so that they can achieve the call of God upon their lives ?

How can I share the wonder of my giftedness with people and do so in a way that gently encourages and helps them ?

Can I manage and can I embrace the blessing of being “second fiddle”?

In this sermon there were six points of challenge.

On your note form or pad if you have one, look at the part that says “ How will I respond and “Action Items”

Look over your notes when you go home this afternoon AND find the points that speak to YOU.

Then get on your knees and pray.

Ask God to show you what he wants you to doand who he wants you to be in 2019  and then embrace the opportunities and possibilitiesto which you have been called.

AMEN.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

Click here to see the entire service and sermon

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Who is Jesus

Sermon by  Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Who is Jesus

Matthew 1:18-21 (NLT)
18  This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
19  Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
20  As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
21  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

Traditions are nice to have and it’s exciting to be able to find ourselves doing something here at Christmas time, which has become for us a holiday tradition.

The last time I delivered this sermon was in 2015 and we started preaching a version of this back in 2012.

Now the title of the sermon is a simple one, that addresses the question of who Jesus is.

For those of you who know Jesus, this sermon will simply be a celebratory reminder.

But for some the sermon will be “eye opening” because in fact there are many who really don’t know who Jesus is. 

This is particularly striking during the Christmas holidays when we are celebrating HIS birth.

Happy birthday Jesusis what some folks are sayingbut in reality, they don’t know who Jesus is.

Jesus for some, is a just merchandising mechanism.

This is especially true to the various retail and on-line sellers who count on the sales related to Christmas to help them make their 4thquarter bottom line.

For some, Christmas isn’t about celebrating Jesus but rather it is a time for showing off.

We have a couple of areas in our neighborhood where folks go hog wildwith their massive light displays and when you go down there at night the whole thing is lit up like Las Vegas.

Then of course there are the holiday attendees who bless the church with their visits during Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day.

For us, who know Jesus we welcome the additional traffic and attention.

We welcome the chance tell our guests and friends about him and to allow the Holy Spirit to open up their hearts, doing so with great anticipation, that perhaps on a day like today, someone would find the greatest giftof all, that being coming to know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior and king.

So today on this Christmas week, we are going to share a message that will let everyone know who Jesus is.

And if you are ready to embrace and celebrate that say AMEN.

Answering the question as to WHO JESUS is we learn firstly from the scriptures that…..

  1.       Jesus is the WORD.

You’ll see that right here on the screen where it says…

John 1:1-2 (KJV)

1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2  The same was in the beginning with God.

John 1:14 (NLT)
14  So the Word became human (Flesh) and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. 

John 1:14 (YLT)
14  And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NKJV)
14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

In answering the question of who Jesus is, we learn from John chapter one that Jesus Christ is THE WORD.

Now this is a very simple statement that is very difficult to wrap your arms around, in-part because of how our minds process the term “WORD”

Often when we think of the WORD of God we think of the bible, or the gospel or the spoken word that the preacher shares on Sunday morning.

People come to church or tune in to the TV or go on-line to hear the WORD of God.

But here in the scripture we are being introduced to a deeper concept, which speaks of the WORD of God, as being a PERSON.

In the beginning was the WORD and the word was with God.

The new living translation says “in the beginning the word existed” and then from John chapter 1:14 we note that the word became human.

In other words, the Jesus that we often think of in terms of his human existence wasn’t just a MAN who came upon time and space at the day of his physical birth, but rather he was the WORD and a member of the God-head who existed in the beginning. 

Jesus didn’t just come into being as the baby in the manger

Jesus was not just the helpless infant that so many people depict him as being. 

Jesus the WORD was with God before the world was formedAND Jesus the WORD is a part of the Godheadand as such Jesus was God and was with God.

Thought:

Now it’s a heap load to wrap your head around for sure, not only does it sound complicated, but it is complicated.

It’s hard to grasp, but if in fact we are talking about God, it should be no surprise that we can’t fully grasp him, nor boil him down into a reality that we as human beings can process through the matrix of our limited minds.

He dwelt in heaven, he was “without beginning” BUT he came down from the eternal realm and tabernacled or made his home among us.

The word tabernacle refers to a receptacle or a temporary dwelling place.

God took a human body and he used it as a dwelling place.

This again is hard to process and the difficulty for us a mere human beings is understandable. 

Thought:

Most toddlers know about 300 words though I think that my granddaughter is an exception, she knows a ton of English words, as well as a heap load of Vietnamese that she’ll throw out in our conversations together to confuse me.

The average toddler has mastered 300 words or so; yet if you tried to explain what an isosceles triangle isand how it differs from a traditional triangle, as smart as my granddaughter might be I could explain it all dayand she would never, ever get it because she is limited physically by the capacity of her three-year-old brain.

Now you may have never even heard the term isosceles triangle; but you can understand it easily, it is simply a triangle in which only two sides have an equal distance, so it’s higher on two plains, rather than equal sides which a traditional triangle has.

You can get it like that, because you are an adult human being, so why is it so difficult for people to accept the idea that there are things about God what we cannot understand.

If I tried to explain the larger world of time and space to my granddaughter she very likely would just tilt her head and run off in the middle of our conversation so that she could get back to the box toys or the big stuffed bear that occupies her attention.

She can understand two languages but because of her limited ability to process more abstract concepts she wouldn’t get it no matter what.

We see Jesus in the FLESH and we process him through the lens of a mind that cannot understand a spiritual reality in which time and space do not exist, so we try to fit Jesus into this BOX, when in reality he didn’t start at the point of his entrance into the physical world, he existed always within the God-head, as the WORD.

WHO IS Jesus?

Secondly from the scriptures we see that Jesus is…

  1. Jesus is the creator.

John 1:3 (NLT)
3  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

John 1:3 (YLT)
3  all things through him did happen, and without him happened not even one thing that hath happened. 

Hebrews 1:1-3b (NKJV)
1  God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2  has in these last days spoken to us by HisSon, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
3  who being the brightness ofHisglory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power

In the first point we learned that Jesus the word existed ALWAYS, here in the second point we learn that Jesus is the CREATOR.

John 1:3 said, everything that happened and everything that was created was created through him.

Thought:

Just about EVERYONE in this room as seen the bones and fossils that are presented as evidentiary points of proof, which support and undergird our scientific theories about evolution.

I myself have been down to the La Brea tarpits and seen the dinosaur bones.

Science tells us, that you and I are the product of evolution, in which life itself rose from a series of mishaps and chemical reactions that came out of a big-explosion, which happened billions of years ago.

This is what science says, but this is not what we believe because we believe the bible

The bible says that the world we see today and everything that we see, as well as the seen and unseen universewas created by Jesus.

  • JESUS is the CREATOR.
  • He is the originator and the owner of everything and that includes YOU.

I’m telling you that the world wasn’t just an accident.

Star dust didn’t just happen to come together and then you popped up out of the ooze..

I’m telling you, that you were not just a random act of “nature”

I’m telling that everything that was madecame into being as an act of HIS power.

Jesus the WORD spoke the worlds into existence, OUT OF NOTHING.

You may in fact be MADE of star dust, but the stars didn’t just pop up by themselves, he made them.

You may indeed be comprised of the elements of the earth, in terms of your physical structure, but you didn’t just happen, no God himself put the dust together and breathed the breath of life into you and you became a living SOUL.

Thought:

Now truth be told that in our humanity and independence, such a concept makes us uncomfortable.

You see, everyone LOVES little baby Jesus, as long as you can keep HIM in that manger as a helpless baby who can’t make any demands upon your life.

But when you start to take Jesus out of the manger and place him in his exalted position as creator and Lord and master; now we’ve got a serious problem.

Because if there is a creator and you were created, that means there is a BOSS who is bigger and badder than YOU.

The word said as recorded in John 1:3 and I quote…

John 1:3 (NLT)
3  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

Who is Jesus…he is the creator and as the creator he is also GOD

  1.       JESUS is GOD

Again I direct you to the screens.

Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)
6  For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 20:26-28 (NKJV)
26  And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
27  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here,and put itinto My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
28  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

In answering the question of who Jesus is, today I declare to you that Jesus is God.

From John chapter 20 we looked at the words of Thomas one of the twelve, who is often given the nic-name “doubting” Thomas.

After Jesus had been crucified and had died on the cross, he lay in the grave for three days and then rose again and presented himself to several of the other disciples, but Thomas was not present with them when Jesus made his earlier appearance.

Thomas, heard from the other’s that Jesus was alive but he was the kind of person who had to see it for himself.

Now that he had seen and touched Jesus he could see that he was no ordinary person;now that he saw the Lord who had risen from the dead Thomas declared, that Jesus was GOD.

Thought:

Now let that sink in for a moment and don’t be discouraged if your head starts to swim around or get dizzy, because this is a lot for the human mind to grasp.

You see the birth of Jesus physically was different than a normal baby if you please.

Just about everyone here knows how babies get born in this world and what is involved in the process of making a baby.

Jesus came into this world in a way that was different than the process which was involved in your conception.

Jesus did NOT enter into the world as a result of the introduction of a HUMAN seed into the womb of a woman.

But rather he was conceived in physical formby was the power of Holy Spirit.

Jesus always existed as the WORD from the beginning, but he came INTO the world as a physical being and tabernacled in a tent made of FLESH.

Thomas very likely was over-whelmed by this encounter with Jesus and it rocked him to the core of who he was, and so he simply falls on his knees before Jesus, declaring him as  my Lord and my God.

This is who Jesus is, he is God.

He is the omnipotent, originator and ruler of the universe, he is the principal object of our faith and therefore Jesus is worthy of worshipas God.

THOMAS knew it.

How about you ? 

Do you know that JESUS as your GOD?

Do you worship him as the RULER of your life?

Do you recognize and respect him as the eternal one?

Do you speak his name with reverential fear and respect?

Do you worship him and have a relationship with him as LORD and savior of your life?

Or do you only know the name of Jesus as a pre-cursor to a filthy curse word that comes  out of your mouth when someone cuts you off on the freeway.

THIS JESUS is not just a child in a manger.

HE IS GOD.

Answering the question as to WHO IS JESUS, 4thly  

  1. Jesus is God’s dearly loved SON

Luke 1:34-35 (NLT)
34  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35  The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.

Matthew 17:5 (NLT)
5  But even as he spoke, a bright cloud came over them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”

John 3:16 (KJV)

16 For God so loved the world, that he gavehis only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The child Jesus born to Mary is God AND he is also the dearly loved SON OF GOD.

I can tell you very honestly that this is a difficult concept to grasp, but again I want you to keep in mind the ridiculousness of believing that we could actually understandGod, any more than a three-year-old could understand what is means to sign your name on a 30-year mortgage.

How can it BE that this SAME JESUS IS GOD and he is the creator and he is God’s only begotten SON?

Think about trying to explain to three-year-old that you as a human being are housed in a SINGLE BODY, yet your essence is a combination of your thoughts, your emotions, your Spirit and your physical body.

Think about trying to explain to dog that you as a human being can have a conversation with yourself in your mind without ever saying a word, or that you can record thoughts on a piece of paper which can be communicated into the minds of another human person who lives on the other side of the world or reads that communication 500 years later than you sent it.

Now try to reduce the creator of the universes who controls time and space within himself, into a package that YOU can totally understand.

The scriptures tell us that the GODHEAD is a UNITY of Father SON and HOLY SPIRIT and this is expressed in the doctrine of the TRINITY; yet we know that GOD is ONE GOD.

When Jesus was born and came into this world that was GOD himself wrapped up in the in FLESH.

Yet is was GOD who spoke TO HIS SON out of the clouds in heaven.

I really can’t put my arms around it, they are three YES but Jesus also affirmed and declared that he and the father were ONE.

This Jesus whom the world celebrates with the giving and receiving of gifts is God’s dearly beloved SON.

THOUGHT:

NOW FOR you today who are just starting to get an idea of who Jesus really is, this is vitally important.

  • Jesus is God’s beloved SON, who was given to humanity as the most incredible GIFT.
  • God took the one who was the apple of his eye, the one in whom he was well pleased; AND HE NAILED him to a cross so that he would pay for the sins of this world.

He did that not because we deserved it, but he did it because he loved us and wanted to make a way to cleanse us from the death dealing hell bent reality of our sinfulness.

He did that because the wages of sin kept us separated from Godand someone needed to solve the problem of that.

So God sent the only one who could solve our problem and that was Jesus, who took our sins upon himself and paid for us, with his life.

The great news of Christmas is that JESUS came into this world and was born, YES that is wonderful. 

But more importantly the great news of Christmas is that Jesus came and brought us salvation through HIM.

That is who JESUS is, he is the DEARLY LOVED ONE, he is God’s own SON who gave his LIFE for you.

ON this Christmas week, don’t let it be said that you heard about this great gift that God gave to you and you simply neglected embracing it, to your own eternal harmand the loss of your soul to a devil’s hell.

5thand finally…who is JESUS, he is

  1. Judge and Lord and King. 

Romans 14:11-12 (NLT)
11  For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’”
12  Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.

CLOSE:

I told you at the start of the sermon, that there are people out there who don’t actually know who Jesus is, yet they are celebrating his birth.

In the earlier points in the sermon I shared that JESUS is the CREATOR

I told you about the fact and reality of Jesus as God and God’s own Son, who came into this world and gave his life on the cross at Calvary so that you and I could be saved from the penalty of SIN which is eternal death.

But my friend you need to know that this SAME JESUS who did all of these great things for us is also a JUDGE…

Jesus is the judge of this worldwho is going to hold every man, every woman, every boy and every girl in the earth realm accountable for every deed, every thought and every action no matter how great or small.

This same Jesus who extends his love to us and was willing to die to save us, will also be the one who judges the world.

And woeto those who stand before him in the nakedness of their un-forgiven sins.

Woe to folks who dismissed him as irrelevant.

Woe to peoplewho  rejected the opportunity to accept him as Lord and place their faith and trust in him for salvation.

Woe……. to the person who chooses to pursue a life of sinful rebellion and disrespect…

WHY… because the GOD who demonstrates HIS incredible love and patience by waiting for people like you and I to wake up, will one day close the door on this age and the opportunity of salvation through faith in Jesus Christwill be gone forever

In that day, the world we know will cease to exist.

All of mankind will be called to accountability and those whose names are not listed among the redeemed and forgiven through Jesus Christ will be condemned and lost forever without hope.

I know that it is hard to hear this kind of message when many would love a warm and fuzzy Christmas story.

But if you embrace what I am sharing with you and to turn with your whole heart to Jesus Christ, you can be saved today.

You can be born again as a new person into his kingdomAND this will be the best Christmas present EVER.

AMEN.

While all eyes are closed and heads bowed…

Click Here to View the Entire Service and Sermon

Be on Guard and Watch!

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Be on Guard and Watch! 

Romans 16:17-20 (KJV)
17  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
19  For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

20  And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bewith you. Amen.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word. 

When we were last here in our studies through the epistle written to the church at ROME, we completed a two-part mini-series entitled “The Marks of a Great Minister”

If you missed that series I highly encourage you to go back and check that out on line.

It’s a good teaching for those who are in the ministry and it is also quite helpful to those who are church members and members of the laity; you can find that along with lots of other content on our website which is located at http://www.mysccf.com/sermons.

Today on this 3rd Sunday in December, we are turning the corner towards the final chapters of this letter.

Paul here in this portion of the letter makes an abrupt pivot AND he turns to address an issue of concern and a warning to the church regarding the responsibility of watchfulness.

The church must be watchful and the church must stay on its mark, if it is going to continue to perform and function in a way that is in line with God’s purpose and plan. 

