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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Click here to view the entire service

 

 

How To Make The World A Better Place

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor

How To Love Your Neighbor and  Make the World a Better Place

 Romans 13:8-9 (NLT)
8  Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.
9  For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

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

How should a person conduct his or her life, with reference to his fellow citizens?

What is our duty to our neighbors and those with whom we share this earth and what is our responsibility in terms of the issue of our personal witness as born again children of God?

This is the 6th sermon within the mini-series taken from the letter or epistle written to the church at ROME.

If you were here for the last sermon you will recall that we spoke and taught from the word of God, concerning the realities and responsibilities that we have regarding the powers of the government.

You and I as believers are to conduct our selves in a manner “that is heads and shoulders” above the brokenness and divisiveness that defines much of society.

 

We are to be lights in a world of darkness; we are to glorify and magnify our great God, presenting ourselves as living sacrifices…..HOLY and acceptable to him which is our reasonable service.

Our witness, our lives ought to speak to and testify of the goodness of God, because here on planet earth we represent him.

Now if you understand that say AMEN

Today, we’ve captured some thoughts in a sermon entitled how to love your neighbor and make the world a better place.

That is the topic that we have chosen and this is the way that we are going to address the word today, but again it is important that we remember the context AND how this teaching ties into the previous lessons.

Remember now that Paul had taught us about these massive topics which laid out the incredibleness of God’s wonderful plan of salvation.

He talked about our justification, he talked about how we as Gentiles were grafted into the family of God and then having laid out those incredible details, he pivots in Chapter 12 by saying “ I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God which is your reasonable service”

Then Paul begins to teach about how to do that in a practical day-to-day sense of the word.

He talks about not being conformed to this world, he talks about our mindset and our attitudes, he talks about our relationships with others and he talks about how we should conduct ourselves with reference to the government and the state.

All of these things are part of our reasonable service and all of these things are related to the issue of our personal witness for him.

Here Paul brings us to a teaching that seems to be a recounting of some of the ten commandments and in fact it is,,,,,….but it’s more than that. 

It is a teaching about how we present ourselves as living sacrifices in the practical day-to-day sense of the word AND how you and I can bring glory and honor to God in a way that improves this world and makes it a better place.

So how do we do that, how do we apply God’s word in a way that accomplishes that goal. ……From the word of God we learn that……

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Living according to the basic law that fulfills all laws.

Romans 13:8 (NLT)
8  Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.

Romans 13:7 (NLT)
7  Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

Romans 13:8 God’s word ®Translation

8 Pay your debts as they come due. However, one debt you can never finish paying is the debt of love that you owe each other. The one who loves another person has fulfilled Moses’ Teachings.

How do we make the world a better place, how do we LOVE our neighbors ?

How do we bring glory and honor to God in terms of the way and manner that we relate to our neighbors?

The answer given here in point number one is, that we conduct ourselves in a way that is void of indebtedness.

Romans 13:8 (NLT)
8  Owe nothing to anyone

Now at first glance it might seem that such a directive is impossible, but we want to embrace this as a governing principle that we apply because it’s here in God’s word.

We love our neighbors and we make the world a better and more peaceful place, when issues of indebtedness do not become factors in our day-to-day relationships with others.

Romans 13:8 (NLT)
8  Owe nothing to anyone

What we are talking about is how to love our neighbors in the practical way and how to make this world a better place when it comes to the reality of relationships between people.

Thought:

Now stay with me here because this is not a sermon about financial matters, but we are going to use finances simply as a representative mechanism to make the point and to help us understand the principle.

Thought:

One of the major factors of strife and stress that exist between people is often rooted in the issue of indebtedness and particularly debts of a financial nature.

Folks won’t speak to each other over a $25.00 debt…

Co-workers become enemies over matters of a perceived debt.

And when indebtedness happens between governments it starts wars.

We make the world a better place and we make for more peaceful relationships AND we present a positive witness for the God we represent by making a commitment to OWE no one, beyond the obligation to operate in love.

So we are advised as noted in the confirming scriptures I just shared with you a moment ago to…

Give everyone what you owe them…pay your debts, honor to whom honor is due, respect to whom respect is due.

The only thing that we should owe anyone is the obligation to treat other people, with the same love and value that we have for ourselves.

When we who are children of God, do that, we make the world a better place AND we bring glory and honor to God.

This according to the word of God, is the basic law that fulfills all laws, this is the only thing that we should allow ourselves to become inedited to.

How do we love our neighbors and how do we make the world a better place…

Note as we move forward through the passage that Paul now adds some practical directives using the commandments.

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Refusing to commit adultery and by abstaining from sexual immorality.

Romans 13:9a-b (NLT)

9a-b  For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery.

Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT)
27  “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’
28  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Hebrews 13:4 (MSG)
4  Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.

In the first point that we shared just a few moments ago, we talked about the destructive nature and problems that flow out of the issue of indebtedness.

In our world today, many of the problems that cause pain and conflict and violence between people, are issues that are related to the fact that we are unloving and disrespectful towards other human beings, when it comes to matters of marriage.

Truth is that this world and the powers of this world, do not respect marriage, nor honor and value the blessing of sexual intimacy in the way that God desires.

Pornography, filth and indecency AND the proliferation thereof are proofs of that.

Adultery is an unloving act because the hater commits violence against the injured spouse and the children, which impacts the family for generations.

How do we love our neighbor in a practical sense, how do we present a worthy testimony for our great God, how do we make the world a better place when it comes to the matters of human relationships…

We make the world a better place by refusing to be involved in and or wrapped up in adultery and fornication.

Thought:

Now someone might say, why is the Pastor teaching about this in church. He’s talking to church folks; well that is just the point.

Paul is teaching and reminding us of these commandments and principles because you can be saved a find yourself wrapped up in behaviors that are completely against God’s word.

Remember now the broader context of our personal witness and the presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices: we love our neighbor, we present a positive testimony to the world concerning the holiness of our great God by refusing to be involved in such things.

Thought:

The dictionary says that adultery involves the act, but Jesus defined it even further…

Matthew 5:27-28 (NLT)
27  “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’
28  But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman (or a man) with lust has already committed adultery with (him) or her in his heart

Thought:

Allowing your self to consume pornography is an act of hatred, because people create a market and a financial motive for this kind of filth that destroys marital relationships.

We love our neighbors; we make the world a better place by refusing to be involved in this form of hate.

Now why talk to the church about this….well I’m glad you asked..

Several studies on this subject as it related to church folks said that

64% of Christian men admitted in a national survey that they viewed pornography at least 1x during the month.

30% of Christian men say that they view it daily.

33% of Christian women have viewed porn at least a few times in a year and 15% of Christian women said they viewed it at least once a month.

Jesus spoke directly to us and our overly sexualized society when he said, if you even look with lust, you’ve already committed the offense.

Creating a market that feeds lustful looking is an act of hatred….that goes against God’s desire that we respect the marriages of others…

Thought:

Here’s another thought and hold tight to your seat belts if you need to…

I believe enticing others to look at how we present ourselves is near kin to the same kind of offense…

Thought:

And in today’s world where seduction and seductiveness are so rampant, we as Christians must be careful.

So we must be more concerned with loving our neighbor and respecting the blessedness of their marriage, than we are with getting attention or being flattered or desired.

We must be careful not only about what we look at……but must be careful about what we present to others to LOOK at………we must guard our eyes AND our appearance…

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Valuing human life.

Romans 13:9c (NLT)
9a,c For the commandments say, You must not murder.

Romans 13:9c (MSG)
9c   don’t take someone’s life,

We improve our world and make it a better place by embracing the fact that God has created each of us, and because of that and all human life must be respected.

Thought:

The killing of another person is the ultimate act of disrespect and hatred.

Humans kill each other, because we don’t respect and value human life.

We are divided and we hate and kill because we’ve made people into groups of “others”.

This brokenness started when sin entered into the world, through Adam our father and it evidenced itself in the first murder committed by Cain against his brother Able.

And that is why our streets run red with blood today.

You and I as forgiven and loved Children of God can demonstrate the love of God by truly valuing the lives of every person.

  • Every life is valuable to God and we ought to be reminded of that in our day-to-day interactions with the unsaved world.
  • God loves the world and that is why he sent his only Son to die a horrible death on the cross for our sins.

He gave HIS precious SON for the world because he values everyone equally.

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Respecting and honoring the private property of others and by taking responsibility for yourself.

Romans 13:9a,d (NLT)
9a,d For the commandments say, You must not steal.

Ephesians 4:28 (NKJV)
28  Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

1 Thessalonians 4:12 (MSG)
12  We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.

As Christians and as those who obey the commandments, we should avoid taking what belongs to others and we should embrace being responsible for ourselves.

Now again, I understand how insulting this might be, considering the fact that we are here in church talking to and teaching Christians about these principles.

But here in the teaching clearly God has something to say to the church…

How do you love your neighbor, how do you fulfill the law of love and treat others with the same value that you apply to yourself?

Here in the word we see that it says “the commandment says, you must not steal”

Thought:

Stealing is very common in our world today and I am not just talking about shop lifting or breaking into someone’s house.

The most common form of thievery today is to be seen in folks who free load off of society and refuse to take care of themselves.

We as children of God are called to be part of the solution to the world’s ills, by being those who command the respect of others, not sponging off of the government but instead “working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

Thought:

Imagine how the world would be so much better, if more Christians were helping people through their hard work, because they positioned themselves to be conduits of God’s blessings by helping and giving to people who were truly unable to take care of themselves.

I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

 Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering……..By being a good and loving neighbor, by being a witness of God’s love and grace in your life……… by contributing to society.

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Committing our selves to verbal integrity and truth.

Romans 13:9a,e (KJV)
9a,e For the commandments say, You shall not bear false witness

James 3:6 (NLT)
6  And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself

Proverbs 16:28 (NLT)
28  A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

Ephesians 4:15a Contemporary English Version
15 Love should always make us tell the truth. Then we will grow in every way and be more like Christ, the head

This 5th point is related to the issue of making the world a better place in the practical sense by controlling your tongue and being committed not only to truthfulness and honesty, but also to using your words in a way, that does not harm others.