This is really what Paul has been teaching us through out these last portion of this letter

In earlier teachings he wrote to the church about some practical things that we need to do in order to get along with and support each other.

He taught us how to treat our fellow believers and how to manage our Christian liberty and to flow in that in a way that helps and does not hinder or cause another believer to stumble.

We had a teaching on how the church can have a positive witness to the outside world AND we even had a teaching on what makes a good fellowship.

Now Paul is building upon these themes and he is going to teach us and encourage us and warn us about the importance of being watchful.

So if you are ready to learn about that say AMEN.

As members of God’s church family, we are called and directed to…

  1. Be watchful for divisive people and avoid them.

Romans 16:17 (KJV)
17  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

Romans 16:17 (NLT)
17  And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for peoplewho cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.

Titus 3:10 (NLT)
10  If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them.

Paul begins this warning here to the church by addressing the reality that because the church is a “people organization“we must guard against and be aware of the Spiritual and operational reality of divisive people who are in the church and as such, are a danger to the health and well being of the church.

This of course is a very disturbing thought.

It’s not very uplifting; it isn’t encouraging, but it is a truth and it is a realty that needs to be communicated and explained clearly, especially to those of us who love the church and want to see it grow and prosper according to God’s will.

Note what the Apostle Paul says here in the “A” portion of Romans 16:17a and I quote “ I beseech you brethren, that you mark them which cause divisions among you and that you avoid them.

The new living translation says, stay away from them.

Titus 3:10 says, warn them a few times and then have nothing do to with them.

Paul writes to this strong Roman church and he warns them against the reality of sinful and divisive people within the church of Godand he says, avoid them, put a mark next to their names and stay away from those kinds of folks.

WOW…now that is heavy.

We like to think that being a good Christian means never avoiding anyone and being tolerant of everything.

All of a sudden right in the middle of Paul’s recitation of that list of helpful folks who have supported and encouraged and been so vital to the ministry of Paul, he interrupts his letter and pivots to this most needful warning.

Now we want to make this perfectly clear here. This is not a veiled message which is directed at some perceived problem here at SCCF, no this is a teaching that Paul is sharing and is given to us and to every church for our learning

It would be nice if Paul could keep his letter on the positive, just talking about the great things that go on in the ROMAN church.

But because he loves the church and wants that church at ROME to continue in it’s success, he tells his beloved brothers and sisters to keep a watchful eye, because he knows that divisiveness and divisive people, are one of the devil’s most effective ways of messing with and messing up the church.

Thought:

Now for Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship, this is a very timely and relevant warning for us because we are in fact a very blessed church.

We have a strong love connection for one another.

We are a good fellowship of committed believers, we are not perfectbut I believe that God would have some good things to say about this church; but we need to be aware and mature, because divisiveness can creep in just like that.

Thought:

One of the many great things about SCCF is that we are very open and accepting and I praise God for that.

But the danger is that we live in a world in which the opinionsand viewpoints of one person, can be at any given point, just as impactful and powerful as any other minister, preacher or teacher.

Just a little divisiveness. Just a little grumbling, a little gossip or a little murmuring; a critical group here and there and POW, a strong bible believing doctrinally sound church can crumble into a heaping mess.

It’s a warning to all churches and a warning from the Lord who loves his church that you and I must be on guard and be watchful.

Not only must we be on guard against divisive people, but the word says you may need to avoid them.

In our openness and desire not to be judging of others or condemning of others, our first tendency is to be patent and to endurewith people and their varying opinions, but when it comes to divisiveness, that is where we must draw the line.

As members of God’s church family, we are called and directed to…

  1. Be watchful and weary regarding those who teach contrary doctrines.

Romans 16:17b (KJV)
17b   mark them which cause divisionsand offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned

Romans 16:17b (MSG)
17b Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth.

Colossians 2:8 (MSG)
8  Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ.

1 Timothy 6:20 (NKJV)
20  O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane andidle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge–

In point number one we laid the foundation for the general warning to the believer to embrace a position of watchfulness and avoidance regarding divisive people.

Now again it is important that you understand that Paul is warning us not about the world but rather he is warning the church about the potential dangers that can be broughtin and work against the unityand effectiveness of the local church,through others who are believers.

In our openness and desire not to be judging of others or condemning of others, our first tendency is to be accepting of what people have to say.

But reading further and accessing additional scriptures we see and learn that such an approach is DANGEROUS and harmful to the health of the church.

Paul says and I quote “mark them which cause divisions” and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned”

The word DOCTRINE is very important. It refers to a set of beliefs or a creed, it’s a body of teachings and or religious concepts.

Watch out for folks who got something new to share with you, watch out for the person who comes in with some new-fangled revelation or insight.

Watch out for the razzle dazzle and for the intellectual double talk and the theological shazam…

This WARING is particularly applicable in our world today, for we live in a society wherein the local church functions under the pressure and the ever-growing influence of independent teachers and teachings, some of which are contrary to the word of God.

Not everything on TV is good,

Not everyone who has a pod-cast should be listened too, just because your friend sent you a link.

Some of the things that are making their way around your circle of Christian friends is contrary to the written word of God….and that stuff is NOT coming from folks who are outside of the church, it’s coming from folks who have a Dr. or a Reverend next to their name or from a friend of yours who may be a “believer”

We are to be watchful and to keep our focus, because wrong teaching causes division.

Thought:

The word division as it is being used here means that the teaching causes cleavage.

Think of what a cleaver does, it cuts and separates.

It looks like the gospel and it smells like the bible, but it isn’t the bible because it is contrary to the biblical instruction that is coming from those whom God has placed over you.

Thought… 

Now I know some folks are going to trip out over that but I want you to hang in there for just one moment and to hear me out.

If the Pastors or Elders or Minsters who are over you, are NOT teaching you God’s word; head for the hills.

But if the person who has been put in the place of the under shepherdwho is charged with the responsibility of feeding you the word; don’t accept the contrary ramblings of any person.

No matter how slick they may be; and no matter how good they may sound; mark them, get away from such people,shun them if you have too, don’t accept their tapes and DVD, don’t subscribe to their podcast or friend them on face book, or follow their insta-gram, for you as child of God run the risk of falling under the influence of error. 

Now don’t dismiss what I am sharing here. I am NOT saying that you can only listen to Pastor Winston or Pastor Harper, but I am saying that you need to careful about who and what you listen to.

As members of God’s church family, we are called and directed to… 

  1. Be aware and watchful of those who are interested in self-promotion.

Romans 16:18a-b (KJV)
18a-b  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly..

Romans 16:18a-c (NLT)
18a-c  Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests.

Philippians 3:19 (NLT)
19  They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 (NKJV)
24  And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,
25  in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

As members of God’s church family; as those who love the body of Christ and his people, we are challenged and exhorted and called to mark and be watchfulof those who are promoting themselves.

Thought:

I added the scripture from 2ndTimothy 2:24 to give some balance to the teaching here, because it is imperative and important that we are gentle and humble in our watchfulness.

Now in point number three, we find again a very relevant and timely teaching on the part of Paul, directing us to be watchful and to be on the lookout for those who would exploit the people of God, for their own personal gain.

Several times in Paul’s other letters and writings, Paul has warned and cautioned the people of God about the danger of folks who come into the body of Christ and bring division because their focus or their motive is NOT on serving Christ, but rather exploiting and or having influence over the lives of people, in order to satisfy their personal appetites.

Paul said and I quote “For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly

It’s their belly, it’s their appetite, it’s their lust and desire for something other than Christ and his glory that motivates such a one.

Thought:

Two thoughts I want to share with you; both thoughts are somewhat troubling, but need to be shared none-the-less.

Thought number one:

Sometimes what is presented as a work which is done for Christ, isn’t really about Christ but it all about the ego and the appetites.

If Christ were to peal the layers back, we’d be surprised to see that the motivation wasn’t about his glorybut it was really about the satisfying of a human appetite.

Second thought:

We often don’t understand what motives us and we are even less perceptivewhen it comes to understanding the motivation of others.

I believe that it is very difficult for us in the weakness and confusion of our humanity, to discern where a person is coming from, because the new idea or teaching or para-church opportunity, feels so genuine.

That is why it is imperative that we test the Spirits.

AND that is why we must cultivate an ever-growing sensitivity to the voice of the Holy Spirit and his desire to lead and guide and order our steps.

We must be watchful for divisive people, we must be weary of those who teach contrary doctrines, we must be aware of those who are interested in self-promotion.

As members of God’s church family, we must be

  1. Be watchful of those who use flattering words to deceive.

Romans 16:18c(KJV)
18  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; c and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

Colossians 2:4 (MSG)
4  I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.”

Romans 16:18 (HCSB)
18  for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.

Titus 1:10 (HCSB)
10  For there are also many rebellious people, full of empty talk and deception, especially those from Judaism.

Here in this 4thpoint Paul is cautioning believers to be on guard and watchful regarding influencers from within the church.

Now here I cannot help but think about the reality of the world in which we live today.

We are living in an age of information over-load and we are living in a world of influencers.

As members of God’s blessed family, we are warned to be watchful because in this kind of environment the forces of divisiveness and the plan of the enemy, are actively looking to deceive and divide and confuse the church.

This is what Paul was addressing as he writes to this strong church at ROME, but fast forward this to 2018 and it clearly has relevance to the modern church today.

Thought:

Now we looked at several confirming scriptures just a moment ago.

Titus 1:10 spoke of rebellious people and it specifically identified religious folks, as a group in which there can be many culprits of rebellion and empty-headed talk.

You’ll see that reflected where it says especially those from within the ranks of Judaism…you could take that same thought and update it to say, church folks or religious folks

I want to draw your attention to the message translation of Colossians  chapter 2:4.

I was drawn to a thought based on that translation because it mentions “ the secret”

This phraseology brought to mind the book written in 2006.

In that best-selling book called “The Secret” the writer posited the notion that everyone has the ability to create their own reality, by their own thoughts.

And for a while (and it’s still happening by the way) there was a version of this wrong minded idea that was being promulgated, within the slick sounding talking points of Christian speakers and self promoters.

Average people within the church were sharing DVD’s and links with other Christians and they were doing so with the best intensions but most weredoing so in ignorance.

Ideas and flattering notions were running through the church.

Folks were coming to believe that whatever you think, or whatever you say would happen because “there is POWER in the tongue”, so if you say it and proclaim it and speak it, it will happen”

It sounds good because it is so wonderfully and slickly presented, but it is a deception and a twisting of God’s word.

It’s sounds good and it sells and it flatters (because it lets folks think that they are little god’s) but here is what the word of God says and I quote from Proverbs 18:21 (KJV)Death and life arein the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof”

It is not saying that YOU have the power of life and death in YOUR TONGUE, as though you can create your own reality by saying some words or making some sort of pronouncement.

What the word is saying here is that what you say has consequencesand it is speaking of the consequences of using your mouth incorrectly, as a babbler or a gossiper or speaker of foul and or corrupting language.

The scripture is NOT saying that you have the ability to speak your own reality.

Proverbs the book of wisdom is giving a warning…AND here is it… you can….. and will….. inherit death dealing or life-giving consequences from what you speak and this is warning to those who love to talk.

So you need to be careful about how you use your MOUTH, because there are “fruits” that come about as a result of what comes out of your mouth.

Be careful about how you use your mouth, because Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 and I quote “but I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement”

Search the word, take a “Berean like approach” and search the word, being watchful to see that what is being shared our taught or promoted is in fact in the word.

As members of God’s church family, we are called and directed 5thand finally to…

  1. Be watchful by focusing on that which is untainted by evil.

Romans 16:19 (KJV)
19  For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

Romans 16:19-20a-c (MSG)
19  And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters—I couldn’t be more proud of you!—I want you also to be smart, making sure every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this,
20a-c  and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt.

In this 5thand final point Paul ends with a world of encouragement for this wonderfully strong and godly church at Rome.

In the previous four points, Paul addressed the issue and danger of divisiveness and he spoke in very strong terms, to a church that he was actually quite confident and pleased with.

Paul wasn’t beating them or rebuking them, he was doing his best to tell a strong church, how to stay a strong church and I believe that the message applies to US here at SCCF as well.

We must be on guard and watch and keep our eyes open.

Watch out for the divisive forces of evil.

Watch out for the foolish ideas of the latest teaching that can in so easily and confuse and separate believers.

  • Keep being committed to obeying God’s word.
  • Keep reading and studying and rightly dividing the world of truth.
  • And keep in the mark, to be ever growing in knowing and doing God’s will.

Finally, Paul closes this portion of the letter with these wonderful words, as noted from the message translation of Romans 16:19a-c and I quote “Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt”

Today, I believe that the same assurance is given to us today.

As difficult and challenging as the realities of this confused and complicated world may be….God has got it handled. 

All we’ve got to do is stay alert and the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the ground.

Give the Lord some praise.

AMEN…

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed…

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Marks of a great minister – part 2

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper,  Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship Church

                  The Marks of a Great Minister II

Romans 15:20-24 (NLT)
20  My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.
21  I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”
22  In fact, my visit to you has been delayed so long because I have been preaching in these places.
23  But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.
24  I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

Good morning and God bless each one of you today, it’s very exciting to be coming to the finish of 2018 and to be with you on this wonderful 1stSunday in December.

In our last sermon taken from the letter to the church at Rome, we began this two- part mini-series looking at the Apostle Paul as a model for greatness in the ministry.

What does it mean to be a great minister from a biblical perspective?  

AND Why is this subject important to you for example if you are not a minister or preacher?

Well I am glad you asked that question and hopefully if you were here for our last sermon on part 1 of the subject, you’ve got a pretty good idea why that is important.

But for those who were not here a few weeks ago, let me answer that question for you.

If you are a layperson, it’s important that you understand the marks of a great minister for two reasons.

First, it’s a good idea to know what to look forin terms of a person you be thinking about may sitting under, as a ministry leader or preacher or Pastor.

Secondly, if you are someone who sits under the teaching of a Pastor or preacher or Elder or ministerial leader, you as a lay person have a duty to pray for that person.

And as you do that, it is imperative that you know how to pray for the minister.

Now this morning we are going to give you some biblical guideless or examples to help us in that area.

Two weeks ago, we started looking at the Apostle Paul, as one who evidenced greatness in his role as a minister of the gospel.

And we highlighted several marks or characteristics, that were seen in Paul.

We talked about the fact that Paul was interested in peopleand he was actually quite down to earth.

When he wrote to the various churches, he always called out people by name.

Paul was a great minister because he was fearless when it came to reminding people about God’s grace and truth.

He was relentless in his dedication to letting folks know, God’s incredible plan of salvation that came to us, by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We also talked about how Paul focused on Jesus Christ and not himself; everything he did was about lifting high the name of Jesus.

Now again for those who were not here for the sermon, you can catch part one on-line at http://www.mysccf.com/sermons.

Today we are going to continue to look at the Apostle Paul as one who evidences the marks of a great minister and again I want to encourage you to embrace this teaching if you are in the ministry or if you are a lay person; I want you to embrace this as a helpful guide from the Lord as you pray for encourage and support your minister.

If you are ready to go say AMEN

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

  1. He was committed to the work (of the ministry) and stuck to his assignment until it was completed.

Romans 15:21,23 (NLT)

21  I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.”
23  But now I have finished my workin these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.

2 Corinthians 11:23b-d (NLT)
23b  I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.

 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV)
10  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which waswith me.

2 Corinthians 11:27 (MSG)
27  I’ve known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather.

Paul was a great minister number one because he was a person of ministerial stick-to-itiveness.