We love our neighbors by respecting them enough to be honest and forthright at all times.

In our world today, we have a term known as a little “white lie” and it is an interesting term because it communicates the wrong-minded notion that deception is OK if it is meant for benign reasons.

But the truth is that virtually none of us would want to be lied to, but instead we’d want to be treated with the respect of making our own decisions by having the truth.

Folks who know YOU, ought to take comfort in the knowledge that YOU stand for integrity.

Just knowing that there is someone who is truthful in this world where lying permeates our entire society provides a great assurance to many who have lost faith in people.

We demonstrate love by being people of truth, people of integrity and people who control and mange the words we speak.

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place by…

  1. Building up and celebrating the successes of others, rather than thirsting for what our neighbor has.

Romans 13:9a,f (NLT).
9a,f  For the commandments say, “You must not covet.”

Exodus 20:17 (MSG)
17  No lusting after your neighbor’s house—or wife or servant or maid or ox or donkey. Don’t set your heart on anything that is your neighbor’s.

Thought:

We love our neighbors and we make the world a more peaceful and harmonious place, by building up and celebrating the successes of others rather than being consumed by an inner hunger and desire to beat them or to see and wish that they would loose what they posses.

Again this is somewhat related to how we use our tongues…..

Thought:

We should love others, we should value our fellow man, and we should treat other the way we want to be treated, by resisting “covetousness”

To covet means more than just desiring something…the word covet is used to describe a wrongful desire that is rooted in envy; it’s a lusting after and a craving desire that is over the top.

When we covet the possessions of others, we are saying to God, that we are dissatisfied with the things that he has blessed us with.

How do we love our neighbors, how do we present an excellent testimony; we do so by resisting the fleshly sin of covetousness.

Thought:

If you and I think about where we came from, or where we were 20 years ago, we’ve got more stuff, than we ever thought was possible.

But in spite of all of God’s blessing, we are looking next door to see what someone has and to compare and ask God, why am I not living like they are….

The commandment not to covet is given to us, not only as a caution against something that God considers a SIN, but also as a directive for our good, because covetousness destroys human relationships and it is at the root of all kinds of evil.

We love our neighbors and make the world a better place 7th any finally by…

  1. Loving our neighbors in the same way we love and respect ourselves

Romans 13:9 a, g (NLT)
9a,g  For the commandments “are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:36-40 (NLT)
36  “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”
37  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’
38  This is the first and greatest commandment.
39  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

Paul concludes his teaching by repeating in a different way, the law that fulfils all laws….love other people, love your co-workers, love your neighbor as yourself.

CLOSE:

What a different world this would be if we were able to overcome the limitations of our humanness, and to actually love our fellow man, in the same way that we love our self.

It seems almost impossible, but we serve a God who is the God of the impossible.

In order to love your neighbor as yourself, you’ve got to truly know God’s love for yourself.

That is where LOVE starts

And the way you do that is through his Jesus Christ HIS SON.

John 3:16 declared that God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten SON

He gave Jesus who came to this earth, to sacrifice himself, so that you and I could be brought into a saving relationship with God.

He loved us so much that he sent his SON to cleanse us from our sin.

It all starts with Jesus

That is the key to being transformed.

That is the key to knowing how to love and be loved.

The question for you today is do you know this  reality for yourself ?

Have you come into a saving knowledge of God’s incredible LOVE for you, through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you have not today is the day you can do that.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed….

Click here to view the entire service and sermon

 

 

 

 

 

The government and you

Practical lessons on Christianity:  The Government and You

Romans 13:1-7 (NKJV)
1  Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
3  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
4  For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
5  Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
6  For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.
7  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

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

How should a Christian person, conduct his or her life, in this earth realm with reference to the powers of government?

What is our duty to the state and what is the responsibility of the Christian when it comes to the matter of our personal witness.

This is the 5th sermon in the mini-series within the series that we’ve been working through from the letter or epistle written to the church at ROME.

In the last sermon I delivered entitled how to present an EXCELLENT TESTIMONY, we shared six directives which Paul presented to us, in order to help us recognize that we represent God the Father, here on planet earth.

Every day in your neighborhood or in your work or in your school you as a child of God are either adding to or taking away from the name and reputation of God the Father, by reason of the personal witness of your life.

The way you live the way you walk, the way you present yourself ought to give a strong testimony not only for yourself, but for Lord.

And that applies not only to the actions and lifestyle of a Christian as it pertains to the day-to-day interactions with the unsaved world; but it also applies to the way and the manner in which the Christian conducts himself with reference to the Government.

This is what we are going to learn about today. And make sure you understand this.

What I am sharing with you my friends is not a POLITICAL message, it’s a biblical message, that will help to straighten us out in some areas which need adjusting and to encourage us to continue on, walking the walk and being true to the calling of our great God.

So if you re ready to get going say AMEN.

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government number one by…..

  1. Being subject to governing authorities.

 Romans 13:1a-b (NKJV)
1a-b  Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God 

Romans 13:1a-b (NLT)
1a-b Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God

Titus 3:1 (NLT)
1  Remind the believers to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good.

We begin this first point of discussion, addressing what is perhaps one of the most unpopular words in the bible and that is the word SUBMIT.

Remember now the context of this teaching and don’t start shifting around in your seat too quickly, there will be plenty of time for that.

Paul says, that we as believers ought present a powerful testimony to the world by being “exceptional” people who respect governmental authority and respond to it by being submissive.

Thought:

Now truth be told….. we don’t like that word.

We value what government does for us, but when it comes to authority, our response is to refuse, to defend, to disallow, to protest, to resist, to dispute authority and to see the government not as an institution to be respected, but as an institution to be tolerated.

That is the natural response of the FLESH, but you and I as Christians should and must respond differently….

For the bible say Romans 13:1 For there is no authority except from God”

Thought:

This my friends ought to cause us to watch our mouths and to check our attitudes when it comes to the things we say about the government.

It doesn’t matter who the elected official may be.

It doesn’t matter which party they represent.

We should respect and submit to the “position”….because God has appointed all authority.

Thought:

It’s tough for us to embrace this teaching, especially in today’s world

When we look at various people who are in positions of authority within the government, is tough, BUT we must train our eyes, not to see them, but rather to see by faith, the established and appointed work of God.

No one that is in a position of authority within the government got there as a surprise to God.

He brought it about, it was in the cards, it was fixed up in his plan, so when you submit to “the chair” you are submitting to the God who set up the chair.

Thought:

Now there are some exceptions to this rule and it is imperative that you understand this within the context of your personal witness.

You see the teaching here that Paul is sharing with us has to do with civil and secular governmental authority.

We are to be subject to the government in secular and civil matters, but when the laws of the government conflict with the commands of God, then we as Peter said in Acts 5:29, “ought to obey God rather than man”

We must never get the idea that being submissive to the government means, allowing the government to inflict policies and plans, that are in conflict with the word of God.

We are to be subject in secular and civil matters, but when the government seeks to run the church, we ought to obey God rather than man. 

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government by….. 

  1. Praying for our government and it’s leaders.

 

Romans 13:1c (NKJV)
1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, c and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NLT)
1  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
2  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.

Psalm 72:1-2 (MSG)
1  Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God, the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
2  May he judge your people rightly, be honorable to your meek and lowly.

Here in this second point, Paul addresses an area of private spiritual practice that at first glace may not be obvious in terms of the operational aspects of our public witness.

Thought:

I never thought about this much until I started working on this sermon a few months ago.

As I started typing the thoughts on this point it occurred to me, that there is a reason WHY political leaders like to visit churches when they are running for office.

Now as a skeptical person, in my mind I thought that the reason why they come around during election time was in order to get votes.

And there may be some truth in that to a certain extent.

But another thought occurred to me.

And I understand WHY they are asking church folks to pray for them.

You see being in a government position is a tough job and you need wisdom and insight and knowledge, which will often demand that you perform at a level which is way beyond your experience or knowledge.

The folks that run the city of Santa Clarita know that they need God’s guidance to make the right decisions and choices.

The witness that we project as Christians is negatively effected when we spend more time marching and protesting and posting, than we do….PRAYING.

Instead of tweeting and posting, why not put the leaders of our city and state and federal government on your prayer list.

  • Ask God to give our political leaders the gift of WISDOM.
  • Ask God to help the judges and courts to judge people wisely and justly.

God know the names of all of the officers of the courts and the governmental powers that be, he put there in the first place so it’s our job to pray for them.

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government by…..

  1. Respecting that government is ordained by God.

Romans 13:1c-2 (NKJV)
1c  the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
2  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

1 Peter 2:13-14a (NLT)
13  For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state,
14  or the officials he has appointed

1 Peter 2:15-16 (MSG)
15  It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society.
16  Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. 

Romans 13:2 (NLT)
2  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. 

For this third point the thought that I want to focus on revolves around the word ORDINANCE.

Thought:

Most of you who have been in and around Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship for some time, know a bit about my ministerial background.

I was not a minister or a preacher before I came to Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship as part of the small group of people who were forming a bible study in the home of Pastor Robert Charles, who started this church.

A few years after the church was formed I received my license to the gospel ministry in 1997, but I was installed and ordained as the Senior Pastor of this church in 1999.

Rev. Winston was one of the signatories on my ordination certificate.

That document represented the occasion on which the people embraced the call of God upon my life, as being a work and an appointment of God.

I was placed into the position, as an ordinance of God.

Thought:

Government leaders and the powers of the governing bodies are appointed by and established by an ordinance of God.

Dictiionary.com says that the word Ordinance applies to the idea that something is believed to have been ordained by a deity.

In that same way, government has been called as an ordinance of God.

It has been established, it has been designated, it has been ordained to occupy it’s place within the world…….. by GOD.