That word of course speaks to a dogged perseverance in which a person is known for being one who stays with the assignment and will not leave or quit until the job is done.

Here in Romans chapter 15, looking specifically at verse 23, which we read together a moment ago, Paul says and I quote “I have finished my work in these regions”

Those of you who are bible readers might have an idea of what Paul is talking about, but I’ve added a few scriptures to help paint the picture and fill in the blanks.

You see Paul was called by God and given an assignment to evangelize a huge a HUGE geographic territory.

He started and or was involved in planting and supporting many churches.

Think about the work and time spent on the church in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Colossae.

He worked with those churches and he stuck to HIS assignment,even though he longed to go to Spain and Rome.

He stuck to it, he didn’t allow the pressure of the work, nor the excitement or thrill of being somewhere else, to distract him from following through with his assignment.

He worked like a madman until he finished the work that was needed in those regions.

Thought:

This is certainly a daunting and powerfully convicting example and message to those of us in the ministry, as we compare this level of stick-tu-titiveness as seen in the personof Paul, with today’s kind of impatience and restlessness and boredom that often plagues many in modern ministry.

In today’s church world many ministers get bored very quickly and then they jump from place to place looking for the next thrill.

Tom Ranier a well-known church consultant and on-line blogger wrote an article in April 2015, which said that the average Pastor in an American church stays in his position for 3.6 years.

Just as we discussed and decried the reality of church jumping by today’s modern church goers, we find that in the ministerial ranks many Pastors and Elders and ministers are jumping from place to place also.

Some leave because of a belief that the grass is greener on the other side.

Some leave out of frustration, believing that their ministerial dreams have not been fulfilled.

Some simply get fed up or become tired of dealing with the bickering of childish people.

Truth be told my friends that being in the ministry can for somebe a place of pressure and pain and loneliness,but that doesn’t negate the over-riding need for stick-tuitiveness

If you are a minister or preacher or teacher, you’ll have to hang in there and not be distracted or dismayed that there are people problemsor that things may not be happening fast enough to satisfy your ambition.

That is the application to the ministers.

But, there is also an application for the congregant and listen closely….

That preacher or teacher or Pastor, will need to be encouraged, by the prayer and words of the people, who pray for God to strengthen him, to hang in there and be faithful until the work or assignment has been completed.

Let this sink in for a moment.

 You need to pray for your ministers.

Pray that God gives them the strength to HANG in there and stick with the assignment at whatever point he or she may be…and to complete the work.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

  1. He had a worldwide vision that reached way beyond his human capabilities

Romans 15:23-24 (NLT)
23  But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.
24  I am planning to go to Spain, and when I do, I will stop off in Rome. And after I have enjoyed your fellowship for a little while, you can provide for my journey.

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)
19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  

Romans 11:13a-b (NLT)
13a-b  I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointedme as the apostle to the Gentiles.

In the days of Paul, the western borders of Spain were considered to be the outpost of the then known civilized world.

Paul had a goal in his mind and heart…. and he burned with a passion to reach every man, woman boy and girl with the Gospel.

I believe that he had that passion, because of the life changing experience that he had personally with Jesus Christ, that day on the road to Damascus.

Christ himself came and appeared personally to this manand out of that experience, Paul received the gospel of Jesus Christ and his life was changed in a way that impacted every aspect of his being.

The Paul who used to be SAUL the persecutor of the churchbefore he was converted, turned that same zeal and fire and passion to the task of taking the news of salvation to the world.

Paul was a great minister because he had a big visionfor Christ.

Thought:

Here is an example of ministerial greatness. He wanted to reach the world and he wanted to do it for Christ.

This again is a challenge to those of us in the ministry, to think bigger.

Thought:

Now for me, this was a challenge personally, because I want to be a good minister of the gospel, but I wonder ifI’m the kind of person who thinks too small.

A few years ago, I got an invitation from someone in India to come over there and preach and do a mission trip.

And I kind of feel ashamed of how I responded, because I immediately said NO…I’m just a local guy.

I looked at myself and said NAH…that is way over my head.

And that was wrong for sure, because I was looking at myself and not at God.

The truth is that I of myself can do nothing, but by the power of the Spirit of God, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”

Now I am not setting up for a trip to India, but what I am realizing and hearing through this word is that God has called each of us to a world-wide missionand he has and will equip usto reach way beyond our own capabilities.

And so, I want to encourage you to pray for everyone who serves in some ministerial capacity.

I want you to add that your prayer list and ask God to give that minister a bigger vision; give him courageand give him a thirst and a hunger and a desire to reach out and share the gospel not only where he is, but to the world beyond these walls and borders.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

  1. He was not so consumed with his worldwide vision, that he failed to attend to the immediate needs of the saints.

Romans 15:25-26 (NLT)
25  But before I come, I must go to Jerusalem to take a gift to the believers there.
26  For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.

Galatians 6:10 (NLT)
10  Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10 (MSG)
9  So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.
10  Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.

This 3rdpoint is perfectly positioned as a balance to the previous point.

Here we see in the person of Paul a man who YES had massive world-wide vision, but also understood, that there were needs of a personal and practical nature, that were just as important and deservingof his attention and passion.

You see Paul did not become so enamored with the idea of doing a world-wide ministry, that he forgot about the tremendous physical needs of the saints of Godwho were in his own back-yard.

He understood, that a minister must never become so big and so important and so focused on the big picture, that he or she fails to minister to the needy.

Thought:

Now I can see by the number of heads shaking and AMENS given that this point resonates with you.

No one wants to feel that the minister is too busy to pray with or help them, because he or she is off doing a world tour or that their calendar is too full to deal with the regular folks.

There is however a challenge and a call to those in the pews and seats of the houses of worship.

You see the call to meet the needs of and attend to the poor and needy, is not just a call to those who are recognized as ministers.

When Galatians chapter 15 says and I quote “every time we get the chance, let us workfor the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith….that is not just written for the Pastor or Elder or Minister, it is written for every child of God who is a member of the household of faith.

So here is another item to add to your prayer list.

Pray for your minister or pastor or Elder.

Pray that the Lord gives them a passion and a sensitive heart to serve the saints of Godand to make provision for those who are needy.

But then also pray for your self.

Pray for God to change your too busy heartand ask God to give you a heart that is sensitive and willing and ready to reach out and meet the needs, of the saints of God, who are struggling in your own church family.

And make no mistake about it my friends, there are folks who are sitting right next to you, who are dressed up and looking nice, but underneath, they are struggling just to keep the lights on.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

  1. He was completely dedicated to seeing that the blessings (fruit) of the gospel were shared.

Romans 15:28  (NLT)
28  As soon as I have delivered this money and completed this good deed of theirs, I will come to see you on my way to Spain.

Romans 15:29 (NKJV)
29  But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

Romans 1:16 (KJV)
16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

1 Corinthians 1:24 (NKJV)
24  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

This 4thpoint in some ways duplicates the truths and marks of a great minister that we previously shared.

Here however the focus of our thoughts is built around the preaching of the cross and the power thereof, as a spiritual fruit to be shared.

Paul was a great minister because he was convinced of the power of the cross.

In part one of this mini-series, which I shared earlier and can be found on-line for those who missed it, I shared with you that Paul was a great minister because he was interested in people.

When he wrote the various churches and addressed them in some of the lettershe made a point of mentioning their names.

And I believe that he did that, because he was completely dedicated to seeing the fruit of the gospel message, bourn out in the lives of people.

He knew that no other messagecould produce the results, nor bring the life changing blessings to PEOPLE of every race creed and language…..as the cross did.

He knew and understood and valued people enoughthat NOTHING was going to deter Paul from sharing the gospel and seeing the fruit of salvationand freedom and joy, being birthed in people.

Thought:

What a lessonand what a challenge for us today who know the power of the cross and the unequaled reality of the life changing freedom to be found in Christ Jesus.

What a lesson and what a challengefor us who preach and teach God’s word; for the example that Paul gives us, should encourage and challenge us to let nothing deter us from preaching the power of the cross and the life changing reality of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” 

The Apostle Paul was a great minister 5thand finally because…..

  1. He understood the importance of the prayers and partnership of God’s people.

Romans 15:31-33 (NLT)
31  Pray that I will be rescued from those in Judea who refuse to obey God. Pray also that the believers there will be willing to accept the donation I am taking to Jerusalem.
32  Then, by the will of God, I will be able to come to you with a joyful heart, and we will be an encouragement to each other.
33  And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen.

Ephesians 6:19 (NKJV)
19  and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Colossians 4:3 (NKJV)
3  meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)
1  Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftlyand be glorified, just as it iswith you,

Thought:

Paul knew that regardless of his great giftedness, he needed the prayers and the partnership of the saints.

When you read through many of Paul’s impressive letters and teachings, you can some times miss this reality or you might wrongly thinkthat he mentions prayer as kind of a generic closing like we say sincerely, at the end of our letters.

Paul was constantly asking for the saints of God to pray for him, some time he literally begged for their prayers.

He knew that he needed people who would intercede on HIS behalf, asking the Spirit of God to soften the hearts and minds of those he preached to.

Paul needed prayers………. and he never forgot that.

This for us is the closing thought and the closing challenge and a call to action.

For those who are in the service of the ministry, never stop asking, never stop soliciting; never stop letting the people know that you need prayer.

To the saints and people of God, on behalf of every minister of the gospel I implore you, I beseech you, yes I beg you my beloved…keep on praying, keep on asking God to equip and aide those who serve in the ministry. 

Don’t just SAY I’m praying for you and then forget about it when you get distracted by your phone.

Put it in your planner. Set a reminder. Put a note on your ice-box. Send yourself an automated e-mail….do whatever you need to do, in order to make sure that NOT ONE DAY GOES BY in which you don’t pray for the man or women of God that the Lord has placed in your life.

When you do that, you will see greatness in your minister and you will see the glory of God revealed.

AMEN.

While all eyes are closed and heads are BOWED.

Click here to view the full sermon and service on line

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a thankful person in the midst of an unthankful world

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Luke 17:11-19 (NKJV)
11  Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.
12  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.
13  And they lifted up theirvoices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14  So when He saw them,He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.15  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16  and fell down on hisface at His feet, giving Him thanks.And he was a Samaritan.
17  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where arethe nine?
18  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”
19  And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

Today we begin thanksgiving week and it’s the kick off of the holiday season, where we will gather with friends and family in various times of celebration.

We will enjoy great meals and attend wonderful gatherings and for a shorttime we as a nation come together to show our best.

Thanksgiving in particular is one of our most anticipated holidays. Here are SCCF we love to get together and share a meal as we will do today after the service.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to share what you have with others, but it is also a time when the reality of our ungratefulness can become apparent.

You see……….. YOU and I live in a world of ungrateful people.

And before you say AMEN to that too quickly, you should know and be honest about the fact that the problem and reality of ungratefulness is not just an issue in the unsaved world, but it is an issue in the lives of many people, including those within the church world.

The reality of ungratefulness is rooted in our sinful nature.

You don’t have to teach a child how to be ungrateful.

As cute as they may be and as wonderfully charming as that little person may seem to be, they will show you in a minute how ungrateful they can be when they throw a tantrum because they don’t like your Christmas present, or when they refuse to eat a freely provided meal, even though there are children starving not just in the underdeveloped countries of this world, but right here in the good ole USA who would be happy just to have one half of what your child refuses to eat.

The reality of ungratefulness is rooted within our sinful nature and yes even you as a born-again child of God, must be mindful that the flesh can act up at any time.

How do we break through the Spirit of ungratefulness and instead show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light?

How can you be a model of thankfulness in the midst of an ungrateful world?

From the opening scripture we just read together a moment ago, we can glean a few directives and admonitions that will help us greatly in doing that.

So let’s examine this passage together and hear what the Spirit has to say to us in these five simple points…AMEN.

How can you model and project thankfulness and humility in the midst of an ungrateful and prideful world?

  1. Be transparent regarding your own needs and don’t act like you have it all together.

Luke 17:12-13 (NKJV)

12  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.
13  And they lifted up theirvoices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Luke 17:12-13 (MSG)

12  As he entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met him. They kept their distance

13  but raised their voices, calling out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

James 4:10 (NKJV)
10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Here in this first point we see the picture of great desperation and need, as evidenced in the lives of these ten menwho were afflicted with a debilitating disease.

As Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem these ten men called out to him and asked Jesus to have mercy on them.

Clearly, they were in desperate need.

Clearly, they understood the reality that they were living in, due to the fact that they were considered untouchables who had been banished from contact with society as a result of their disease.

These lepers, didn’t care about the fact that they may have been bothering Jesus, becausethey were desperate.

Now at first glance, one might say YES, I can understand that.

Yes, I can see that these men were afflicted..

It’s understandable that they were crying out, it is understandable that they begged; it is understandable YES, but to dismiss their cry of desperation, as being solely related to their condition, dismisses the reality of PRIDE.

Thought:

Many of you ladies who are married, some of you mothers who have grown Sons still living with you know that it’s hard to get a man to ask for help, EVEN when he is sick.

How are you doing……I’m fine.

You need to go to urgent care, because that wound on your leg hasn’t healed for three months…I’m fine, I don’t need no doctor.

Crying out and asking for help on some level was difficulteven for these lepers.

Thought:

These ten men were lepers, but they were still MEN.

They were still people and they were still infected with the disease of PRIDE.

As believers as those who know the great God of mercy, you and I can help people by modeling transparency and humility.

We need to be folks who make it easy for people to be honest about their needs, during this holiday season.

Thought:

You see pride is something that most of us struggle with today and that pride can often cause a person to hold back from calling out for help during these precious holiday times, even when we know that we need it.

Thought:

And so, we will buy things that we cannot afford and we will go to great lengths, to impress and in doing so, help to create an atmosphere of pressure, to hide our realities.

In this season we ought to be models of humility who show others that it’s ok to be real, by being open and honest about our own selves.

So take off the “I’ve got it all together mask”and be especially real if you have a need and be sensitive to the needs of others, this week

How can you model and project thankfulness and humility in the midst of an ungrateful and prideful world?

  1. Be a person who recognizes the blessings of God upon your life.

Luke 17:14-15 (NKJV)
14  So when He saw them,He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
15  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God.

Luke 17:15 (MSG)
15  One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God.

2 Timothy 3:2a-d (NKJV)
2  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful,

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)
18  In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Those of you who are bible readers are familiar with this passage from Luke 17:15

Note if you would please “A” portion of the passage where it says ONE OF THEM.

These ten men who were afflicted with this terrible disease called out the Jesus asking that he would havemercy on them.

The Lord kindly responds by simply giving them a command that they go and show themselves to the priest.

As they were going, as they were on their way, the scriptures records that they experienced a miraculous healing.

Jesus didn’t touch them. He didn’t anoint them with oil, but rather HE simply healed them with his word.

This must have been an incredible experience by the way and I can just imagine the scene that took place.

These lepers were used to seeing their fellow victims in a sad and gruesome state.

If you were a leper, parts of your face and body, had a look of disfigurement; your hands looked like they were melted and you often had open wounds.

All of a sudden, these men noticed that they were healed, YET the scripture says that only ONE of them, returned and gave glory to God.

 One of them realized, says the new living translation, but only one had enough sense to turn around and give God the praise.

Only one person recognized that he needed to stop thinking about himself and to start thinking about God.

Thought:

This is something we need to understand as we enter into this holiday season, which is marked by so much focus on me and mine.

We can model and project thankfulness in this ungrateful world by being people who recognize and celebrate and let others know about the blessings of God upon our lives.

Thought:

The holidays time to brag about our God.

This week is a time when we ought to give HIM credit for all the things he has done for us this year.