Thought:

Part of the root word that is contained in the word ordinance is the word “ORDER”

Ordinance means, authoritative regulation. The word is taken from the Latin term Ordi-Are, which means to set in order. 

The word Ordinance is further defined to include the idea, that the ordinance or decree to set things in order, derives it’s power and authority and command, from above.

God expects us Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government by supporting the authority that God has established through his ordained government….

Now how to do you that? 

Well, it’s simple.

You flow in your God given liberty.

You live your life among the unsaved of people this world, exercising the freedom you have as an American citizen, not by being a rebel and breaking laws, but by following the rules and doing what is right.

Now here is the flip side and this is where folks get into trouble.

You have a choice, you can follow the rules or you can be a lawbreaker…

And here is what I can tell you for sure as a 100% truth.

When a Christian decides that the law does not apply to him or herself; no amount of praying, no amount of confessing, no amount of casting the devil down, will avoid the punishment that God himself will allow.

The bible says that whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government 4thly by…..

  1. Recognizing that God has provided governmental order “for our good”

Romans 13:3 (NKJV)
3  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

Romans 13:4 (NLT)
4  The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong.

Romans 13:4 (MSG)
4  the government (is) working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. 

This 4th point in some ways is duplicative of the 3rd, but we are going to explore it further because of the practicality and it’s applicability to some really personal issues that are faced by our various communities.

If I were to ask for a show of hands and I am not asking you to do that, you would find that this room is pretty much split between those who are supporters of local law enforcement and those who are suspicious and or reluctant when it comes to the police.

Earlier in point number three (3) we talked about the concept of ORDER. Say that word..ORDER.

The word order refers to the disposition of things, as it regards the concept of purpose and or harmonious arrangement.

When you think of the word ORDER, thoughts that come to mind include the idea of procedures and regulations and rules.

The concept of order includes the idea of management, or classifications, or systems and structures and it includes the idea of a mechanism or mechanisms to regulate and mange and control people.

You and I as Christians who represent God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in this world are called to recognize and embrace and support the fact that God has provided governmental order………”FOR OUR GOOD”

And that includes the reality that there are armed police and sheriffs who are appointed to arrest and resist and restrain lawbreakers.

Listen to the New Living Translation of Romans 13:3 and I quote…

Romans 13:3 (NLT)
3  For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.

The message translation of Romans 13:4 is also informative and I quote.

Romans 13:4 (MSG)
4  the government (is) working to your advantage. But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it.

 Thought:

Now brace yourselves here for a moment, because I’m not going political but we need to keep it real here.

The stories that we hear of wrongful deaths and the abuses that we see, perpetrated on the lives of some folks, are real. We know what being pulled over for D-W-B is about.

BUT we must NOT dismiss and disrespect the blessing of God, nor dismiss his ability to work through the hundreds and thousands of law enforcement officers who protect and serve, every single day.

When someone comes to rob my house or threaten my family I’m calling the sheriff…and he will show up to protect me and mine.

THANK GOD, that he has provided servants to catch and punish those who are doing wrong.

We must recognize that God has provided governmental order “for our good”.

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government 5th and finally by…..

  1. Paying your taxes.

Romans 13:6 (NLT)
6  Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do.

Romans 13:7 (NKJV)
7  Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Luke 20:22, 25 (NKJV)
22  Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
25  And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

We are coming to the closing part of this sermon and I’m sorry to end this on what may be a sour note.

In fact, I’ve broken a major rule in public speaking and that is that you are suppose to end on an up note.

Here in the passage, Paul shares a most practical and uncomfortable teaching, but what he is sharing makes perfect sense.

God expects Christians to present an excellent testimony in reference to the government by paying our taxes.

Now don’t walk out yet. Don’t shut the word of God down and listen and learn from this just as I did.

Most of us understand that government is beneficial. The city of Santa Clarita is beneficial to us as people who live in this valley.

The streets here are clean. The stop lights work and when there is a problem, the repair crews are out and on the job in a snap.

City hall is pretty well run. We’ve got several well-stocked libraries. Graffiti is not commonly seen, the way that you see some of the streets and buildings marked up and marred down in LA.

The sheriff does a pretty good job of keeping crime down in this city…the state of California is a pretty well run state and the federal government with all of it’s problems is heads and shoulders above most other countries….

And because government is essential and it is a blessing to the people…GOD EXPECTS PEOPLE TO PAY THEIR TAXES.

The teachers have to be paid. The library has to be kept open. The streets must be kept clean, the Sherriff and city hall don’t run on air, they run on MONEY and we the people of God must embrace our responsibility to pay our share.

As Christians who represents the Father, we are to pay whatever is due to our account.

Thought:

It troubles me greatly to hear Christian’s bragging and thanking God, because they were blessed to have gotten out of paying their tax bill because they got some slick lawyer to negotiate a settlement at 10 cents on the dollar.

It troubles me greatly, that some folks use the cloak of religion, as an excuse NOT to pay the taxes that are due from them.

Now I don’t believe that the word of God teaches us to pay more than you have to.

And there is nothing wrong with using the tax code to minimize your tax liability, no what I am talking about is cheating and stealing and lying as a way, of not taking your share of the responsibility…..and the negative witness that accrues to the name and reputation of God.

To cheat. To hide your income. To work for cash and ask for pay under the table, while you have a bible in your hand or a sticker on your car that says HONK if you love JESUS….produces a negative witness on the name of our great God

Now for the folks who are upset at me for teaching on this subject, I simply refer you to the words of Jesus.

They asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes and here is what Jesus said and I quote” “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Get a good accountant; use the tax code, save all of your receipts, take every legal deduction you can and take advantage and the provisions that are permitted in law to minimize your taxes, but don’t cheat, don’t do deals under the table.

Don’t have a business in which you accept cash and then fail to log the sales or the income.

Don’t hire an illegal Nanny so that you can avoid paying the nanny tax.

Render unto Caesar what is due…because YOU represent the name of God your Father.

AMEN

CLOSE:

Today we’ve shared a challenging lesson, but for us I believe that it is a FREEING lesson.

It’s better to know the truth and to embrace God’s standard because there are tremendous blessings contained there in.

Jesus said you shall know the truth the truth would set you free.

As I close today, I want to ask you a question about the truth and where you stand in relation to it.

Here is the truth and I am going to give it you straight.

Every person here under the sound of my voice is a candidate for death.

If you died tonight, can you say with 100% certainty that you are a born again child of God because you have personally embrace by faith the Lord Jesus as master and savior of your life.

What is your answer to that question…TRUTHFULLY.

If the answer is that I am a good person and that you believe that God would accept you into HIS heaven because of that….the truth that I need to share with you as that you are wrong.

  • None of us can ever be good enough to qualify for heaven, on the basis of our own works or deeds.
  • Every person born on this earth is born as a lost sinner worthy of eternal death and lost in his or her sins without the saving power of Jesus Christ God’s own son.

John 3:16 declares that God so loved the world that he gave HIS only begotten SON.

He gave his SON Jesus to die for our sins, so that through faith in HIM we could be forgiven and brought to heaven to live with him when we pass away from this life.

The truth is that if you don’t know Jesus in the pardon of your sins, as good as you may be, you are still lost.

Now you don’t have to stay that way; you can give your heart and life to Christ this morning. You can repent of your sins and ask Jesus Christ into your life as Lord and be born into his family today.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

Click here for the full service video

 

COMMUNION.

 

How to present an excellent testimony

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

How to present an excellent testimony

Romans 12:14-21 (NKJV)
14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
16  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
17  Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
18  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
19  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
20  Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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

We are very happy to be back with you on this 1st Sunday in August, we are in the midst of our super hot summer.

This is the 4th sermon in the mini-series within the series we have been working though from the epistle written to the church at ROME.

Just a few weeks ago I delivered a message entitled HOW TO RELATE TO OTHER BELIEVERS and this was a very practical and relevant sermon, because it spoke to the reality of how we as the people of God should treat each other within the church.

Now today’s sermon has to do with our public testimony and what God expects from us, as believers who are living and working in this world….watch this…as people who represent HIS name.

As you are functioning within your job, or school or business or workplace, you are whether you realize this or not, representing and or giving a testimony about God and his goodness. You are by the life you live, representing the grace and love of God, who loved you and called you into his blessed family.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the what worldly folks think about God can take anything away from God or his “GODNESS”, he’s is God and what people think about him, cannot change who God is.

But don’t get the impression that God does not care about HIS name, or the actions of those associated with HIS name.

As born again believers, God the Father expects YOU to conduct yourself in a manner that is heads and shoulders above the ignorance and foolishness that defines much of society today.

The way you live the way you walk, the way you present yourself ought to give a strong testimony to the positive, not only for yourself, but for the heavenly Father.

Here in these words, Paul gives an outline in which he lays the ground work to show us how-to-“represent” the presence of God the Father in our lives.

Now I am going to warn you right up front. The standards that God sets are lofty and they are completely “counterintuitive” to the selfish ways of the flesh.

But in spite of that reality, we must remember that everything we do in this world…watch this, is an opportunity for God to speak through us.

And to help US understand that more clearly Paul gives us these SIX directives.

Now if you are ready to roll say AMEN

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony by…..

  1. Speaking well of those who don’t treat us right.

Romans 12:14 (NKJV)
14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Romans 12:14 (NLT)
14  Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

Matthew 5:16 (NKJV)
16  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

1 Peter 3:9b-c (NLT)
9b-c  Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.

Ephesians 4:31 (MSG)
31  Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.

Wow, God really knows how to call us down and to hold us accountable by hitting us right where we often find our selves struggling.

Here in point number one Paul says to bless, to speak well of, AND to pray just as Jesus did for those who persecute you.

This word persecute, is a powerful word, because it conveys the idea of being the recipient of harassing or oppressive treatment.