  • Be a person who recognizes and celebrates God.
  • Be a person who acknowledges and gives credit to God.

And when you do that, you’ll stand out, YES you may even appear to be weird to some folks.

For in today’s world, people don’t thank and celebrate God but rather they celebrate themselves.

Even during this time when folk tend to open up their wallets a little more, we still see the ugly specter of self-promotion.

Every good deed that is done does NOT need to be posted on line.

Don’t fall into the worldly mindset of self-promotion; don’t post your good deeds and put it on face book to see how many likes you get; instead promote and give credit and glory to God.

How can you model and project thankfulness and humility in the midst of an ungrateful and prideful world?

  1. Be a person who makes an effort to disengage from the busyness of your world, to give God thanks.

Luke 17:15-16 (NKJV)

15  And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,
16  and fell down on hisface at His feet, giving Him thanks.And he was a Samaritan.

2 Timothy 3:2a-b (MSG)
2a-b  As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, (and) money-hungry,

This third point speaks specifically to the self-absorbed and busy world that most of us live in.

I’ve been out of the corporate world for just over five years now, but I haven’t been out of the rat race for so long that I’ve forgotten what it is like to be a rat who is tied up in the race.

Here as we continue to break down the details of the story that is recorded in the scriptures, we see that theONE personwho returns to give God glory is further described as a Samaritan.

Again, I want you to remember that this story deals with a group of TEN men, who were at the bottom of society.

They were untouchable.

They were the outcast, they were considered unclean and therefore they were excluded from having contact with other people.

They were at the bottom, but even in their own group there was a pecking “order”

Even among the lepers there very likely was the leader or the alpha dog.

Then there was the smart guy and maybe even a jokester..but at the bottom of the social group was the Samarian.

He was considered an inferior to the Jews.

Under their breath the Jews may have referred to him as a half breed., who was ignorant of the one true God.

But here in the story the Samaritan is revealed as the only person who had sense enough to stop and give God thanks.

He was a Samaritan, he was at the bottom of the social ladder; the others were too self-absorbed in spite of their superior religious background, they didn’t recognize the need to STOP and give God thanks.

How can we model thankfulness during the thanksgiving season?

How can we communicate the much-needed message of humility and gratefulness in an unthankful and prideful world?

The answer is that we can and must slowdown and disengage from our “busyness”

Thought:

In the opening of the sermon, I shared with you that we are living in a world of ungrateful people.

Paul spoke of this reality as prophetic projection, when he warned his protégé Timothy of the end times to come.

He said and I quote” As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, (and) money-hungry,

This is certainly a spot-on description of the world we live in today.

We are so busy and so absorbed and focused on our jobs and careers, that we can fall into the same trap that plagues the unsaved world and fail to and give God thanks.

This is the time, when we ought to stand out, showing the world, that we are so grateful to God for what he has done for us, that we won’t get too busy working and acquiring and buying to put God at the top of our to do list.

It amazes me how folks get so busy that they forget God during Thanksgiving.

How can you model and project thankfulness and humility in the midst of an ungrateful and prideful world?

  1. Be “the one” who looks for ways to honor and give God praise.

Luke 17:17-18 (NKJV)

17  So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where arethe nine?
18  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”

Luke 17:18 (KJV)
18  There are not found that (who) returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

Psalm 29:2a (KJV)
2  Give unto the LORDthe glory due unto his name;

Psalm 96:9-10a (MSG)
9  Bow before the beauty of GOD, Then to your knees—everyone worship!
10a  Get out the message—GODRules!

This 4thpoint builds upon the previous one in which we talked about giving thanks, here however the focus is upon giving God thanks in the form of praise.

Jesus observes that there were TEN lepers who were cleansedbut there was only ONE, who was found praising.

Now notice what Jesus says here in Luke Chapter 17: 18 and I’ll paraphrase…he looks and says “where are the other folks?

Is this foreigner the only one that came back?

The KING JAME VERSON uses the word STRANGER

Thought:

The word stranger I believe more powerfully communicates, the spiritual position of the Samaritan, he was part of the group of lepers but he was a stranger.

He was outside of the covenants of God, he was a person who was without standing in terms of the commonwealth of Israel.

He didn’t have a relationship with God, he didn’t have the right pedigree, yet we was the “ONE” who went back looking for Jesusand who made an effort to SEE that God received the glory that was due him.

In other words, he didn’t just take his blessings for granted, but instead he made an effort to fall on his knees and to let God know that HE knew, that God RULES.

Thought:

That is the answer to the question that is posed by this sermon today and we must embrace this call as a personal challenge for us this Thanksgiving season.

  • We too were strangers without hope.
  • We too were outside of the family of God.

We did not have a relationship nor did we have even the right to call out to God…

  • But we were the ONES who were chosen.
  • We were the ONES who were called.

We were the ONES, who were the Samaritans and now having gained an understanding of this undeserved grace, we should be the ONES who are always looking for every opportunity to lift him high and give HIM praise.

How can you model and project thankfulness and humility in the midst of an ungrateful and prideful world?

5thand finally…

  1. Be a person who never forgets the blessings of God.

Luke 17:19 (NKJV)

19  And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Here in the closing words of Jesus, as recorded in Luke, the Lord addresses the Samaritan who came back to thank him and he says these words.. “Your faith has made you well.”

The King James says your faith had made you whole;this literally means that Jesus was saying your FAITH has saved you.

Think about that for a moment.

Those other nine men were cured of their leprosy, but this man was given something even more incredible.

Jesus was telling him, that he was cleansed not only of his leprous condition, but he was telling this man, that he was cleansed from his SINS.

In other words, Christ recognized that something different and unique had transpired, in the heart of this man, which was evidenced in HIS actions, that were not apparent in the lack of action and thankfulnesson the part of the other nine.

And this my brothers and sisters are keys that we want to embrace and celebrate with a loud sense of praise and worship, each and every day of this Thanksgiving season.

You see YOU…..Brothers and Sisters we have been the recipient’s of God’s incredible blessings, through faith.

It’s our faithin God’s great gift.

It’s our faithin God’s only begotten Son.

It’s our faithin the power of the resurrection and the risen LORD, that has made us whole

We musttell the world.

We mustproclaim HIS praises.

We must share the wonder and blessing of this incredible gift.

And we must without reservation, let the world know that we are a people who will never FORGET the blessings of our great God toward us.

  • That is the messagethat ought to ring out from your lives.
  • That is the messagethat should be communicated by you.
  • That is the messageof Thanksgiving to which we have been called.

AMEN.

CLOSE:

Today, we’ve shared a message about how to be a thankful person.

Those of us who are born again children of God have a lot to be thankful for.

We are thankful for the Lord’s blessings, but most of all we are thankful for the peace that comes with knowing Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.

You see every one of us here today is a candidate for death, but those who know Jesus Christ as Lord in the pardon of their sins, can rest peacefully in the reality that their names are written in the lamb’s book of life, because they’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives and now they are protected in HIM. 

On this Thanksgiving week Sunday, can you say that you have that peace?

Can you say with 100% certainty that if you died tonight that you’d open your eyes in the kingdom of heaven, because you are a born-again child of God?

Do you know that Jesus died to pay the price for your SINs and have you embrace that reality by placing your faith in HIM as Lord of your life.

Now if you can’t say YES to that question, but you want to change that, then today is the time to do that.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed…

 

 

 

 

 

The marks of a great minister

The Marks of A Great Minister

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper  Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Romans 15:14-16 (KJV)
14  And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
15  Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,
16  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

May the Lord add a Blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

In our last sermon taken from the epistle or letter written to the church at Rome, we talked about the marks of a strong fellowship.

In that sermon, we looked at what makes a strong fellowship and we compared and contrasted in certain places, some of the ideas and notions we have in our minds, versus, what Paul would identify as marks of strength.

In that sermon, we shared the importance of bearing the weaknesses of those who are weak.

And that was an interesting point because the main thought communicated there was that if you are strong in your faith, you ought not to spend time pointing at and criticizing others and just telling them to grow up and to get their act together; no the response should be to help those who are weak and to come along side of them and to encourage them.

In that message we also talked about the importance of a church being entirely committed to studying the scriptures.  And the challenge for us was to grow beyond simply being a church that was corporately committed to knowing the word, but to make that an individual commitment. To doing whatever we need to do whether it is a change in schedule or whether it means finding an on-line program or an “app” to help organize and structure our individual study, we must each as an “ I” thing commit to growing in the study of HIS word.

If you missed the sermon, I encourage you to go on-line to our you-tube channel and review it for yourself at www.mysccf.com

Today, we are going to start a two-part sermon in which we talk about the marks of a great Minister and we are going to look at the Apostle Paul as one who represents greatness in the ministry.

Now this sermon is going to have some key points of learning for two groups.

If you are a minster you can learn along with me, about the kinds of attributes and qualities that can make you and I more effective as ministers.

If you are a layperson you can learn to pray for your ministers and you can learn what kinds of things to pray for and encourage in your ministers, so that they can be more effective in serving you, God’s people.

If you understand that say AMEN.

So lets do that together this morning, let’s look at why Paul was such a great minister…..Five points and then we will wrap this up.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

  1. He was interested in people and he was gracious and down to earth.

Romans 15:14 (KJV)
14  And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

1 Corinthians 2:1-3 (NLT)
1  When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan.
2  For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.
3  I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.

Romans 16:3 (NLT)
3  Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:30 (NKJV)
30  Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me

I know that on some level this 1st point may be somewhat difficult to embrace and to identify with, but I am going to ask you to bear with me for a moment.

Notice if you would please the “a” portion of Romans 15:14 where it says “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my “brethren”

As bible readers and as those who study the teachings of Paul, you and I and understandably so might be inclined to think of Paul as a kind of super Apostle and the sort of person that we might be intimidated by, because of the powerful writings and teachings that we find here in the bible, which are attributed to Paul.

The Pauline epistles comprise 13 of the new testament books, so thinking of the Apostle Paul as some sort of super minister would be understandable.

But in this particular portion of the passage and in the confirming scriptures I’ve captured for you I want you to get a feel for Paul the person.

Throughout many of his writings, we see Paul addressing his fellow believers as “brothers and co-workers in the ministry”.

Here as he writes to the church at ROME, he does not present himself in a way that speaks to and promotes his spiritual superiority and knowledge, but instead he treats them as equals before God, calling them brothers, rather than little children or sons or daughters.

When he writes the various churches he calls out various people by name and he acknowledges them as true partners and co-workers.

In Romans chapter 16 starting in verse # 3, there are a litany of names: he mentions Priscilla and Aquila, and Mary and Junia and Urbanus, Stachuys, and Herodiun, Peris and Rufas…so many names, too many to detail here.

But watch this. Paul knew them by name and even though he was gifted in terms of Apostolic revelation., Paul was able to connect with people and he was very down to earth and relatable.

Now don’t get me wrong. When Paul needed to confront, he could bring it, but in terms of his approachability he didn’t present himself as being anything more than another brother, who just happened to have a special calling on his life.

He had a special calling on his life for sure but that calling did not give Paul a big head and make him too big to deal with others as “brothers and sisters” in Christ.

He was gracious when it came to dealing with people, we see that in terms of the way that he approached and spoke to others.

We also see that Paul was gracious and down to earth when it came to acknowledging the gifts of others.

Looking again at Romans chapter 15:14 the “B” portion where it says “my brethren, ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

Paul commends and recognizes the admirable qualities of goodness and peace and virtue that are a part of the lay members of the church.

He understood that there were gifts and blessings that were resident within the people of God and as a servant of great humility, he did not feel that is necessary to present himself as being the only person who could teach and encourage and admonish.

This was Paul, tough as nails when he had to be, but gentle and lowly and approachable just like any other brother in Christ.

Thought:

This is a key learning for those in the ministerial staff and there is a key learning for those in the general congregation as well.

So, let’s start with the ministers.

As ministers we must make-an-effort and we must strive to avoid becoming so high and lifted up in our ministerial positions, that we become unapproachable.

The pulpit is a powerful place of preaching and teaching and when you stand in that place there is an awesome responsibility AND it is a position that is looked up to as powerful.

But as preachers and teachers we should never get so big and important and bloated, that we become unapproachable and un-relatable to as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Pastor Amos Hamilton, the Pastor of Macedonia Church of God in Christ, over in Val Verde, gave me a key piece of advice that has stuck in my mind and here is what he said, Don’t forget that you are “brother” Julius Harper, who happens to be a Pastor.

In other words he was telling me, that OH yes you’ve been called to a position but don’t forget that you are just a brother in Christ, just like everyone else, you just happen to have the position of Senior Pastor.

Bishop Hamilton was giving me and us as ministers a word of caution, that we must never get (as my mother would say) too big for your britches.

Now here is the application for the lay congregant.

Gentleness and approachability are a good qualities in a ministerial leader, but sometimes some folks mistake that “for being weak”

I believe that many preachers start off just trying to gently serve, but they will quickly learn that folk don’t often know how to respect that and so ministers may separate themselves and avoid being too approachable.

It’s almost like what happens in the work place, if you have a boss, that is too friendly or too approachable, “Bob” is a “nice guy” so the employees start coming late and talking back to the boss.

But get a knuckled head boss that doesn’t look up when you come his desk and who treats folks like employees rather than a co-worker, that is the kind of boss people will respect.

Congregants, must encourage the right qualities in their ministers and react positively to those characteristics that will make for a close and relatable relationship; the relationship that should and must be a part of a minister’s life.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

2.    He was fearless and relentless when it came to reminding people about God’s grace and truth.

Romans 15:15 (KJV)
15  Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God,

Romans 15:15-16a (NLT)
15  Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace,
16  I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles.

2 Corinthians 4:1 (NLT)
1  Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (KJV)
18  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Here in this second point, we consider and examine Paul’s dedication and commitment to teaching and sharing and reminding the people of God, about God’s incredible grace.

For the sake of time, we won’t go into great detail, but I want you to consider for a moment if you please, some of the incredible truths that Paul has shared with us in this letter to the church at ROME.

I’ve been through the bible several times, but in this study, something was different.

Paul has taken us though some incredible topics and he has boldly proclaimed and explained in great detail the good news.

Paul bodily explained that a person is saved by faith in Jesus Christ and why that is important.

He showed the wonderful truth about the grace of God, not just using his opinions or wise arguments or by a crafty presentation; but he explained it and backed it up with scripture.

Paul boldly and powerfully blew away the idea of human pride and works, as having anything to do with one’s salvation.

He was relentless in his dedication to letting folks know, God’s incredible plan of salvation that came to us, by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He was fearless, when it came to preaching the message of the cross, because he believed and was totally persuaded, that the preaching of the cross was the power of God unto salvation.

Paul was bold because he understood, that God had given him a GIFT, NOT so that he could sell DVD’s or books, but it was given as a gift, to be shared as manna from heaven, for us.

Thought:

This again on some level is a stinging indictment that speaks to the reality of the merchandising of the gospel, that has taken place in the modern church world of today.

People are so quick to write a book or develop a kit that they can market or sell.

It’s embarrassing to see folks on TV hawking their merchandise as though it was some sort of Ginsu knife.

Paul was not motivated by that.

He was a great minister, because he understood that he had life changing truth that was able to transform the lives of people.

For me as a minister of God’s word, I am reminded that when we stand before God’s people we must be fearless and relentless when it comes to preaching the power of the cross and the wonder of God’s plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

We must be relentless and we must resist the pressure to come up with something “new”

There is no need to repackage and update the love and grace of God for it is the most powerful message that a person can hear.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because….., thirdly

3.  He saw himself as an instrument of the Lord, whose sole purpose was to bring men to God.

Romans 15:16 (KJV)
16  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.

Acts 9:15 (NLT)
15  But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel.

Acts 13:2 (NKJV)
2  As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

1 Corinthians 1:17-18 (NKJV)
17  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.
18  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

In this 3rd point we read in our main defining passage from Romans 15:16 that Paul identified himself as a Minister of Jesus Christ.

This word minister is the Greek word, that is often used to refer to the priest of the old-testament.

Paul saw his calling and appointment as a minister, to be one in which he would function in a priestly role, but not in the old-testament model of a priest who offered sacrifices.

Paul’s role and purpose and passion were to bring the gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to people.

He was to share the word and preach the gospel, so that men and women, boys and girls might be brought to God and offered as living sacrifices, who would become holy and acceptable to God.

He didn’t see himself as a big shot who was making a name for himself but rather he saw himself as a conduit; as a mechanism and as a chosen instrument to bring PEOPLE into the kingdom.

Thought:

This is what being in the ministry is all about.

It isn’t to have a title. It isn’t about having people stand up and give you the preferred seat.

It isn’t about building an impressive building; it isn’t about how many folks “you run” on Sunday morning, it is about presenting LIVES to God as an offering.

Thought:

Now again, we can pause here for a moment and ask the question, that some of you may be thinking about at this very moment and that is….what does this have to do with me.

I’m not a preacher, I’m not a minister, I am not a Pastor or even a teacher, so what does this have to do with me?

Well, I’m glad you asked…

You see, this point is relevant to you because even if you are not a preacher or not a Pastor or not in the teaching ministry, you as a believing child of God, should know what to pray for and what to encourage, in terms of spiritual and ministerial fruitfulness in the lives of those who serve and operate as ministers in the church.

In other words, this is important to you as a congregant, so that you know what to pray for as you ask the Lord to bless your ministerial staff.

Imagine the power and the effectiveness of your prayers, if you were able to pray in line with the purpose and plan and will of God.

Pray for your minister and ask the LORD help your minister to be a conduit of the word who is so FULL of the very presence of the HOLY GHOST, that he or she flows in that anointing every time he stands to preach the gospel.

Pray for the power of the HOLY SPRIRIT to flow through that preacher so that souls would be saved, folks would be brought to the cross, and names would be added to the lamb’s book of life.

Thought:

Now I am going to pause here for a moment and tell you, PLAINLY that this is what I need.

There are some things that fall naturally within the scope of what I am good at, due to areas that God has gifted me in naturally, because of the way that I’m wired.

I’m good at the organizing and making the vision plans and handling ideas and programs, God gave me those gifts and I used those gifts professionally in the work place and I use those gifts at home and in many parts of the church organization.

But what I really need is that anointing, that very special enablement from God that allows a person like me who has no formal training in the ministry, to function and flow at a level that is way beyond my capabilities.

I need you to pray, we all need you to pray for all of us that are in the work of the ministry, that we might be laser focused on our primary mission and that is to be instruments of the Lord whose sole purpose is to bring men to God, who are full of and anointed by the Holy Spirit of God.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

4.   He focused on glorifying Jesus Christ and not himself.

Romans 15:17-18 (KJV)
17  I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.
18  For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,

Romans 15:18 (NLT)
18  Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them.

Romans 15:19 (KJV)
19  Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

James 4:10 (NKJV)
10  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Paul was a great minister because he was not interested in making a name for himself, but rather he was interested in bringing glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.

Thought:

Paul of course had many reasons why he could brag. In today’s world we have some truly gifted and impressive preachers and teachers of God’s word.

The bible scholars who write these impressive commentaries and resources, for which I am glad because I take advantage of these tools and resources most assuredly.

The people like the late Billy Graham who could preach to a stadium full of folks and share the gospel with such power that hundreds of people would stream down the isle and come to Christ.

The Charles Sturgnes and J. Veron McGees and the Matthew Henry’s of this world were tremendous ministers, but none of them could hold a candle to the tremendous gifts and ministry and accomplishments of the Apostle Paul who wrote 13 letters in the New Testament.

In fact Paul was so gifted with revelation knowledge that God, gave him a check in his physical body to make sure that he didn’t get a big head…

Paul could brag, but as one who was truly great in terms of his ministry, he had no interest in tooting his own horn.

That is why Paul would say I dare not speak about anything except what Christ has wrought though me.

The Apostle Paul was a great minister 5th and finally because…..

5.   He worked hard to break new territory for Christ.

Romans 15:20-21 (KJV)
20  Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:
21  But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

Romans 15:20 (NLT)
20  My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else.

Psalm 96:3 (KJV)
3  Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV)
19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Paul in his work as a minister worked hard to break new ground and reach new people for Christ.

This is a mark of excellence; this is the mark of a truly great minister.

We in the modern church need to change our mindset and we need to develop an ambition to see that the life changing good news gets in front the unchurched and the unsaved.

Thought:

You may or may not be aware of the trends that are happening within the modern church, the shocking statistics and the unpleasant realities, that define so many churches across this nation.

Thom Ranier, who is a well-known church consultant and researcher estimated in a 2013 article that between 8,000 and 10,000 churches will likely close in one year.

Some might blame it on the growth of the mega church and in some cases that might be true.

Fact of the matter is that some folks are going to run to the latest and newest no matter what.

But the real problem is that the church isn’t reaching the unchurched; the real problem is that we are not breaking new ground.

Preachers and teachers and church members who love God and are committed to HIM are settling for reaching the “low-hanging-fruit

Now some of you don’t know that that means, so let me make it clear; the low hanging fruit is the fruit we don’t have to work too hard to get; it’s folk who go to another church already.

That is NOT breaking NEW ground, that is reaching for the low hanging fruit.

And this is what we need to change; this is what we need to work on as ministers and congregants and believers who know the living Lord of heaven.

We need to stir ourselves up and to develop a passion to breaking new ground for Christ and the gospel.

And make no doubt about it my friends; the fields are white.

85% of the folks in this valley are NOT at church on any given SUNDAY.

Some of them use to go to church and have fallen away, some of them have taken to chilling out and watching on line or TV instead of going to church but most of them are unsaved and know nothing about their need for salvation.

They are dying and on their way to HELL, because the gospel was not carried to them.

Our hearts desire and our burning passion should not just be to have a successful ministry that does “church” well.

But rather it should be to take the resources of THIS church and the gifts that God has allocated to you and to take the good news out of the church to those who have never heard, so that they can see and believe and understand the good news.

A minister and the ministry need to be about that for sure…

AMEN.

Give the Lord a HAND of praise:

Today, we’ve learned a bit about that marks of a great minister, as seen in the life of Paul.

The model that he sets is a model for all of us, because his entire life was devoted to sharing the good news of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is why we are here today, to share the gospel,

You may be seated here today or connected electronically AND you have never heard the gospel, or have heard it and not accepted it.

So I’m going to give it to you in quick burst of info.

Every person born on this earth is born a sinner and he or she is destined for eternal separation from God, because of Sin.

It doesn’t matter how good you may think you are, because no person is perfect, no not one.

This situation that we are born into is one that we cannot reconcile ourselves; we can’t be good enough AND we can’t do enough good things to solve this problem.

But God loved us so much, that he sent HIS only begotten SON Jesus Christ to deal with and handle the issue.

And here is how he handled it.

He suffered bled and died a death for all of us; even though he never sinned, he became sin for us and took our sins upon himself and paid the price for your sins with his life.

John 3:16 said that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish but have ever lasting life.

That was God’s gift to us, because he loved us.

Now it’s up to us to embrace the gift and accept it?

That is how you get born again, that is how you appropriate the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

That is how you come into his family, by placing your faith and trust and life in him, by faith.

While all eyes are closed heads are bowed and Christians are praying, we want to give you an opportunity to do just that.

Click here to view the service and sermon on-line 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNION

 

 

What makes a strong fellowship ?

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

What makes a strong FELLOWSHIP ?

Romans 15:1-7 (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2  Let each of us please hisneighbor for hisgood, leading to edification.
3  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”
4  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
5  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,
6  that you may with one mind andone mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

We are continuing and building upon our previous studies through the letter or Epistle written to the church at Rome.

In our last two sermons from this letter, we looked at and spoke about some practical tools that would enable us to function and flow together in the exercise of our Christian liberty.

Now the purpose of those two sermons, was the help us understand how we as a local church of committed believers can learn to flow in harmony with each other, and to enjoy the blessings of being together as a part of God’s born-again family.

If you missed the teachings I strongly advise you to catch up on those on our you-tube channel, which you can find linked into our website at www.mysccf.com

Today the sermon is entitled “What Makes a Strong Fellowship”

For the past seven months, we’ve been running an advertising campaign on local cable television and on-line, in which we as a church organization have endeavored to communicate some of the special features of this fellowship and this church.

We are proud to be a part of Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship and I am not ashamed to say that.

We are not a perfect church by any means, but I along with most of you like to believe that we are a good church and a strong church for Jesus Christ.

And don’t get me wrong. We understand that there are many great churches in this valley, we don’t have a monopoly on the gospel and there are many places that you can visit today, where the word is being preached and souls are being led to Christ.

But we like to believe that we have something unique; Like there TV series CHEERS, We are a church, we are a fellowship of believers where everyone knows your name.

Now of course, that introduction was really just a set-up, just a thought starter if you please to get your attention and to get you thinking about the study that we are going to explore.

From Romans chapter 15, Paul presents a challenging teaching regarding what it actually means to be a GOOD fellowship.

If Paul were to be a guest here today, what would he say to us about this church?

Might he tell us plainly that being a strong fellowship really doesn’t have anything to do with how friendly the church is, or how nice the sanctuary is, OR even how wonderful the praise and worship teams may be.

Paul I believe would say that those things are great, but in order to be a REALLY STRONG FELLOWSHIP, the church and the members of the church must exhibit the marks of strength, as noted here in Paul’s teaching.

So that is what we are going do this morning, we are going to explore and learn about What makes a Strong Fellowship.

If you are ready to learn about that say AMEN,,

A strong church is a fellowship where……..

  1. Everyone who is strong “bears” the weaknesses of those who are weak.

Romans 15:1-3a (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2  Let each of us please hisneighbor for hisgood, leading to edification.
3  For even Christ did not please Himself

Romans 15:2 (MSG)
2  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

Romans 15:2 (NLT)
2  We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

Galatians 6:2 (HCSB)
2  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

A strong church is a fellowshipwhere those who are stronger bear the weaknessesof those who are still learning and progressing and growing in their faith walk.

Remember now the context in which Paul is giving this teaching.

Last week we were shared a teaching about how to manage your Christian liberty.

Paul was dealing with those in the early church who were considered “weaker” in their faith, because they still struggled with legalism.

And Paul cautioned those who had progressed beyond that point, that they were to be careful, when it came to exhibiting their liberty and instead of focusing on showing off and letting everyone know how free they were, by drinking or eating the kinds of food that made the weak person freak out, instead those who were stronger should restrain themselves so as not to cause another brother or sister to stumble.

We got into that deeply and talked about the factthat you could apply that principles to an entire series of behaviors that we as Christians have the freedom to engage in.

This covered the gambit of what we often find to be points of contention regarding what you drink, where you go socially, how you dress….you fill in the blank.

So, we then who are strong, the scripture would pick up and say; ought to bear in and share with and uplift those who are weak.

Not just looking at the person who is struggling and shouting out, you are grown, take care of your business Bro..

But bearing the weaknesses of others….let that sink in for a moment.

Thought:

To bear withmeans to carry a burden that is not yours.

To bear withmeans to come alongside the person and walk with AND be willing to and support them in the thing they may be struggling with, with a gentleness and care and concern.

Thought:

Now when I first did this study, my reaction was WOW, Lord you really know how to hit us where it hurts.

You see many times, as Christians we are good for watching a personstruggle.

Maybe we will give them “a word” by quoting a scripture or lecturing them about how to get their act together, but rarely will we step in and help.

But the word of God says, I’ve called you not just to pontificate but I’ve called you to help them do what is right, to build them up in the Lord by helping them as you share their load.

I’ve called those who are mature to have an attitude that does not simply look and notice weakness, but responds to it, by asking HOW CAN I HELP?

Thought:

That is what we ought to be doing for each other, bearing with and encouraging one another; that is the MARK OF A STRONG FELLOWSHIP.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone studies the scriptures.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV)
4  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)
15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16 (MSG)
16  Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.

Here in this second point, we look to the passage and teaching of Paul and we embrace the straight-forwardness of the truth spoken here.

When we introduce Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship and we talk about the personality of the ministry, we proudly say we are a bible believing and a bible teaching church.

Paul raises the bar and he confronts us with the reality that we just may not be, that strong.

Here the scripture challenges us to embrace a higher standard, in that the marks of a strong fellowship are that EVERYONEstudies the scriptures.

Now clearly that is a very high standard; because you can have 100 people who are members of a given church and if only one doesn’t study and read the word of God on a regular basis, then you’ve missed it.

Now we as a church could react to this second point by saying “well no church is a strong fellowship” because you are never going to get everyone to study the scriptures.

We could do that, but we are not going to simply take the easy way out.

The honest way to react to this challenge is to embrace the standard AND to take it on…..personally.

In other words, YOU make the fellowship strong by personally studying and committing yourself to growing in HIS word.

You do it yourself.

You commit yourself to growing in and studying HIS word because YOU believe in your heart that every part of scripture is GOD-Breathed and useful.

Thought:

I’ve heard it said and it is an often repeated compliant in today’s modern church world, that many folks complain that a lot of the bible is not relevant.

Folks will say “I don’t feel that this means anything for me”

Truth of the matter is that when you really get into the word you’ll find that most of what is written in here a guide book to show YOU “how to NOT mess up your life”

All of the stories about Israel. All of the stories about David and Sampson, were put there for our learning and for our instruction, to expose our rebellion, to correct our mistakes and to train us HOW to live God’s way.

THIS BOOK was written FOR US, so that we might receive encouragement and comfort and guidance and peace.

At the end of the day a person must be convinced in their OWN heart, that I need this for myself. 

It’s got to become an “I” thing. 

I’ve got to make time in my schedule even though I am busy.

I’ve got to find an on-line study and commit to going through it even though I am tired from a long day at the office.

I can get an app on my phone and listen to that on my way to work instead of listening to 102 point something.

I’ve got to make it a priorityand put on the whole armor of God, that I may be able to withstandthe onslaught of the enemy’s daily attack upon my heart and my mind and my flesh.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone works and strives for harmony.

Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)
5  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,
6  that you may with one mind andone mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5 (NLT)
5  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:6 (MSG)
6  Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Philippians 2:2 (NLT)
2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

A strong fellowship is a church where everyone strives for harmony.

In this 3rdpoint we use the word harmony because it so richly communicates the idea and picture that God has in mind, when it comes to HIS church.

Harmony, by the way, may not be a word that you are operationally familiar with, unless you are musically orientated.

The folks in the praise team know all about harmony and we talked about that last week.

When a set of singers is singing in harmony, they are not all singing the same note, but they are singing in a way that communicates a musical rapport, which results in a sound that produce a melodious experience that is unique and fragrant.

When I talk about harmony, I am talking people being of one heart and mind and ONE focus.

A strong fellowship is a church where despite the presence of differing styles and backgrounds and personalities every one of the members are striving for harmony.

And that takes work.

That takes DRIVE.

That takes having a commitment, to making every effort, to go for it with everything you have, so that the body of Christ will be a choir not in voices only, but in our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus.

It is a high and lofty standard for sure so we must aim for it; we must struggle, we must contend to be of one mind and one heart and one mouth, that we might glorify God.