Synonyms for this word include afflict, torture, torment, worry, badger, bother, pester, plague, hound, pick on, annoy, dog, tease, to be on your case, to drive you up a wall, to get on your nerves and to make you want to loose your mind….

To the Christian who receives this kind of treatment, the bible says to respond NOT by cursing them, or hurling insults but rather by speaking positively about them and YES even praying for them.

Thought:

Some of you all may be a lot more advanced than me, but I would be lying to you, if I said, YES, if someone is torturing me and badgering me and persecuting me, I respond by wanting to bless him or her.

Now if you were honest today, the majority of you in here would say the same thing, because you have experienced tormet, in your day-to-day relationships.

In the job, from your boss, in your neighborhood from the bitty down the street, from your relatives, from that bone headed co-worker and YES even from within relationships in the church, persecution and mistreatment is a reality.

It’s a reality, that we will all deal with BUT God says, our response should not be a response that flows out of the flesh, but rather our response should be a response that flows-out our renewed Spirit and the presence of God who lives in us. 

Thought:

You and I as believers must recognize that how we respond to these difficult situations, has an impact on the name and reputation of Almighty God.

In the workplace, in your dealings with the problematic co-worker, how you respond as a Christian will either magnify and glorify God, or it will serve as a negative testimony, concerning the God you serve.

Matthew chapter 5:16 simply says and I quote “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven

Thought:

I have a thought for you to consider and here it is……

When we are attacked or cursed or persecuted and we lash out, or retaliate, we are letting a “light shine” whether we realize it or not. 

You see as a child of God, all eyes are on YOU.

It is not fair, because the person is persecuting YOU and then when you go off that person will respond by saying…..SEE I told you.

She’s always saying God bless you and she’s always praying over her food and talking about God, but when you push her, she’s just like every body else.

We must be more concerned with what our lives say about the God we serve, than we are about the hurt or wrong that may be committed against us.

We must let the light of God’s love and grace and kindness be seen as real and solid in the face of a confused and Godless world.

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony by…..

  1. Sharing in and caring about the lives of others.

Romans 12:15 (NKJV)
15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15 (MSG)
15  Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.

Job 2:11a-c,d (MSG)
11  aThree of Job’s friends heard of all the trouble that had fallen on him. dEach traveled from his own country, and went together to Job to keep him company and comfort him.

Hebrews 4:15a (MSG)
15  We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.

For this second point, I want to draw your mind and attention to the concepts of sharing and caring. SAY THAT PHRASE…SHARING AND CARING.

Remember now the subject that we are addressing is HOW TO PRESENT AN EXCELLENT TESTIMONY.

As we live and walk and conduct ourselves among unbelievers God’s name and God’s reputation is either being blasphemed or being praised, as a result of the actions and the observable lifestyles of those who present themselves as Christians.

This is particularly and very measurably true when it comes to matters of sharing in and caring about the lives of others.

Now we want to make sure that we place this teaching in the correct context, we are not talking about becoming involved in and tied up, with the things and systems of this world.

We are talking about the importance of caring about the lives of people AND NOT presenting ourselves to the world, as folks who don’t care about anyone but ourselves.

As God’s children you and I must present an excellent testimony by demonstrating that we love and care about the lives of people just as our heaven Father loves and cares about the people in this the world.

Thought:

You remember the story of JOB and the troubles and trials he encountered in life.

Three of Jobs friends heard about his trouble and they came to see about and to encourage him.

They did not just show up when things were going good.

They were not what we commonly refer to as “fair weather friends”

They didn’t stop calling JOB because he lost his high-powered positioned, but rather they showed the God-like trait of EMPATHY

Now don’t get me wrong here because eventually Job’s friends turned to criticizing and accusing Job, but the initial response before they got off track was to demonstrate Empathy…say that word.

Empathy is a trait of God, that speaks to HIS sympathy and compassion.

Hebrews chapter 4 reminds us that we have a high priest, who is in touch with our feelings and our reality.

Caring about PEOPLE being happy when people are happy, having compassion for people, being there for people, appreciating people and really caring about THEM….is a GOD LIKE quality.

As believers we are to be genuine people who show an interest in the lives of others, by supporting in and sharing in their ups and downs in life.

Rather than only being concerned about ourselves or our friends or our family or our church we need to be concerned about worldly folks who are dying and on their way to a devil’s hell.

Thought:

Now if you thought that point number one gave you a head ache, I can tell you that point number two gave me a kick in the pants.

As many times as I have preached to folks and spoken to folks out there in the world, truth is that I get a great big “F” when it comes to caring about the folks in my own neighborhood.

Some of them know that I am a minister, I know some of there names, but I really don’t go out of my way to care about the lives of those who are right in my backyard.

You see the truth is that I love being involved in the lives of my own family and the family of God, but when I come home I close the garage and shut the doors tight.

I wave at faces every morning when I am taking my walk, I’m friendly, but here the word of God convicts me of the reality that I’ve done nothing to show a genuine care about the people in my neighborhood.

That’s my confession….what about YOU ?

What kind of a testimony are we presenting to the WORLD, when we who know the living Lord, are so disconnected and so self absorbed and so indifferent to the world, that that we fail to show forth the light of God, that is in our lives, by showing that we care about others.

Now I understand that this is an unfriendly world and that there are HATERS out there…but everyone is NOT a hater

How can we really reach the lost if we stay penned up in our private worlds.

How can we really share the gospel with the unsaved, if we only spend time with “us” and “ours”.

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony by…..

  1. Treating everyone the same, regardless of status or position.

Romans 12:16 (NKJV)
16  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Romans 12:16 (MSG)
16  Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Romans 12:16 (NLT)
16  Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

In the previous point, we talked about the concept of EMPATHY, as demonstrated in the much needed and God like trait of caring about and being interested in and valuing people.

This third point has to do with the picture we project and the message that we broadcast to the world in terms of how we treat people.

Paul in Romans chapter 12 verse 16 gives three powerful instruction that speak to the issue of attitude, for time sake we will just look at two.

FIRST he says, be of the same mind. This literally means that we must learn to get into the minds of other folks. We must strive to understand people. We must learn to identify with and understand people who are different from ourselves.

You are different than me, you have a different set of experiences, I am different than you, because I have different history, but we must strive to truly connect with people, by truly understanding them.

SECONDLY, he says mind not high things. The message translation says, don’t be stuck up, make friends with “nobodies” the New Living Translation says “ enjoy the company of ordinary folks”

Wow.

This is a really powerful concept that would stand out in today’s world, because in our modern culture, so much emphasis is placed on dividing and separating and categorizing people on the basis of wealth, or status or social position.

How powerful a tool this would be and what an incredible witness this would be in today’s world.

If the church began to flow in that reality, we would stand out…as being exceptional.

If you were to flow in that reality in your personal interactions with worldly folk, you would stand out as exceptional.

  • Imagine the power of your personal testimony, living your day-to-day life
  • in a way that is completely different than the world.
  • Treating everyone the same, regardless of their position.
  • You would stand out and the God you serve would be glorified.

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony by…..

  1. Leaving matters of “payback” to the Lord.

Romans 12:17 (NKJV)
17  Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 

1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NKJV)
15  See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

Proverbs 20:22 (NLT)
22  Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the LORD to handle the matter.

2 Corinthians 8:21 (MSG)
21  We’re being as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God.

This 4th point is super-practical and vitally important when it comes to the issue of presenting an excellent testimony for the Lord.

In an earlier point we spoke a bit about the issues we some times faces in the work place.

Those of us who have worked in the corporate environment know how competitive and cutthroat the business world can be.

If you want to be respected at work, you’ve got to let people know that they better NOT mess with you because you’ll hit back and hit back hard.

Such is the mentality of the world and the FLESH but as representatives of God’s good name, we must be careful.

Because we represent God and HIS name, we must according to 2nd Corinthians 8:21 “be as careful in our reputation with the public as in our reputation with God”

Thought:

PAYBACK…say that word and feel how good it sounds…

PAYBACK helps us with our pride.

Yes, that’s it…not only did some one hurt you, but they hurt your pride and now you are embarrassed and hurt and you want PAY BACK

Problem is that PAYBACK is a TRAP.

You see when you focus on payback; you’ll stop caring about other folks, because your focus is all about licking your wounds.

You’ll loose sight of the importance of empathy.

You’ll move away from trusting God.

So we must be committed to presenting an excellent testimony to the world by leaving pay back in the hands of God.

payback may make you feel better, but when YOU pay them back and YOU cross over into SIN and YOU cause the name of God to be blasphemed.

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony by…..

  1. Making an effort to get along with everyone, whenever possible.

Romans 12:18 (NKJV)
18  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)
26  And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,
27  for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Romans 12:17-18 (MSG)
17  Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.
18  If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

Proverbs 15:1 (NKJV)
1  A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

In 1992, Los Angeles was the scene of some incredible rioting and violence.

For those of you who are young, the name Rodney King may or may not mean anything to you.

While folks were burning the city down, Rodney King looked into the camera of a reporter and he simply said… Can’t we all just get along”

Now there are a couple of different ways that we can approach this, but for time sake let’s just focus on the portion of the passage which says, as much as depends upon you.

As Christians who are out there in the work place, as children of the most high who are living among the unsaved folks in your neighborhood who notice the sign on your bumper sticker that says HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS…you and I are to present an excellent testimony, by living peaceably with all men, whenever we can.

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”

From a practical standpoint, we can position ourselves to live peaceably… most of the time.

Notice what the word says in Ephesians chapter 4:26 where is says “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

Notice what the word says in Romans 12:17 where it simply commands us to try to get along with everybody.

And then look at Proverbs 15:1the word tells us that HOW WE RESPOND will either enflame or be a source of calm.

As much as depends upon, take responsibility for the witness of your own life, you control your anger, you control your mouth, YOU make an effort to make sure you are not the cause of the trouble. 

“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men”

As believers we are called to present an excellent testimony 6th and finally by…..

  1. Trusting God to take care of people and things.

Romans 12:19 (NKJV)
19  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:35 (NLT)
35  I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.’

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)
21  If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.
22  You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

This final point captures, restates and emphasizes some of the previous points we discussed.

I were to give you a summarizing thought it would be this…” in dealing with people and understanding the impact of how you handle yourself in your day-to-day relationships with the world……….the best things we can do, is to trust God and let him take care of people and things.

Earlier we talked about the problems and realties of the fleshly desire for vengeance and we each surely understand the difficulties and problems associated with that.

As God’s beloved we are advised and cautioned that the right to judge belongs to God and we as his children who love him, are to trust in and rest in him.

If your enemies are thirsty, give them a drink.

If the bone headed neighbor who constantly leaves his trash out side so that it blows on to your lawn, does the exact same thing again, say something nice to them.

Speak well of the person at the office who stole your idea.

Do the unexpected, because your actions will confuse and bewilder and SHAME them.

Doing the unexpected by being kind and gracious will bring shame upon them and glory upon the Lord you represent.

Vengeance is MINE says the Lord, so trust me to take care of the people and things you are worried about.

AMEN.

Click here to view the entire service and sermon on line

 

 

 

 

How To Relate To Other Believers

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

How to relate to other believers 

Romans 12:9-13 (KJV)
9  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.
10  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;
11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
12  Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
13  Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

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

This is the 3rd sermon in the mini-series within the series we have been working through from the epistle written to the church at ROME.

If you were here last week you may recall that the topic of the sermon was entitled “ Understanding The Gifts”.

Paul taught us in that portion of the letter, about some of the various Spiritual gifts that God provides for the body of Christ, within the context of our interconnected relationship as members of the body, who are connected to each other.

The teaching that we shared, was actually part of a larger conversation in which Paul was exhorting the church to embrace the wonder and blessing of learning to function together as one.

So we being many, says the word of God, are one body in Christ and everyone members of one another, having then differing gifts, according to the grace that is given to us.

Paul went on to teach us about those gifts and to exhort us to use those gifts, not to compete with each but to exercise these gifts for the benefit of the body.

Now the teaching that we share today is a perfect transition into the broader subject of how to function “relationally” within the body of Christ.

Again, remember now we as believers are functioning within the context of Spiritual as well as human dynamics.

We all love the Lord. We’ve come together in a local church setting, being drawn by God the Father to the same Lord by the Same Spirit

But we are not robots, nor are we immune to the realities and stresses that are associated with people.

So as we work together, we must strive against, we must overcome the issues of the flesh and press towards the operational reality of living out and functioning within the context of our blessed position as members of the body of Christ.

In other words, we must continually be taught and embrace what the word of God teaches us, not only about how to love and relate to God, but how to love and relate to each other as fellow believers within the body of Christ.

This is the topic of today’s sermon addressing the practical lessons on Christianity.

And today we are going to begin the first of a number of sermons on how to relate to and how to treat other believers.

Four points to the sermon this morning, if you are ready to proceed say AMEN.

As believers each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ should 

  1. Love one another without hypocrisy.

Romans 12:9 (KJV)
9  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.

Romans 12:10 (NKJV)
10  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

Romans 12:9a-b (NLT)
9  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

Romans 12:9a-b (MSG)
9  Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.

1 John 3:18-19 (NLT)
18  Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.
19  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

As believers, as born again Christians who are functioning within the context of a co-joined Spiritual relationship, you and I are called to love one another and to do so without hypocrisy.

Paul begins this portion of his teaching on the practical aspects of how we should relate to each other within the body of Christ, by taking head on, if you please, one of the most glaring issues of complaint and dissatisfaction from inside the church and from critics outside of the church.

Thought:

You’ve probably heard it said before and maybe even said it yourself in anger ….folks will say I don’t like the church….I stay home and watch it on TV….If I do come, I try and get out as quickly as possible because I don’t want to deal with those phonies at the church.

Now make sure that you get this 100% clear. This sermon isn’t about Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship per se, but what we are learning here applies to every church bar none.

We are NOT ragging on God’s church, nor are we joining in with the chorus of unbelievers and critics who are constantly bad mouthing and berating God’s people.

Instead, we are simply acknowledging that hypocrisy is something that affects all human beings.

As believers, as members of the body of Christ, you and I are called to relate to each other in a way that is void of “dissimulation”

The word that the passage uses here refers to the idea of play-acting.

It speaks of a kind of pretense, in which there is the human tendency to project a false face, or to have hidden motives in our dealings and or relationships with others.

Paul is teaching us and exhorting us to relate to each other and to guard against this human tendency, because we are members of the body of Christ.

We must respect each other and love each other enough, to care more about others than we do about how we look, or how we are perceived, which is why as human’s we often project these false images of ourselves.

We must love and relate to our fellow congregants by honoring them with the reality of presenting ourselves as we are, “without the act” or the “front” or the hidden agenda, so that they too, may be encouraged to show the same care and concern and respect for you.

In other words if you love your brother or sister, you will demonstrate your love for them, not simply with words, but by actions which show that you love them enough to take off the mask.

Thought:

Let’s be honest for a moment together, can we. Let’s tell the truth, for the mask and the projection and the managing and wearing thereof takes a lot of work.

And the truth is that as believers we have a lot more serious issues and struggles to deal with, because we are in a war.

  • We are fighting a battle every day with the onslaught of the world system with it’s various temptations and distractions that are pressing in on the lives of every Christian in the body of Christ.
  • We are fighting the weakness and confusion of our own minds and beating this flesh down daily to keep it in line with God’s will.

It takes a lot of work to live and walk right with God day after day, so instead adding another layer of work to do on Sunday morning, by having to make sure that the mask is on right, why not give each other a break.

Why not “let your hair down” by sharing the truth concerning your victories and your struggles so that we can help and encourage each other.

In other words, we most love and respect each other by keeping it real, by encouraging each other in times of struggle AND by exhorting and challenging our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to cleave to that which is good.

That is how it really works in a healthy family.

You don’t put on a mask at home. You don’t pretend to be someone that you are not when you are at home; instead you are your self, with your pimples and curlers and your beat up tee shirt…and your worn out slippers.

Thought:

Now as I teach you about the freedom and wonder of this first point and I encourage you in the area of respect and honesty, I also need to balance the point here with a word of caution and clarification.

Earlier I said that we ought to keep it real and we absolutely need to respect each other and love each other enough to do that…. AMEN

Now where the mistake comes…is in the human tendency…to be tactless….or loose in our words….or disrespectful….and to just cut loose and let it all hang out under the guise of “keeping it real”, when what the scripture actually calls for is having a heart that gives preference, that takes delight and gives primary consideration to others.

So be clear; there is a balance between keeping it real and being honest enough to take off the mask….and being hurtful or inconsiderate to others, under the guise of realness.

As believers each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ should

  1. Make a personal commitment to excellence in service for the Lord.

Romans 12:11 (KJV)
11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
21  “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV)
10  For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

Colossians 3:23 (HCSB)
23  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men,

As believers for the benefit of our beloved brothers and sister in Christ, we care about each other and we care enough to make sure that our love is real; that is the first point that we just shared together a moment ago.

This second point is very practical and relevant because it speaks to the every-day realities of service OR MINISTRY…SAY THAT WORD MINISTRY

Thought:

Now when we speak of the word ministry or minister there is a tendency to break that idea or definition into something that we think applies to the Minister or Pastor or preacher.

Brother So and So is the Pastor, he is the minister of First Church of Santa Clarita and he is in charge of ministering or serving.

He is the one who does the ministry and or does the serving. He’s the one who works in the ministry as THE MINISTER.

Here Paul is giving us a teaching that reminds us, that ministry and or service isn’t a job that belongs solely to the minister, but rather ministry is service to the Lord, which is done by the believer, as part of his or her co-joined status within the Spiritual collective known as the body of Christ.

Now remember the context of Paul’s earlier teachings which we learned about in Romans chapter 12:5-8.

Paul was teaching us about the various gifts that God had allocated to members within the body and the teaching that Paul shared with us, said that God has dealt to each of us a measure of faith, or giftedness.

All of the gifts are not invested solely in the person who occupies the official “leadership” of the church.

God has given gifts, through his people and he has allocated gifts to the various parts of the body, in order for the church to function properly.

We’ve all been given gifts AND as believers in Jesus Christ and as members of his body, each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ, should make a personal commitment to excellence in the application and exercise of whatever gift the Lord has delegated to us.

This is how we show that we care about each other.

We show that we care, not just with words, but by doing whatever God has called us to do, in terms of service to him, at a level of excellence, for the benefit of HIS church, the body of Christ.

Now notice what the scripture says here….and underline or highlight it in your bible…

Not slothful, not sluggish, not half, not hesitating, not half committed, not lazy, not slow, not lethargic or delaying in earnestness, but….. FERVENT.

The word fervent is taken from the Greek word ZEO. It means to burn so hot and to have such intensity that you literally boil.

It means to be set aflame, to have zeal and an enthusiasm for Christ and the things of Christ.

Thought:

Now lets take our time here, because we want to extract all of the juice from this point.

Remember the context of the teaching; we are learning how to relate to and to treat others within the body of Christ and within this co-joined spiritual family called the church.

Here is a Thought for you to consider…

Being slothful and slow and reluctant and half, hurts the body of Christ because it hurts God’s business.

Thought:

When Cecile and I first moved to California back in 1980, we loved the atmosphere out here, because folks in California were “laid back”

They didn’t pressure themselves much at all.

They were chilling and maxing and relaxing.

The attitude generally was, hey it’s not my problem.

It will get handled, I’ll get to it, don’t hassle me with expectations and or pressure.

Serve me. Cater to me, make it easy….Sound familiar ?

It’s a wonderful philosophy if you are a customer, but it is a destructive mentality if you are member of the body of Christ.