And that takes work.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone accepts one another and there is no discrimination.

Romans 15:7 (NKJV)

7  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Romans 15:7,11 (MSG)
7  So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!
11  And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise!

Galatians 3:28 (MSG)
28  In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.

A strong fellowship is a church were all Christians are welcomed on the basis of our common relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.

In this 4thpoint the focus that we really want to explore together has to do with the church being the kind of church, that expresses an atmosphere of receptivity and acceptance.

A strong fellowship is a church where everyone actively acceptspeople and works hard at doing that, no matter what their differences may be.

In a truly strong fellowship, each person has to work at being receptive.

Being receptive is different than merely being tolerant.

It’s different than NOT BEING critical and just NOT saying anything.

Being receptive means to proactively reach out and to take a person to yourself and to treat that fellow believers as though each of them is your BFF.

It goes beyond just being known as a friendly church.

It includes reaching out and welcoming each other, without any kind of discrimination on the basis of race, color, class, religious background or level of spiritual maturity of lack there of; it is reaching out and embracing EVERYONE, just as Christ reached out to each of you.

That is the standard, that is the mark of a strong fellowship and when we find ourselves being drawn to reluctance, or timidity or even laziness, we must stir up the gift of God and the reality of the living Christ in our livesto motivate us to press forward.

Truth be told that it isn’t easy to be accepting of others, for sometimes when you reach out and extend yourself, you’ll be met with cold indifference, or downright rejection.

But you keep reaching out.

You keep on being proactive and treating everyone with that tender loving openness and embrace.

For the same Lord, who pursued you, when you gave him the cold shoulder, is the same Lord who kept on treating you like his most precious Son or Daughter, even when you rejected HIM, he still patiently kept his arms open wide.

A strong church is a fellowship where 5thand finally…..

  1. Everyone one is filled with hope.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
13  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 12:32 (KJV)
32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all menunto me.

A strong church is a church whose hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

When this church was first organized by Rev. Robert T. Charles the founding Pastor of this ministry, he coined that scripture from John 12:32 as the theme scripture that would guide and be the focus on this ministry, some 22 year ago.

There is a peace and confidence in knowing that our HOPE and trust is in Jesus Christ alone.

Paul in this teaching is actually presenting this portion of his letter as a prayer, for apart from God and the work of Jesus Christ HIS only begotten SON, the church without Christ is at best nothing more than a social club.

A strong church knows that it’s hope is built on NOTHING less, than Jesus blood and righteousness.

A strong church knows,that it is UPON the solid of Rock of Christ Jesus that we must stand, for all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus paid it all and all to him we owe.

A Strong church as a fellowship where everyone is FILLED with this truth and believes it with all their hearts.

This is what we have in common, my Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship Family; this common faith and HOPE and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

This is why we are in business; this is why we exist, this is why we come together in prayer praise and worship to share the truth of our great HOPE and FAITH in Christ.

AMEN.

CLOSE:

Today you may be here with us physically or connected electronically on-line on TV or via the podcast…

You may be outside of the family of God, but you don’t have to stay that way.

You can come into this blessed HOPE and into a relationship of peace with God through HIS Son and the power of the HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.

You can have peace with God the Father, by placing your faith in Jesus the Christ, who suffered, bled died and rose again to wash away your sins.

You can confess HIM with you mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead AND today, you can be saved and born again into his family.

WHILE ALL EYES ARE CLOSED AND HEADS ARE BOWED…

Click here to view the full service and sermon.

Managing our Christian Liberty P2

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor

Managing our Christian Liberty Part II

Romans 14:1-4 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
4  Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT)
23  You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
24  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

We are continuing our on-going studies through the epistle written to the church at ROME, covering another set of very practical and relevant teachings which will greatly help us as Christians in terms of the operational realities of our day-to-day walk in life.

If you were here on the first Sunday of this month, you’ll recall that we delivered part 1 of this important teaching having to do with the concept of Christian liberty and how we as believers within the body of Christ and particularly within this fellowship, ought to exercise our Christian liberty in a way that honors God.

Christian liberty is at its essence, the freedom to live for Christand to present our selves in a way that speaks to the death of living for ourselves.

We are liberated because we have become slaves to righteousness, liberated in the freedom to serve our new Master, Jesus Christ the Lord.

But the truth is that Christian liberty and the ways we relate to it, are often a point of tension effecting the Christian church in general AND a point of tension that effects our day-to-day walk as believers.

Now that you are free, how do you exercise that freedom in a way that does not get you into trouble and benefits your fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ?

Now that you are free to listen to any kind of music you want, now that you are liberated from having to live by the strict teachings of the law, does this “freedom” present a new set of dangers for you AND how do you exercise those freedoms in ways that are responsible and beneficial to others within the body of Christ.

We are free indeed, but that freedom is not a license to lawlessness, nor does it give us the right to live in such a way as to violate the commandments of God.

So, in our last sermon we talked about some practical things.

We talked about the importance of accepting each other.

Just because you are free and you now you have embraced that freedom, it doesn’t give you or I the right to reject and criticize the weaker Brother or Sister who still needs the reassurance of rules and regulations to make themselves feel comfortable.

Those who are strong ought to bear with and support the weaker folks, rather than being critical or calling people legalist and Pharisees.

In order to honor God and to build up the fellowship, the first concern among believers in terms of exercising our liberty, is not simply the serving of ourselves, but rather we ought to embrace the reality that each of us will answer to the Lord.

That is what we talked about in our last sermon and if you missed that, please be sure and check it out on line at http://www.mysccf.com

AMEN.

Today we are going to talk more about how you as a Christian can exercise your liberty in a way that strengthens the fellowship and honors God.

As Christians we have a lot of freedom.

We are not living under the law, but as we read from the scriptures, not everything is good for you.

The main motivating factor in the exercise of our liberty is not merelycan I do or be involved in thisbut instead our thoughts should revolve around two questions.

And those questions should be A: will this reflect well on the nameof the Lordand “B” will this help, or hurt my brothers and or sisters in Christ.

So let’s look to the Lord’s word for direction on that question…

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

  1. By refusing to make choices (in your lifestyle and liberty) that cause another Brother or Sister to stumble.

Romans 14:13b (NLT)
13b  Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

1 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV)
9  But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling blockto those who are weak.

Romans 14:14-15 (NKJV)
14  I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there isnothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it isun-clean.
15  Yet if your brother is grieved because of yourfood, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

We begin this first point addressing what is a major issue of relevance in the church today and that is the issue and challenge of the exercising of our freedoms in a way that does not harm or injure others.

Paul here gives this teaching and he uses an issue that was happening in the early church, having to do with conflicting practices and beliefs and ideas that revolved around the issue of food.

You see there were believers within church at ROME, who came from various backgrounds.

Some who were Jewish and therefore had certain rules and regulations about what kinds of things you could eat.

Some were from pagan backgrounds who knew that they would sell meat at the market, which had been used in pagan worship services.

And then there were those who were opposed to the consumption of wine.

These issues were not core issues related to one’s salvation, but they were never-the-less causing problems within the early church.

For example, in the ancient church world, you might have newly converted believers who use to be members of the pagan templedown the street before they got saved.

Such persons would get savedand they would start attending the first Christian fellowship.

And during the week they would see members of the fellowship down at Albertsons “exercising their “liberty” by buying and eating meat that was offered to idols…

AND by the way they were free to do that; because a lamb chop is a lamb chop and an idol has no power anyway, but a good price is a good price.

Now remember and get this straight.

The newly converted believer, who use to be a member of the idol worshipping temple, would be invited for dinner at the house ofSister first Christian Fellowship who  bought that lamb chop on sale at AlbertsonsBUT the newly converted person because of her background as a former idol worshipper would be convicted within herself,because her faith had not yet grown to the point of being free from feeling like that.

This is an example of what Paul is addressing here.

This is what is being communicated as Paul lays out the answer to the question as to how we as Christians are to exercise our liberty” in a way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship.

The answer is that we are to refuse to make choices (in the exercise of our liberty) that cause another brother or sister to STUMBLE.

Thought:

The word stumble is an interesting word.

The King James Version uses the term STUMBLING BLOCK.

Words that come to mind when you hear the term stumbling block would include words like obstacle, snag, trap, hurdle or impediment.

We have been given LIBERTY, not in terms of operating in sinful things that God clearly teaches are against his word;

We are talking about things like, eating choices, what you wear, whether or not you choose to consume certain beverages.

AND the scriptural standard is this.

Rather than looking to please ourselves.

Rather than boasting in the freedom of our liberty.

Rather than defiantly declaring, I’m not going to change what I wear, or where I go or what I listen too because this is the wayI am, rather than living to please ourselves, we ought to be guarding against, doing anything that would cause a brother or sister in Christ, to stumble.

Thought:

Now I know that this is a heavy-duty teaching that challenges us greatly, but if we embraced this challenge as a demonstration of love, this would transform and impact everything we do.

You see, the issue of whether you eat or drink is pretty simple, because nothing is unclean in and of itself.

What you eat or drink goes ONE way and out the other.

I can go to that event or place or gathering as long as I don’t do anything while I am there, to expose my mind and or body to what is harmful to this temple of the Lord or his name and reputation because I am always representing HIM.

What I wear on my body and how I wear it, has nothing to do with the amount of love I have in my heart for the Lord, this shirt or this tie isn’t going to take anything off of my salvation.

No plant or animal or the eating thereof can change or take away from my forgiven status in Christ who died for ME and cleansed me from unrighteousness.

But if I love my brother.

If I love my Sister and I compare their value, with X…, there should be no contestin terms of what I do or chose because, my brother or sister is worth more to me than “X”

The beverage whatever it may be, is something which I can have and it is completely within my rights as a liberated child of God, but if the brother used to struggle alcohol and I love him, more than my need to display my freedom to have a glass of wine……then my brother…takes priority, so I’ll just order a soft drink.

This same concept applies to how we dress and present ourselves in the church.

Sister you could say YES God gave me a body that won’t quit and I thank God for it.

Lord knows I can make this dress work and all of the Sisters will be admiring me, but the brothers(I know they shouldn’t be looking) might stumble, because I know that men are visual and they are doing everything they can to keep their eyes on God and worship him, so I’ll tone it down, IN LOVE.

This same concept applies to our various social activities and other choices.

Brother so and so has a problem with his health, so I am not going to keep bringing in my peach cobbler, I’m not going to keep inviting him to the fish market for that fried catfish, I’ll bring in some celery and eat that even though I have the liberty and freedom to stuff my face…

You get my point.

God says, don’t destroy your brother over a piece of meat and make no mistake about this my friends for God will hold us accountable.

So before you chose to do ‘X” think about that.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

2. By giving no occasion to “let your good” be evil spoken of.

Romans 14:16-17 (NKJV)
16  Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;
17  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 (NKJV)
1  A good name isbetter than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth;

In point number one we talked about the reality of choosing and the options we have in terms of our social and lifestyle expressions.

Here in this second point we are going to build upon that conversation a bit, but we are going to focus on the importance and the responsibility of exercising your liberty in a way that protects the name of the Lord and builds up the fellowship of all believers.

Thought:

One of the challenges and dangers of Liberty is that it can be abused.

More than likely many of you know about the dangers of liberty by reason of your own personal experience.

I know of a young man who was 26 years old attending a work-related party, early in his professional career.

He had been saved for about three or four years. He knew Jesus as savior his life and this young man exercised his newly found liberty by getting hammered for the first and only time in his life.

He thought that he was free to do tequila shooters. The next thing he knew he was hugging a toilet bowl.

It sounds funny thinking about this visual now, but I can almost guarantee that more than just a few of my esteemed brothers and sisters may have had the same sort of foolish activities go on in your life under the cover of being free to exercise your liberty.

As believers we exercise our Christian liberty, by giving no occasion to let “your good Christian” name to be evil spoken of.

We are to exercise our liberty not only in a way that does not cause another brother or sister to stumble, but we must also restrain ourselves from operating in a way that gives others an occasion to criticize or bad mouth us because the name of Christ is on the line too.

You and I are free.

We’ve been liberated. The due bill has been paid. The work of salvation was finished on the cross and accepted by God who raised Jesus from the dead.

Our salvation isn’t based on following a list of do’s and don’ts, we have come into this undeserved position of grace and favor and acceptance with God.

And because of that, our main concern is to SERVE Christ and to exercise our liberty in a way that is acceptable and pleasing to HIM.

It’s the kingdom of God and not eating or drinking, or socializing or enjoying ourselves, that must be the burning focus and desire of our lives.

And to protect that sanctity of that, we must be careful to never conduct ourselves in a way that brings dishonor and doubt and confusion on the name of Christ.

Thought:

I can tell you personally that for me, this is something that resonates with me as a Christian and as a Pastor of the Lord’s church.

There are a whole lot of things that I can doand that I would love to do.

But I can’t do it.

If the engagement in or attendance to an activity whatever it may be, is going to put a wrinkle in my reputation and ultimately may cause or give occasion for someone to criticize the blessed position that the Lord has given me; if it’s a choice between defiantly boasting in my God given libertyand putting the office of the senior Pastor in a position where my behavior brings shame on the name of the Lord and my fellow believers……the choice is that I chose is to pass on the exercise of the area of liberty, even though I have the right to engage in or do this or that.

I am free but I have a bigger issue to think about.

Thought:

Now I am sure that most of you agree with that and YOU are happy to shake your head in agreement because I am talking to you as the Pastor.

But let’s go back 34 years earlier in the life of this young man, before he was a preacher or minister.

Let’s go back to that party in which I told you, that the young man was was huddled around that toilet puking his guts out.

People at that party knew that he was a Christian.

He was saved just like you, he had liberty just like you and yet he caused the name of the Lord to be blasphemed and spoken ill of, just like many of you do today, by the choices you make as you exercise your freedom.

One of the challenges and dangers of our Christian liberty is that it can be abused.

You as a child of God need to avoid doing things that can cause your name to be spoken evil of.

You need to be cognizant of the unsaved world in which you live, because the world is looking at you and what your life says about the Christ you represent.

Think about that girlfriend, think about that Bro.

Don’t let the good that you have been blessed with, be exercised in a way, that allows justifiable criticism.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship ?

3. By making choices which edify others and make for peace.

Romans 14:19-20 (NLT)
19  So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
20  Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.

Romans 12:18 (NKJV)
18  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Romans 12:18 (MSG)
18  If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
29  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Moving into this 3rdpoint, we can begin to see a pattern and a theme emerge, as the apostle Paul in his teaching, sort of restates and revisits and combines his various thoughts into more practical and relatable ideas.

In point numberone we talked about how a believer is to manage himself in terms of the exercise of liberty and to do so by choosing to avoid doing things that would cause another brother or sister to stumble.

In point numbertwo we talked about the responsibility we have in terms of managing your personal witness and how that can be impactful when it comes to affecting those within the saved and the unsaved world.

You don’t want to do things or give ammunition to those who would be critical and make no mistake about it, there are people watching for good and bad reasons.

This third point is in many ways duplicative of some of the thoughts we’ve just shared, but the focus here is on the issue and the need to make choices, within the context of exercising your liberty, that edify and work towards harmony.

Everyone say that word Harmony:

Thought:

Harmony of course is a term that is most associated with music, but in the context of a fellowship, it is a more powerful concept and one that we ought to embrace and place as a focal point, when it comes to the exercise of our liberty.

For example; if all of the praise and worship team sings the song exactly the same notes, it would correspond and be understood, but because they are all singing the same melody it would not be harmony.