For the benefit of our brothers and sister in Christ, to whom we are co-joined, we ought to be the complete opposite of laid back, but rather for the sake of love, we ought to be fired up and enthused in the use of our gift at a level of excellence for the Lord.

In other words God deserves so much more than 1/2

I don’t know about you my friends, but I want to be fired up and committed to excellence when it comes to the things of the Lord.

I want his church and each member of this church, to be on fire for excellence.

I want HIS church and each member of HIS church to have a level of zeal and fervency, which puts the world to shame.

I want HIS church and the members of this body, to see the calling of God as a unique and privileged blessing, that is so valued and honored in our minds, that it eclipses the excitement that we have for our jobs and the money or power we obtain in the world.

Most of all, we should desire to hear those blessed words from Christ himself.

To hear him say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.

You didn’t approach my business with a sense of lag and reluctance.

You were not hoarding your time and putting your job or career ahead of me and the body to which I called you to be apart of.

But instead you realized that what I gave you was needed for the body and you put that gift to use, so that the others within my body could flow in the fullness of their gifts.

You did good my child, come on in and let’s celebrate together!’

As believers each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ should 

  1. Be prayerfully committed to partnering with others when trials come.

Romans 12:12 (KJV)
12  Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

Matthew 18:20 (NKJV)
20  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Ephesians 6:18 (NKJV)
18  praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints–

1 Peter 4:12-13b (NKJV)
12  Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13b  but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings

This third point really speaks to a reality that is prevalent and pervasive in the lives of the members of the body.

In point number one we spoke about the realities of the masks that we sometimes wear that keeps us separated from our brothers and sisters within the church.

It is a mask that we want others to see which projects a false sense of prosperity and wellness, but it is also a mask, which robs us of the much-needed resource that God has provided, in the form of partnership and prayer.

Thought:

As believers in Jesus Christ, as members of his beloved body each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sister should be prayerfully committed to partnering with others when trials come.

Notice that I did not say “IF” they come, but when they come.

Thought:

Trails and struggles and problems and challenges and tests are going to happen in life and the fact that you may be saved and know Jesus as Lord, is not a guarantee that your life will be a walk in the park.

In fact I can tell you with 99% certainty that you are going to go through some stuff at some point in your life.

  • You as a person may experience trauma, or disappointment or some life- changing ordeal.

And the devil is so tricky, that he will try to isolate you, by separating you, from other believers and from the life of the body.

He uses the mask that we designed to conceal our true self from others and he takes that mask and makes it into a weapon.

HE exploits our weaknesses, in order to keep us off balance, so that when the trial comes, we won’t have anyone to partner with us or to stand with us, or to pray with us, or to fast with us, at the time we need partnership the most.

To overcome that, not only do you have to take off your own mask, but you must also be personally committed to being there for others in the body when they need your help.

You have to personally make a commitment, not the prayer team, not the visiting angels, not the ministers alone, but YOU personally, must make a commitment to being there for others, for Jesus himself has declared and I quote”

20  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Thought:

What a powerful promise.

Jesus is in the midst.

Jesus is at work in the context of your commitment and there is spiritual power that is released within that dynamic.

God himself has promised that he will empower you and equip you and enable you, when the fiery trial comes and you’ll be able to deal with it and come through it with victory, as you stand together and partner with one another as A FAMILY.

As believers each of us for the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ should …4th and finally..

  1. Be dedicated to generosity in order to meet the needs of others.

Romans 12:13 (KJV)
13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.

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

Romans 12:13 (HCSB)
13  Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.

This 4th and final point is a teaching on the subject of distribution and hospitality.

Again as we come to a close it is very important that you embrace this teaching within the context of the topic of this sermon, that speaks to the issue of how you and I as believers in Jesus Christ, are to relate to other believers within the body.

For the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we each must be generous and willing to distribute and share what we have, in order to meet the needs of others within the body of Christ.

Thought:

In an earlier sermon we taught about the person who is gifted with the gift of giving.

And we shared a bit about the type of person who seems to be wired toward meeting the needs of others in the area of giving.

If you say, hey we have need for “X” they are happy to just donate something because they are wired that way.

Here we are talking about Paul’s teaching on how and why it is important to recognize that the entire body is called to meet the needs of it’s self.

Notice very simply the straightforwardness and clarity of Romans 12:13 the ‘a” portion of the passage which says “distributing to the necessity of the saints”

The message translation says, “help needy Christians”

The Holman Christian bible says, “share with the saints”

Thought:

Now a lot of folks don’t like the idea that you can be a Christian and not be financially prosperous.

And many within the body of Christ actually think that something is wrong with you, if in fact you as a believer do not have the outer trappings of financial success and prosperity.

Here in the bible and in looking at Paul’s teaching we see a challenge to that notion, because the bible refers to those who may be needy, as “saints”

In other words, it is possible that a person can be just as saved as you are.

Just as justified as you are.

Just as loved by God and as forgiven as you.

They can be as dedicated to the Lord as you are……..yet have needs and be lacking in the area of financial resources.

Watch this….the fact that they may lack the kinds of resources that others may have, does not make them less of a saint or less of a sincere believer than you.

It simply means that YOU have been placed in the position of having resources, that are given you to, for the purpose being a conduit of distribution, to see to the needs of “ the saints”

And that can be in the form of money, it can be in the form of opening your home to others, or sharing your God given resources when you see that there is a genuine need within the body of Christ.

This is how we should relate to each other as brothers and sister in Christ, these are the keys to flowing in the reality of living in a way that presents our every-day-lives as living sacrifices to the Lord and speaks of our connectedness in HIM.

  1. Loving each other without hypocrisy.
  2. Serving the Lord at a level of excellence and doing our best for him.
  3. Being available to pray and fast and partner with our Brother and Sisters when trails come
  4. And sharing the responsibility of seeing that our collective needs are met, by being conduits of what God has allocated to us.

AMEN.

Today we shared a sermon in which we spoke about the blessed body of Christ, that group of chosen believers who have come together as a result of our shared faith in God’s own Son Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives.

I wonder today if there are any here today who are on the outside of God’s family.

Now understand that when I say that, I’m not talking about whether or not you were raised in a Christian home or if you went to church or bible class or catechism.

I’m talking about whether or not you know Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, because you’ve made a decision to accept by faith his death on the cross, his burial and his resurrection from the grave as being true and personally applicable to you.

Do you know and understand and believe that Jesus died to pay for prices for your sins.

Do you know personally what it means in John 3:16 where it said that God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whosoever believes in him, should not perish but have every lasting life.

Have you done that have you come to the place of giving your heart and life to Christ ?

Have you been born again?

Well if the answer is NO and you would like to say YES to Jesus this is the day and now is the time.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed…

click here to view the entire service

 

 

 

Understanding the Gifts

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

         Practical lessons on Christianity: Understanding the gifts

Romans 12:5-8 (KJV)
5  So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;
7  Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching;
8  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

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

We are continuing through this mini-series within the series taken from the epistle written to the church at Rome and we are doing so, by reason of the inspiration and the blessed help of the Holy Spirit of God, in answer to your prayers on my behalf.

The last two sermons, in this mini-series were especially helpful and instructive to us, as Paul talked about and exhorted us, in terms of the practical day-to-day aspects of our reasonable service.

He exhorted us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

He called us as Christians to present our every day lives, to him.

We were also treated to a much needed and challenging teaching on the issue of attitude.

Paul wrote specifically about how we as believers are to adopt a mindset in which we reject the insanity of thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.

But rather we our to see our selves as being part of a body and part of a co-joined and interconnected group of believers, who function and flow within the context of our gifts and abilities, which were given to us by God.

As it says in Romans chapter 12:3 that God has dealt to every man, a measure.

We’ve all been given some sort of gift by God and since we are members of one body, that is the body of Christ, we ought to use those gifts in cooperation with one-another, for the glory of God.

Today we are going to learn about some of the gifts that God has provided for the church and the operation of those gifts in relation to each other, as part of our co-joined relationship within the body of Christ.

Now several of these “gifts” are noted in this passage, although there are other gifts that are spoken of which you can find written about in Ephesians and also in 1st Corinthians.

So understand that what we are doing here today is not an exhaustive study of the spiritual gifts, we are simply exploring a teaching about the gifts, within the broader context of Paul’s teachings about how you and I as believers, should relate to each other AND how these gifts, which are allocated to us by God, can and do benefit the body of Christ.

If you’ve got that say AMEN. (Make sure that everyone has an outline)

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts are the gift of…..

  1. Prophecy

Romans 12:6 (KJV)
6  Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith;

Romans 12:6 (NLT)
6  In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.

Acts 21:8-9 (NLT)
8  The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.
9  He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:3 (NKJV)
3  But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

Paul begins his teaching here concerning spiritual gifts, beginning with the gift of prophecy.

It’s interesting that Paul leads off his teaching by tackling the subject of prophecy, because this is a subject that is a hot topic in today’s church world.

In the Old Testament the term prophet referred to a person who proclaimed and declared the will of God.

Such a person would speak on God’s behalf, declaring verbally the will of God concerning present and future events.

When you think of a prophet, you might think of Jeremiah or Isaiah.

In the New Testament you find instances of people who were identified as prophets.

For example in Acts 10, you you’ll find that it was prophesied by Agabus that Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles, if he should go to Jerusalem.

Agabus took Paul’s belt and he bound his hands and feet and he said, Paul if you go up there this is what is going to happen to you.

This is what we often think of when we hear the term prophet. 

But for the most part in the New Testament, what you find is that the gift of prophecy is manifested within a PERSON “who proclaims and explains the word of God.

Thought:

We read earlier from 1st Corinthians 14:3, which says “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

The message translation of 1st Corinthians 14:3 says speaking of prophecy and I quote “you’re letting others in on the truth so that they can grow and be strong and experience HIS (meaning Christ’s) presence within you.

WOW, this is a fascinating thought, because what we learn here in point number one is that God has gifted certain people within the body of Christ with the ability to proclaim and declare God’s word in a way that edifies, exhorts and comforts the members of the body.