There would be sameness, but what you would hear would not have the peaceful melodious tones that come from the ONE THREE and FIVE notes, that are produced when the three notes are combined to form harmony.

And when that harmony is heard, the combined product edifies, uplifts and improves the experience of the music for both for the singer and the listener.

In other words, a dynamic is released in which the entire group is elevated and built up in a way that would not be possible, without the intentional efforts of each person to sing their part.

So when it comes to exercising our personal liberty, the motivating factor should be our intentional effort to flow in the freedom that the Lord has given us, IN a WAY that bring peace and harmony within the church.

Let me say that again just in case you missed it; there is a dynamic that is released in which the entire group is elevated and built up in a way that would not be possible, without the intentional efforts of each person to sing their part.

So in the body of Christ, we want to bring harmony and we want to bring peace, as much as it is possible, so even though I might be free to sing “X” I’m going to intentionally restrain my lips and sing another note because I want to flow in harmony.

Even though I have the liberty to do “X” I don’t want to tear apart the work of God, over a big mac….

Even though there is nothing wrong with “X” my aim is not individual liberty, but rather our AIM is ONE, THREE, FIVE…harmony

And that applies to what you wear, what you do, how you live and what you SAY.

I’ll give you just a minute to let that sink in….

Thought:

The question is not weather “X” or “Y” is something you can do.

The question is does it produce harmony for the edifying of others, because if you know that the choice will become a stumbling block, then it is wrong for you to do it and it becomes SIN when you intentionally inflict harm to the body.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

4. By rejecting anything that causes self-condemnation and embracing what is approved by God, according to his word and your faith.

Romans 14:22 (NLT)
22  You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.

Romans 14:22 (NKJV)
22  Do you have faith? Have itto yourself before God. Happy ishe who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

Romans 14:23 (NLT)
23  But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

Romans 14:5 (NLT)
5  In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.

We close this 4thand final point on a very practical note having to do with the issue of conscience.

When I was coming up they used to say “let your conscience be your guide”

I did a little research on that phrase and discovered that the line was in the movie about Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket was the one who said that, not the bible.

Now we share that with you, because many people actually believe that your human mind and your feelingscan be the deciding factor in determining what is wrong and right.

So, let’s straighten that up quick.

The word conscience comes from two Latin words, CON which means “with”and science which means to know.

The word conscience means to KNOW within ourselves, but the word as it applies to us as Christians, does not mean letting your personal feelings or thoughts guide your actions.

What must guide and direct and determine, the choices we make are those things that we knowhave been approved of GodAND we are convinced and have faith in the area of liberty, as documented and confirmed in HIS word.

So, in a practical sense, you are blessed when you don’t feel guilty for eating something, or drinking something or making some choice in terms of what you wear or where you go, because you’ve read God’s word and you have sought God’s direction and now you have faith based on prayerful consideration and HIS wordthat such and such is OK for you.

You have the liberty and the freedom to go ahead and enjoy a Big Mac fries and with cheese and a hot apple pie…

Give thanks as you chow down….. But if you have doubts about ‘X” or “Y” or Z”….you are sinning if you go ahead and do it.

For you are not following your convictions as confirmed in God’s word.

If you do anything you believe is not right, it’s wrong for you.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

By functioning in love and acting in faith.

AMEN.

All eyes closed and heads bowed for the time of invitation.

You may be here today and have found this sermon to be interesting because it dealt with issues pertaining to how Christians get along with and love each other.

One of the things that I shared in the earlier part of the sermon revolved around the surety of our saved position in Christ Jesus.

Nothing we ear or wear, or eat can break the power of what Jesus did on the cross when he died for the sins of mankind and secured salvation for those who place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus suffered bled and died for our sins and God raised him from the dead.

We trust by faith in that reality.

We believe in HIS completed work on the cross as the sure guarantee of right standing.

We rest in the truth and security of this, not based on our work, but based on faith in God’s own Son and what he did for us.

That is how we have become Christians.

That is how you get born again.

That is how and why we are the family of God.

And that is why each of us can rest in the reality that if anyone of us were to die tonight, we’d open up our eyes in the kingdom of God, because we’ve place our life and faith Jesus Christ.

What about you.

Are you here today, listening to the teaching about Jesus and the church, but in reality you are outside looking in.

You don’t have to be my friend. You don’ t have to be an observer, but you can become part of God’s family of forgiven and cleansed Christians today.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed and Christians are praying.

Click here to see the full sermon and service on line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to manage your Christian Liberty Pt1

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship

Managing our Christian Liberty (Part I)

 Romans 14:1-4 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
4  Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

As we are coming to the final chapters of this extended study through the epistle written to the church at ROME, I want to thank the Lord again for what he has taught us and allowed us to share together, for in this study we’ve covered some truly breathtaking topics.

Paul has revealed the great mysteries of Christ and the wonder of justification through faith; he has taught us about the great plan of God concerning the nation of Israel and he has shared practical insights and directives as to how we as believers are to operate and handle ourselves within the context of human relationships AND our day-to-day walk in this world.

In this teaching today Paul address a very relevant and timely topic that is very much applicable to the modern church.

And the topic has to do with confusion and the conflicting ideas regarding Christian liberty.

Christian liberty is a topic you may or may not have heard of, but it is a point of conflict and confusion within many churches today.

Christian liberty is a concept that is related to the reality that we as born again believers, have been liberated from the slavery of Sin, in order to be bondservants of Christ.

Christian liberty deals with the wonderful news, that we have been freed from the condemning wrath of God and the curse of the law.

Christian liberty however is not cheap liberty, which provides a license for sin and lawlessness.

Christian liberty is at its essence, the freedom to live for Christand to present our selves in a way that speaks to our freedom from SIN and our connection to God.

  • We are liberated because we have become slaves to righteousness.
  • We are liberated in the freedom to serve our new Master, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now this of course sounds wonderful and there is a natural AMEN just waiting to be declared.

But the truth is that Christian liberty and the ways we relate to it, are often a point of tension effecting the Christian church in general AND a point of tension that effects our day-to-day walk as believers.

Now that you are free, how do you exercise that freedom?

Now that you have been liberated from legalism does that freedom in fact present a new set of dangers for you?

What kinds of activities are acceptable in the life of a Christian?

What is OK or not ok, in terms of what we as believers can engage in socially, or relationally?

Is it ok to consume alcoholic beverages?

Is it ok for a Christian to spend money gambling in Las Vegas or to buy lottery tickets?

What kinds of TV shows and or movies should a child of God be watching?

What about worldly music?

What kinds of songs should we listen to now that you are free from the rules and regulations?

If I were to call you up here to the pulpit and ask you to plug in your phone, would there be things on that phone that embarrass you.

Now don’t run for the exit or start deleting anything, because that isn’t where we are headed.

I’m simply raising these questions, because these are the kinds of questions and thoughts and conversations and points of difference that are part of the whole modern concept of Christian liberty.

Now today we are NOT going to be addressing any of those BIG questions, I just used those items to get you listening. 

In this sermon, we are going to be talking about HOW to exercise your Christian liberty within the context of our relationship to each other as believers within the fellowship.

This church in particular is unique because we come from different backgrounds and traditions.

I grew up in the Pentecostal church. Many of us come from a traditional Baptist background, some here were from the Catholic Church and some had virtually no prior Christian experience.

And due to our differences, we often have different ideas about our Christianity and what religion actually means.

And of course differences can often mean tension…

How can we manage ourselves in a way that strengthens the fellowship and allows each of us, regardless of where we may be at in terms of our maturity, or background or personal history to be a close body of connected believers?

From Romans 14:1-15 there are least 9 guideless that we can discuss together, but for the purpose of this two-part sermon, today we will look at 4, as we begin our study on the topic of managing our Christian Liberty.

So if you are ready to get going say AMEN.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

  1. By accepting and receiving those who are “weak”

Romans 14:1-2 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:1 (MSG)
1  Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

Romans 15:1 (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Romans 15:7 (KJV)
7  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

In the opening of the sermon, I told you that among believers there are often differences between sincere and committed Christians, who have conflicting beliefs and philosophies regarding what kinds of things are acceptable or not acceptable for a Christian.

Paul here addresses what often happens in a body of mixed believers and he talks about the reality of arguments.

ARGUMENT…SAY THAT WORD.

In Romans 14:2 he uses an example of a difference that would have been quite common in the early church, where there were both Jews and Gentilesas part of a blended congregation.

The Jews in the church were use to a set of strict laws and guidelines, which dictated the kinds of foods you could or could not eat.

And some Gentiles who were also part of that blended church came from backgrounds, where there were certain ideas about the superiority and religiosity of being a vegetarian.

And then there were people within the church who had matured to the point in their faith, where they understood, that what you ate or drank really didn’t mean anything and so they exercised and flowed in the liberty and freedom of that.

They all loved Jesus. They were all born again, they were all committed to Christ, but there was a difference in opinion, which led to points of tension.

Thought:

Now when you have people who are in a church relationship with each other, there are bound to be conflicts.

Paul addresses this reality, by directing his comments those who are “mature” to take responsibility, not for simply pleasing themselves and celebrating their liberty,but rather he asks them to take the mature position of being accepting of what he calls “weak” people.

In other words not everyone in the church is at the same level in terms in his or her faith and maturity.

They are all equally saved BUT they have their own history to deal with, so treat them gently.

Now notice that what Paul is sharing here is not a put down or a rejection of these brothers and sisters, when he uses the term “weaker”

He speaks to those who are mature in their faith and he tells them how to exercise their liberty in a way that honors God,by respecting and accepting those brothers and sisters, who may still feel the need to relate to God on the basis of what they don’t do or don’t eat.

To accept them rather than rejecting them by being critical and dismissive of those who are “weaker” in their faith.

This is how we bare with one another.

This is how we are called to function and flow within the context of our liberty and to do so in a way that honors God.

He says, don’t argue, don’t criticize, don’t reject a person as a legalist, but instead receive him or her with open arms, just as God receives them.

Thought:

Now this might not seem like a big issue, but ask yourself if you’ve ever put someone down, or called the person a legalist or rejected fellowshipping or inviting the person to hang with you because they seem super religious.

Have you ever argued or rejected a fellow believer about something as simple as what a person eats or drinks.

These kinds of issues, divide believers because they cause dissention, when the word of God teaches us that we should respond by accepting others who may have a slightly different view.

One person feels that it’s ok to press your hair, another person doesn’t.

One woman wears make up, another woman does not and won’t feel comfortable doing that.

One person feels free to enjoy a hamburger with cheese; another person won’t eat that because it mixes milk and beef.

It seems trivial, but these are the kinds of things that divide Christians and cause problems and tensions in a church.

Thought.

Now it is important here that we pivot for just a moment and make sure that we don’t miss-read this.

What Paul is teaching us about here is the concept and need among Christians who are at different levels in their faith, to be accepting of each other.

Paul is not talking about embracing and accepting things, which are a clear violation of God’s direct commandment and HIS word.

And it is imperative that we understand and are very clear about this, because today there is great pressure on the church to embrace any kind of lifestyle and any kind of marriage and any kind of self directed doctrinal and or theological position…..and it is happening in churches today, who are bending over backwards to accommodate everything….

We are not to argue over non-salvivic issues of choice and style, but that does not mean that the church can be accepting of out right SIN and filth.

If God says thou shall not commit adultery, if God says keep your pants on, if God’ word says don’t steal…that is not an issue of style, that is a commandment.

The writer is dealing with issues which are related to where each of us is at in our faith and he is telling those who are more mature, to take responsibility for bearing with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves as we exercise and flow in the freedoms we enjoy.

That is all that this scripture is talking about….PERIOD.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so secondly……

  1. By rejecting the human tendency to compare and criticize.

Romans 14:3 (NLT)
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.

Romans 14:3 (MSG)
3  But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table.

Romans 14:4 (KJV)

4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)
6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete ituntil the day of Jesus Christ;

In this 2ndpoint the word of cautionis given to two types of believers who are capable of operating and or acting in critical ways.

The one who feels “enlightened” as he or she flows in his freedom from rules and regulations looks down his nose at the “religious person”

The religious person who feels that it is necessary to have these operational guidelines and rules, looks down on the person who eats this or does that and says “she isn’t saved” because she wears that. 

Both are operating in a way that is selfish and doesn’t benefit the liberty to which we are called.

Here in this second point, Paul lovingly yet strongly confronts and cautions and warns the believer about an issue, which is problematic in today’s world and today’s church.

Thought:

One of the things that I really like about the modern ministry of being a preacher of God’s word, is the sharing of information and experiences and resources that happen within the body of Christ, which is made possible through the blessings of the internet.

Pastors often write about their experiences and share them with others and in many of those writings we find that a big factor that tears apart many churches is the problem of comparing and criticizing.

Here in the scripture we are told very simply not to look down on each other.

Not to measure, not to evaluate and not to despise one another, because the Lord will hold those who do this……. accountable.

God, says…..who do you think you  are ?

Romans 14:4

4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?

God says that we have no right, nor do we have any business criticizing and evaluating HIS servants.

At the end of the day God is the only one who knows us and understand us at whatever level we may be at.

At the end of the day God is the one who will hold us up, he is the one who has begun a good work in us and he is the one who is able to make us stand.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so thirdly…

  1. By being personally persuaded of what you allow or do not allow in your own life.

Romans 14:5 (NLT)
5  In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convincedthat whichever day you choose is acceptable. 

Romans 14:6 (NLT)
6  Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 

Romans 14:5 (MSG)
5  Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.  

Romans 14:22-23 (KJV)

22  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

23  And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

1stCorinthians 6:12 (KVJ)

12  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

This third point was an interesting one and I wrestled with it, because it deals with the issue of conscience.

I initially was concerned and a bit reticent, to dive into this because the thought could easily be misconstrued or interpreted as being one in which the believer is encouraged to allow his or her personal thoughts and interpretation of God’s word, to be the governing factorwhich determines and dictates the operational aspects of one’s walk and faith life.

We addressed this a bit earlier but it is such an important point that it bears being repeated and emphasized.

Today in the modern church we have many believers in the name of liberty, making their own religion and making their own doctrines and living in ways that are contrary to the commandmentsof God and they feel ok living that way, because they don’t feel that it is wrong.

Let’s make that 100% clear…that is NOT what the scripture is teaching us.

This teaching is dealing with certain concerns and thoughts about religious “questions”

Apparently Paul was dealing with a hotly debated issue that was being argued within the early church and again this is understandable when you consider that the early church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.

Some believers were focused on observing special days, just as in today’s church there are divisions and denominational differences regarding various non-salvivic issues related to what day a person goes to church.

We have church groups that are organized around the Jewish Sabbath and a belief and or focus upon worshiping on Saturday.

We have hotly debated arguments and conflicts regarding what a person can wear to church.

I grew up in a church were women did NOT wear pants.

Women and men could NOT wear Jewelry.

No makeup. No open toe shoes for women.

No exposed arms in your sleeveless dress.

And you had better NOT come into the church without stockings!

Some churches are exactly the opposite. The Pastor wears a Hawaiian shirt and shorts in the pulpit, all of these issues and the exercise of freedom and liberty can cause big problems among believing saints who each LOVE Jesus…

Paul in this 3rdpoint is writing to us to addressing the deeper issue of conscience and personal conviction.

And here is what he says…hold on to your seats and don’t miss this.

Paul teaches us here in this principle, that when it comes to exercising our liberty that the key thought is operate in a way that does not violate your conscience,understanding that it is God who evaluates and determines the condition and workings of your heart.

Thought:

We exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God by operating on the basis of allowing things to which we are fully persuaded within ourselves, as revealed and confirmed by God and his word.

Let me repeat that again, so that you don’t miss that,

We exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God by operating on the basis of allowing things to which we are fully persuaded within ourselves, as revealed and confirmed by God and his word.

And based on where we come from, or what our experience is, or the level to which we have learned to operate in faith, each of us will process this reality differently.

So rather than being critical of each other, or looking to each other for validation, we must be fully persuaded in our own heart and mind, as confirmed within God’s word.

Now again, make sure you don’t miss it

Paul is not teaching us that we flow in our Liberty by making up our own life rules.

Far from it my friends, for God demands without exception that his directives and commandments that are written plainly in HIS WORD be followed.

But when it comes to these non-salvivic questions you must be governed by what you have a clear conscience about.

You must not to violate your consciences.

From a practical standpoint, that means that you must not allow other people, even if they are church membersto pressure you into exercising your liberty in the way that you don’t feel comfortable with.

In their irresponsible exercise of “liberty” they may invite you or tease you or pressure you to go, but if you feel that is it wrong for you; then it is wrong.

My Mother cannot wear pants, and she will NOT wear pants because it makes her feel guilty and for her it would be a sin.

We must not be critical and we must be accepting of others because you don’t know that person’s background and you don’t what they struggle with and why.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so 4th and finally…..

  1. By focusing on our personal accountability to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)
7  For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.
8  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord

Romans 14:8-9 (MSG)
8  It’s Godwe are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other.
9  That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other

We come to the close of this first portion of the study, knowing that we will pick up PART II and continue if the Lord allows us to do that.

This 4thand final point is so simple and powerful that it is easy to miss.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so by remembering and being convicted of the reality, that we as individual people are PERSONALLY answerable to God.

In other words, instead of being wrapped up in argument and fears and worries that we often convince ourselves are of such importance, we must shift and fix our focus to the one to whom we belong.

Thought:

The scriptures says in Romans vs 14:8 and quote “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Everything about us all the way from life to death is all in God’s hands and it is to HIM that we are answerable to……AND not each other.

That should be the driving force in your life, to live for the master and to hear the words that we should long for with all of our hearts…..”well done thou good and faithful servant”

You didn’t live to please yourself.

You bore the burdens of your other brothers and sisters.

You extended the same loving grace to others, as I extended to you.

Well done, well done my child.

This should be our hearts desire, to please him and honor him in all that we do.

AMEN

CLOSE:

Today we taught from God’s word about the various factors and issues that affect our relationship with other Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

God loves us so much that he gives us these teachings so that day-by-day we might become that spiritual body of believers that he desires.

  • His love motivated him to give us his word.
  • His love motivated him to teach us through the lives of his people.’
  • His love is wonderful and incredible on so many levels.

I wonder if there is anyone under the sound of my voice, who does not personally know the wonder and power and awesomeness of God’s love for your self?

I’m not asking if you know that God loves you in the generic sense of the word.

I’m asking if you have come into contact with his love, by reason of a personal experience with the life saving power of God, through Jesus Christ HIS son.

I’m asking if you’ve been born again.

I’m asking if you have the joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you have a right standing with God, because you’ve come to know the power of God’s love as expressed in John 3:16 for yourself.

John 3:16 said “for God so loved the world that HE gave his only begotten SON, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish, but have ever lasting life”

Do you know the reality of that scripture for your self, because you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord?

If the answer is no, I’m going to give you an opportunity to change that right now.

While all heads are bowed and eyes are closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time Has Come !

Sermon By Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship 

                                        The Time Has Come

Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)
11  And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
12  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
13  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts

Romans 13:13-14 (MSG)
13  We can’t afford to waste a minute, we must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight.
14  Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of HIS holy and mighty word.

We’ve now completed the mini-series within the overall studies that we’ve been doing together from the epistle written to the church at ROME.

In our last sermon, we spoke about how to relate to and love your fellow citizen or neighbor in a practical sense and in doing so, we saw how we can make a difference in the lives of others by making the world a better place.

We love our neighbor and we make the world a better place by, respecting their marriages, by respecting their property, and by valuing human life.

In that lesson we learned that much of what plagues our hate filled society today, stems from problems that flow out of our selfish ways; we don’t need new laws and government restrictions, we just need to learn to love others in the same way that we love ourselves and that would solve many problems.

Today we are going to talk about the believer and his relationship to TIME.

Time of course is extremely important to all of us. Time is one of our most valued possessions and it is a driver of many decisions and choices we make.

We process many things on the basis of TIME.

I’ll go here if I have time. I can be a part of that if I have the time, or OK let me consider that offer, how much time is it going to take?

For me turning 60 marked a serious change in the way I perceive time.

I know that God can bless me with 60 more years if he decides to do that, but I also know that He can decide at any moment, that my time is up.

Given that reality, I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to wasting my time.

I want every day to count.

I don’t want to mess with stuff that ends up wasting time, but I am also grateful that I have time to waste…. because the alternative is not to have any earthly time.

Now don’t anxious and don’t get depressed because the sermon isn’t about dying; the sermon is about your TIME and what the bible says to you as a believer about getting your head on right as it regards the issue of TIME.

This is a word of exhortation, and word of encouragement and a challenge to every believer to recognize the importance of using your time wisely.

Now if you are ready to hear what the bible says about that say AMEN.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Wake up and “know” the times.

Romans 13:11a-b(NKJV)
11a-b  And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;

2 Timothy 3:1-5a-b (MSG)
1  Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead.
2  As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse,
3  dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical,
4  treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.
5  They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals.

Matthew 24:38-39a-b (NKJV)
38  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39  and did not know until the flood came and took them all away,

Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)
7  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

In the opening of the sermon, I said that it is important that you and I as believers start to recognize and use our time wisely.

Here in the passage Paul speaks of knowing and waking up.

The word knowing used here means to be aware and to not miss things.

The exhortation to wake up is an imperative directive, that we as children of God are not be slothful and or lazy, when it comes to knowing, observing and understanding the times.

You and I are living in perilous times and we should not be naïve and we should be mindful of that fact difficult times are coming.

Thought:

Too many folks in the church today, are not paying attention to what is going in and around their lives.

We are too disconnected, we are pre-occupied, and we are over booked and over committed to the wrong things.

Time is rushing by and before you know it, the little tikes are in Jr. high, the teens are going off to college and ten years has gone by in your relationship with Christ, yet the child of God is often in the same place Spiritually as you where when you first came to Christ.

Still not committed to growing in the word.

Still not committed to regular bible study, still not committed to sharing the gospel with others, still not serving Christ whole heartedly, still not using the gifts that God has given you.

30 years can go by just like that, YET we feel no pressure to change or to make adjustments, because we don’t understand the reality and the dangers of the times we are living in.

Listen to the words of 2nd Timothy chapter 3:1 and let them sink in for a moment.

It said “people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.

We as Christians are in a deep stupid sleep, happy and blind to the fact that there is trouble on the horizon.

If we truly believed, that the end was closer today than it ever was, would we be wasting time and tools and energy on the stuff we seem to think is so important to us now?

If we truly believed that the end was near, would we be playing around with our kids and letting them take their own time to find God, or would we be on them with all the pressure we could muster, knowing that if they were not ready they would be lost.

If we truly believed that the end was near, would we keep ignoring the unsaved and lost of this world?

The church right along with the unsaved world is going about it’s daily routine eating and drinking and giving in marriage, not realizing or refusing to see the signs, until the end comes like a flood.

We must wake up understand and know the TIME in which we live and we must change……..not tomorrow……. but right now.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Recognize that the day of our salvation is near.

Romans 13:11c (NKJV)
11c for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Luke 21:28 (NKJV)
28  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Luke 21:29-31 (MSG)
29  He told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter.
30  When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner.
31  The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here.

In point number one we touched upon this briefly, but I want to dive more deeply into this and to do so from another angle.

Here the words of Paul focus upon the reality of our salvation.

Say that word Salvation.

You and I as born again Children of God, have come into a relationship with God, because we recognized our need for salvation and placed our faith in Christ.

When we accepted Christ as Lord of our lives, we placed our faith and trust in him and the work that he accomplished for us, by reason of his death, burial and resurrection.

When Jesus hung there on the cross he suffered the pain of death, as a payment for our sins and now we by faith are able to obtain the forgiveness of our sins, because Christ Jesus, secured salvation for us.

Thought:

Now that word salvation is important because it speaks to a present reality that we can rest in, BUT it also speaks to a future reality that is still yet to be fully consummated.

You see, even though I am living in this present world and struggling in this present world, Jesus has “saved “me from the penalty of my sins.

But I also understand, that I have not yet come into the fullness of all that he has planned for me.

You and I are saved for sure, but when we get new bodies in heaven we will be free from the problems and limitations of life here in these tents of flesh.

We will be saved and perfected eternally.

I’ve heard some preachers put it this way by saying you GOT saved, you are being saved and you will be perfected in that salvation, when Jesus takes you to live with him in eternity.

  • This is what the child of God should look forward to.
  • This is what the child of God should be anticipating
  • AND we must understand that the day of our complete redemption is nearer than it was 10 years ago.

So Start getting your house in order.

Start preparing for the return of your redeemer.

Start cleaning your house up and getting yourself ready for inspection.

Because the day of your ultimate salvation is a lot closer than it was when you first got saved.

Thought:

Now you can take that as a word of encouragement to celebrate, or you can take that as a warning.

For me, I hear this as a little bit of both.

I’ve been saved for just about 38 years now and I am also older.

I’m cognizant of the reality of TIME.

I know the day in which I realize the full manifestation of HIS saving power in my life, is closer than it was when I got saved in 1980, but I am also mindful, that the time in which I will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, is closer right now than it’s ever been.

When I stand before him and when you stand before him, the words we want to hear are “well done thou good and faithful servant”

So what do I need to change?

What do you need to change?

What do I need to clean up, what do I need to do to position myself for the day when I will meet my redeemer?

Every day we need to be thinking about that.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time 3rdly to…..

  1. Cast off the works of darkness.

Romans 13:12a-c (NKJV)
12a-c  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness

John 3:19-20 (NKJV)
19  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Ephesians 4:22-23 (NKJV)
22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

With each point that we are introduced to here in Paul’s teaching, there comes a more pressing challenge, to us as believers.

In point number one we were encouraged to wake up and know the times.

In point number two we were told to recognize that our salvation is near and in point number three we are told to make an operational application of what we’ve learned in the first two points.

Thought:

There is a dark side to the issue to sleepiness; to the sloth, to the laziness and to the naïveté, that was mentioned in 2nd Timothy chapter 3:1

The problem and the challenge of sleepiness when it comes to the modern church, is seen in the reality of how comfortable we have become with and how engaged many Christians are with, the works of darkness and the things of the flesh.

Paul writes to the church. He writes to believers and he says to THEM, that it time to cast off the works of darkness.

Thought:

Now I understand that the words being used here are tough.

I understand that it would have been easier to digest if Paul didn’t use terms like “THE WORKS of DARKNESS”

In the modern church so we use terms like “areas of struggle” to describe the sin issues and the things that are happening in our lives, which we do “under cover”

Paul here doesn’t sugar coat this, because he wants the believer to wake up and be honest about this realty and to understand the truth about this issue, as it relates to TIME.

  • It’s time, to cast off the hidden relationships that many in the church are engaged in.
  • It’s time to cast off the things that we are doing late at night, down in LA, or over Vegas where we can hide under the cover of darkness.

Things that Christians are doing, which we are ashamed of; things tucked away our secret closets.

Skeletons, which if exposed and brought to the light, would cause us great embarrassment.

Today the call and the challenge is not for us to ask for prayer, or to say “ the Lord knows I am still a work in progress” but rather the call is for US to make a decision to cast if off.

To disown it and to terminate it, with extreme prejudice, because we recognize that we can no longer permit, our love affair with the world and the things of the flesh.

That brings us to the 4th point, for as we commit ourselves to cast off, we must commit our selves to putting on.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to……

  1. Get serious about living right.

Romans 13:12c-13 (NKJV)
12 and let us put on the armor of light.
13  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

1 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
7  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV)
11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)
16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

We cast off the works of darkness and then we put on the armor of light.

This 4th point is a continuation of the previous, but it is also given in order to help the reader to compare and contrast.

In light of the times that we live in and the dangers that we face AND the soon coming return of our redeemer, you are I as believers in Jesus Christ, must recognize and embrace the need to get serious about living RIGHT.

In the previous point, we spoke to and addressed the dark side of sleepiness.

When a saved person has become lazy and sleepy in their Christian walk, they easily fall prey to the entanglements of the flesh.

 A person begins to put on, inappropriate relationships.

A person begins to put on revelry and drunkenness and other inappropriate clothing as described in Romans chapter 13: verses 12-13

In sleepiness we see all manner of fleshly sins, being evidenced in the lives of Church folks.

But Paul calls us to wake up and to recognize the times and to respond by clothing ourselves in light.

And so he says “and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly”

Thought:

Now I reworded this and presented the thought in our modern way of speaking which simply says, it’s time to get serious about LIVING RIGHT.

Living right mean making a proactive decision to put on the right stuff daily.

That means that we must personally “put on” righteous living.

That means that we must work each and every day to get the leaven out of our lives.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 5:7 we read the words of Paul as he declared that we should purge out the old leaven.

Leaven here in the bible represents Sin.

In preparation for the Passover, the children of Israel were instructed to search their homes to make sure that they removed every piece of leaven from their homes.

This is what you and I need to do.

We need to searching and making sure, that we don’t allow sin to find a place of comfort in our lives.

Living right, means getting up each and every day and putting on the whole armor of God

Living right mean checking in with God to see how he feels and what his word says.

Living RIGHT means going to God with every decision and every detail of our lives; it means leaning on him and relying on him in all of our ways and letting HIM direct our paths.

That brings us to our 5th and closing point…

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Put on Christ and embrace the full package.

Romans 13:14 (NKJV)
14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Philippians 3:8 (NLT)
8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

Philippians 3:10 (NKJV)
10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 

John 17:21a-c (MSG)
21  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us.

The time has come and the time is here and the time is NOW for every child of God to decide that enough…. is enough.

It’s time to get radical, it is time to say NO, I don’t just want to be a fan, but I want to be ONE with him and I want the entire package, I want EVERYTHING….

This is where Paul had come to in his life and walk with Christ Jesus.

Everything else is HIS life was considered RUBBISH.

Thought:

This is where we should be today.

The call of Christ is to toss aside all of these distractions and to embrace with anticipation, the glory of our soon coming king and the revelation of his appearance in the sky.

Our hearts desire should be to become ONE with HIM.

One heart.

One mind.

He in us……. and we in him ……..and US in God together.

Is this what you want my Christian friend?

Do you want to be conformed to HIS image and do you want to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings?

If that is truly your goal, then we must crucify the flesh daily.

If that is truly your goal we must no longer make provision to fulfill the lust thereof.

If that is truly your goal then you must discard everything and count it as garbage, that we may gain oneness with Christ.

AMEN.

Close:

Altar Call.

Today, we’ve heard and examined some teachings from the Apostle Paul, a man who had been transformed by a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.

Every SAVED person sitting here under the sound of my voice, has similarly come into the reality of such an experience.

We all came to know the forgiveness of Sins

We all came to know the power of his grace.

We all came to know the beauty of that oneness with God the Father, through Jesus Christ.

The question that I pose to you today, is DO YOU KNOW THIS REALITY FOR YOURSELF?

If you don’t know Jesus as Lord of your life and you want to place your faith and trust in him and to come into his blessed family, we are going to give you an opportunity to do that right now.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

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