Now does a Pastor do that, YES he does?

Does a preacher do that, yes he or she does, but it is also possible that such a gifting is in you and you can have that gift and flow in that gift without having the title of pastor or elder or preacher. 

You see, I believe the gift of prophecy in the New Testament sense of the word, is all about, helping to declare the truth.

It’s about encouraging others and building up fellow believers, with the truth that is contained in his word and the testimony of your faith and what you’ve learned and can share and proclaim as a result of your walk and experience with Christ.

It is a gift that God bestows upon and through people, which is given for the benefit of the body.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts we find 2ndly the gift of….

  1. Ministry

Romans 12:7a (KJV)
7  Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering:

Romans 12:7a (NLT)
7  If your gift is serving others, serve them well.

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.

Here in this second area of discussion, the King James Version of the passage uses the word Ministry. The New Living Translation uses the word serving.

The Greek word used here is Diako-nia; this is a term that is often used in reference to a person who serves others.

If you research the subject on-line, you’ll also see that it is a word, which speaks to those who execute the commands of others.

Bible-study-tools.com indicated specifically that such persons would execute the commands of those who proclaim the gospel.

The word Deacon, has it’s roots in this word, but for the purposes of our discussion, we are not going to limit our discourse to teaching on Deacons, because this very practical and most needed gift, is not just for those who hold the office of a Deacon, but it is a special spiritual gifting, that can be in operation and flow through many, different people in the body of Christ.

Thought:

In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.

And If your gift, says the word is serving others, serve them well.

The message translation says, if you help…just help.

Thought:

Most of us know some folks who are not wired to be helpers.

Most of us know someone who has a Spirit of helpfulness; and you can see that in them because they are always willing to help.

They are wired that way, there is an unusual willingness and an openness to be the kind of person who just says, hey just tell me how I can help, just tell me what you want me to do.

THOUGHT:

You may be one of those kinds of people whom God has gifted in this way.

AND In your eyes your gifting may not be very glamorous, but I am here to tell you that God has gifted you with a WONDERFUL gift and he has given you a heart for service, because he has dealt a measure to you, of something that is very needful and pertinent.

You are the one who helps to make things happen and you are a major blessing from God, because you are gifted with a heart for service, that does not require you to get your name of the program, in order for you to do your job.

You are gifted and you walk in the same Spirit of Christ himself, who made himself of no reputation and took upon himself the form of a servant.

So understand and embrace the blessing of this word of encouragement; for you my friend are flowing in the same ministry that Christ Jesus flowed in; in other words, you are doing just like Jesus did.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts is the gift of….

  1. Teaching

Romans 12:7c (KJV)
7  Or he that teacheth, on teaching;

Romans 12:7c (NLT)
7c If you are a teacher, teach well.

 Ephesians 4:11-12 (NLT)
11  Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12  Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

John 21:17a,d (KJV)
17aHe saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ? d Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

God has given believers, spiritual gifts in order to benefit the entire body of Christ and among these gifts are the gift of teaching.

The Greek word used here is Did-ask-on

 Now the gift of teaching is a gift that is evidenced in the Spiritual ability to explain and make clear, God’s word and God’s truth.

Thought:

Teaching is not like giving a speech, or having the gift of gab.

It is a gifting that gives the person the ability to go beyond just sounding good or being able to speak well.

A spiritually gifted teacher can take the word of God and make it come alive, so that you become stronger in ways that you never thought were possible.

Thought:

Now the truth of the matter is that there are SOME folks who are gifted in this area, but they are not teaching because they believe that you need to be a PREACHER in order to get people to accept you as a teacher.

But that is wrong….

You see in the modern church there is so much attention and focus given to preaching that there is a tendency to diminish this most needed gift.

That is why you hardly find that folks who aspire to be a teacher; they want to be Reverend, or Elder, or Pastor, but the truth is that God’s word needs to be proclaimed by the preacher or prophet YES, but it also needs to be explained by gifted teachers.

Every church and every local congregation within the body of Christ, is in desperate need of solid bible teaching, so if you are watching on-line, or if you are here listening to this sermon today, I want to encourage you to embrace this gifting and to share that gift with the body of Christ, if in fact God has allocated it to you.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts is the gift of….

  1. Exhortation

Romans 12:8a (KJV)
8  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation:

2 Timothy 4:2 (KJV)
2  Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

2 Timothy 4:3 (NLT)
3  For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 

Titus 1:9 (NLT)
9  He must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught; then he will be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.

The materials that I used in preparation for this sermon were very generous in giving the Greek words associated with each of these gifts; here in this 4th point the Greek word used here is Para-kal-a-e-s-i

God has gifted believers within the body of Christ, to have a special ability to motivate and encourage folks to do better or to change.

Now in today’s church, the primary source of exhortation mostly flows from the pulpit.

And for those of us who preach God’s word and especially for those who operate in the office of the pastorate; the need for and the call for effective exhortation is very urgent.

We need exhortation, we need motivation, for as the scripture says, the time is coming and indeed has come when people will no longer listen to sound doctrine.

And that is surely true today, for folks don’t want to hear correction, they don’t want to be admonished and warned, yet I firmly believe that the call and need for this gifting is imperative and urgent and needful.

Tell your neighbor, folks need EXHORTATION…

Thought:

There is a thought that I’d like to share with you and it is one that you may not have considered….

And here is it….the most effective type of exhortation; isn’t done from behind the pulpit, it’s done peer-to-peer.

It’s done by people, in their relationships with their peers; it’s done in a Spirit of love and humility from those in the body who are Spiritually strong, who are loving and caring enough, to come along side of the weak and rebellious ones who are a part of the body and to encourage others, by example, by challenging, motivating and YES even warning our brothers and sisters to do better and to change.

It is imperative to understand that a preacher or Pastor or teacher can flow in this gifting, but it is NOT reserved only to those who stand in the pulpit.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts is the gift of….

  1. Giving

Romans 12:8b (KJV)
8b  he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity

Romans 12:8b (NLT)
8  If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously…

2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT)
7  You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

For this 5th area of discussion the gift that we are examining is the gift of giving; and to make this practical gift more relevant to the life of our congregation, I’ve accessed one of the key scriptures we use here at the church, which is noted on the back of the offering envelopes.

The Spiritual gift of giving is a gifting from God that has do with having a heart and mind that is operationally inclined towards generosity.

It is being gifted in such a way, that you respond to the opportunity to meet a need or to be generous, in the same way that the person who is gifted in the area of service, just wants to serve.

Now here Paul says, that if you are a person who is gifted with the gift of giving, do it with simplicity.

Thought:

Several thoughts I’d like to share with you today, first to those who may be gifted in this way.

Being gifted in the area of giving has nothing to do with the amount of money that you give or the amount of money you make.

You don’t have to be RICH in terms of having major bucks in order for the Lord to bless you with the gift of giving.

Being gifted with the gift of giving has to do with having a singleness of heart and a willingness to give and share or bless others, with what you are able to do.

Some of the most generous people in the church are the people who are of relatively modest means.

They are not rolling in the major donut, but when they see a need, they are often the first ones to be generous.

Second thought:

Be careful not to make the mistake of telling yourself, that since giving isn’t your gift, you don’t need to give.

The bible says give willingly, not grudgingly or in response to pressure, it doesn’t say don’t give if your gift isn’t giving.

When we honor the Lord in the tithe and with the free will offerings we are engaging in worship, by returning a portion of what HE has given us, as an acknowledgment that He is the source of our blessing and supply.

Being gifted with the gift of giving has to do with having a special inclination and willingness to give and share or bless others.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts is the gift of….

  1. Ruling

Romans 12:8d (KJV)

8  Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence

Romans 12:11 (KJV)
11  Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Ecclesiastes 9:10a (KJV)
10  Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.

1 Peter 5:2 (NLT)
2  Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

Here we see in point number 6 that Paul speaks to us of the gift or RULING.

A better word to use here would be the gift of leadership. SAY THAT WORD, LEADERSHIP.

The New Living Translation says and I quote If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously”

Again, I am drawn back to the original thought that Paul was trying to communicate in this writing, when he speaks of the concept and reality of our interconnectedness and inter-dependency, within the body of Christ as born again believers.

We are of one body and we have many parts with differing functions.

God in his incredible grace and mercy, has dealt to us, he has apportioned to us, various gifts, for the purpose of making sure that the body is healthy and works together as one functioning unit.

And in order to do that, God has gifted certain members of the body with the gift of being able to lead.

Now the GREEK word for ruling that is given here is Pro-is-temi, which means the ability to flow in the area of leadership and administration and authority.

This gifting that NOT about being bossy, but rather it is a gifting which blesses the body because the person who is gifted in this way, is able carry things out, or direct things, or order things and or people with zeal and effectiveness.

People within the body who are spiritually gifted in this way, have a zeal for getting things done, because they want to see God’s business getting handled in a way that reflects the excellence and greatness of God.

With all of the gifts that God allocated among the people of HIS flock, there has to be someone who helps bring order and focus and determination.

Thought:

The apostle Peter had some important words of direction and clarification for those who are leaders within the body.

The New Living Translation says “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

Romans 12:11 says “not slothful in business”

Ecclesiastes says that whatever you do, do it with might.

Thought:

Now again you may be here today thinking that leadership and this kind of gifting may be ONLY housed within the office of the Pastor or Elder or Minister.

And there may elements of that gifting in some people who hold those positions, but to think that God only calls and gifts Ministers with leadership ability is wrong.

Remember now that God has given US a measure, he has dealt a measure of gifting and the Pastor or Elder may likely not have the entire allocation, of all that is required to fulfill the leadership needs within your local congregation.

 So if this point speaks personally to you, listen and embrace it and hear it for God is talking to you.

He is saying that he has invested something in you. He has gifted you with something unique, which was put into you for the benefit of the body.

You have a zeal for getting things done and today I want to encourage you to use that gift for the benefit of the body, because God deserves someone who is passionate about seeing that HIS business is handled in a way that reflects the excellence and greatness of God.

God has given us gifts to benefit the body of Christ and among these gifts 7th and finally is the gift of….

  1. Mercy

Romans 12:8e (KJV)
8d he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

(SCREENS)

Luke 6:36 (NKJV)
36  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

James 3:17 (NLT)
17  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.

Coming to the conclusion of these thoughts today, we find ourselves wrapping up the sermon this morning, talking about the gift of mercy.

Ele-on, is the word that is used here and within the body of Christ, this spiritual gifting is a vital and a much needed component.

Thought:

Earlier we talked about some of the other gifts, such as the gift of prophecy and exhortation and leadership or ruling, these dynamic gifts are there to build up and challenge the body, but there also needs the balancing gift of someone who is full of forgiveness and comfort and compassion. 

These are people who are GIFTED with a heart of mercy and they are quick to extend forgiveness and compassion to others.

When someone needs help, they don’t come up to criticize, when a person has gone through tough times, they are not the kind of person to says, get your act together brother; but rather they are gifted with a spirit of gentleness and mercy…and God knows that we need compassion along with exhortation and correction and so he provides balance in the allocation of the gifts

If you are gifted in the area of mercy, some folks might think that you are weak, but the fact is that your gift is a gift that reflects the very heart of God himself, for each one of us, is living and breathing and walking example of God’s great mercy.

  • If God had not extended his great mercy to us, we would have been consumed a long time ago.
  • If God had not been merciful to us, some of us would have been rotting in our graves right now.
  • If God had not looked upon us, with his love and mercy, there is NO way he would have chosen to save us

So my dear friend, if you are gifted in this area, let it show. Be the gift to the body that God has called you to be

Don’t worry that some hard headed person thinks that you let folks walk all over you, be happy, be cheerful, be proud that God is gifted you in this way, because he did it for the blessing and benefit of HIS body.

AMEN…come on and give God some praise.

Today, we’ve talked and looked at what the word of God says, concerning these wonderful gifts that Christ has poured out upon HIS body, the church.

This should be no surprise to us, as we serve a mighty God, who is the ultimate gift giver of the ultimate gift and that is the gift of HIS only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

If you died tonight and every person here is a candidate for death, can you say with 100% certainty, that you would open your eyes in the kingdom of heaven?

Can you say YES, I’ve come into the family of God by confessing Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and I have placed my faith in him as my Savior and therefore I know that I know, that I know, I’m right with God.

IF you cannot say YES, I am a born again child of God, I am here to tell that you are facing eternity in a devil’s hell without hope.

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten SON, that whoever believes in him should not perish but instead have every lasting life.

To come into God’s family you must accept what he did for you on the cross. 

You must embrace that he died for you.

You must believe that he was buried

You must believe that he rose again

And you must ask Jesus to come into your life and be Lord.

HAVE YOU DONE THAT?

If you haven’t done that, then today is the day that you can come into his blessed family by faith.

WHILE ALL EYES ARE CLOSED AND HEADS ARE BOWED…

Click here to view the sermon on line 

 

 

A call to right thinking

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

                           A Call To Right Thinking

Romans 12:3-5 (NLT)
3  Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
4  Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,
5  so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Romans 12:3-5 (NKJV)
3  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
4  For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,
5  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

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

In our last sermon from the epistle written to the church at Rome, we began what will be a series of instructional teachings having to do with the practical aspects of walking and living successfully as Christians.

As Paul opened chapter 12, he challenged and exhorted us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

He called us to a level of devotion and commitment that was worthy of all that God had done for us, in terms of choosing us and sanctifying us and justifying us.

In light of all that God had provided within the context of his manifold mercies, we were urged to respond to that great gift of grace, by an act of reasonable service.

We were encouraged to “take our everyday, ordinary life—our sleeping, our eating, our going-to-work, and our regular walking-around life—and to place it before God as an offering.

Now if you were not here last week, you’ll find that sermon archived on our website at http://www.mysccf.com./sermons.

Today we are going to talk about the believer and his attitude towards others.

Thought:

Early in our ministry, as Pastor here at SCCF I use to teach and talk a lot about attitude.

When we were first starting together in ministry and God was pulling together all of these various people from different backgrounds and places, we had a lot of work to do in order to revise our thought patterns and to work through our attitudes.

I think that as a church, Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship has come a long way since the early days when we struggled with our attitudes.

We have become more mature, we’ve become more patient, but attitude and right thinking is always an area that we should much pay attention to, because it is an area that requires continual growth and development.

So yes I praise the Lord that we’ve come a long way, but we always need to keep working and growing and letting God work on us in that area.

Now if you understand that say AMEN.

Here after Paul has given us several powerful points of exhortation regarding our relationship with God, and how we should respond to him as God, he pivots and begins to speak to the believer about and the believer’s thinking.

And I believe that Paul does that because he understands people.

And he understands that how YOU think about yourself and how you think about OTHERS has a great impact on the health and well being of the body and the church.

We are all in the body together, we are all connected within the body of Christ and so we want to learn how to adopt the right kind of thinking towards each other, as taught to us here in this letter.

If you understand that say AMEN

So let’s get started with three simple points…

As Christians who are connected within the body of Christ, you and I are called NUMBER ONE to….

  1. Be honest and balanced in the way we think about ourselves.

Romans 12:3a-c (NKJV)
3a-c  For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think “soberly”

Romans 12:3a-c (NLT)
3a-c  Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves.

Proverbs 26:12 (MSG)
12  See that man who thinks he’s so smart? You can expect far more from a fool than from him.

James 4:6b (NLT)
6b  “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

Earlier in the preamble of the sermon, I mentioned to you that I believed that Paul pivots here to address the subject our how we think about ourselves and how we think about others, because he understood that how we think about ourselves and how we think about others, will an impact on our relationships.

Remember now that Paul had initially started his exhortation, by calling us to a new level of commitment to God, declaring that we should devote ourselves and present ourselves as living sacrifices to God.

And I’m pretty sure that most if not all of you would embrace that call as being reasonable.

But here Paul is calling for us to personally work on an area of struggle, that we don’t often talk about openly in the church.

We don’t talk about it, but it’s there.

We understand that we are called to show God’s love and let the world know that we are the children of God, because we have love one for another.

But from a practical standpoint, churches of every size and denomination and background find themselves struggling to be loving, because of fleshly pressures, which are related to issues of ego and humility.

Thought:

The problem is not that Christians don’t understand, or that we don’t love God, the problem is that we are people……… and as people we often find ourselves struggling with ego.

And so Paul says and I quote For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think “soberly”

Two thoughts I want to share with you.

Thought # 1

When you think of the word soberly what often comes to mind may be related to the idea of being drunk; we think about what happens when a person has over indulged in an alcoholic beverage.

When a person is drunk their demeanor tends to be marked by a sense of being unsteady in their words and or actions.

That is what we mostly think of when we think about the word sober of the lack there of.

But the word soberly, as it is outlined here in the passage isn’t related to the idea of being sober in terms of not being drunk.

The word soberly in this context is related to the concept that one’s “thinking” is balanced and unpretentious.

Sober thinking, means to think in a way, which is steady, wise and accurate.

The concept of soberness when it comes to thinking, speaks to a level of honesty and clearness in which a person accurately, makes a sane and wise evaluation of them selves.

Now the flip side of sober thinking in that context, in reality would be unbalanced thinking.

A type of thinking if you please, in which a person does not evaluate themselves honestly AND they instead sees themselves as better than other folks.

Sober thinking is balanced thinking regarding one’s self, in which a person does not artificially puff him or her self up, but rather sees and evaluates him self or her self honestly.

In other words, unbalanced thinking is thinking in which a person fails to accurately and honestly see themselves as they are and instead the thought process is warped and un-balanced, because the person has made the mistake of comparing themselves to others; when we as mere humans completely lack the capability or the right to do that on any level.

In other words, it is un-sober it is unbalanced and it is insane thinking to believe that YOU and I as mere human beings know enough to actually compare yourself to others, when you are still struggling to be honest with your evaluation of yourself.

As accomplished as we may be in our own minds, only God actually knows the truth about anyone AND the scripture says “God resist the proud” and he will resist us, when we engage in that type of thinking.

Only God really knows.

So we need to understand and be careful.

We need to respect God’s territory for God has determined that each person is valuable to him, so it is insane to think of our selves as being better than others….nor to have an inappropriately glowing view of ourselves….period.

Here’s the second thought:

Thinking too highly of one’s self is unbalanced, but it is also unbalanced to think too little of yourself and the gifts that God has given you.

The exhortation given in the word is that we ought “not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think

In other words, we should think of ourselves in an honest and sober way AND that would include not having an artificially low view of your self.

I add this second thought for you to consider because “having an artificially low sense of yourself”, in which you hide what God has blessed in you, can in some cases be harmful to your fellow believers.

Let me put it this way….

You see some folk go way over board in trying so hard not to promote themselves that they actually rob other believers of the opportunity to be blessed, by the gifts and talents and resources that God has invested in them.

So while we absolutely need to avoid being over-blown in terms of how we think about and evaluate our selves, we must be careful not to be so down on ourselves and fearful about looking like we are trying to be all that, that you fail to invest in the lives of others or to share some of what God has invested in you.

Think soberly and think about yourself in a balanced way.

As Christians who are connected within the body of Christ, you and I are called 2ndly to….

  1. Measure ourselves (and our thoughts) according to the gifts that God has given us.

Romans 12:3d-e (NLT)
3d-e  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. 

Romans 12:3d-e (NKJV)
3d-e  but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith

James 1:17 (NKJV)
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

Ephesians 4:7 (NLT)
7  However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:11 (MSG)
11  All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one-by-one by the one Spirit of God. He decides who gets what, and when.

The second point that we want to discuss and explore this morning builds upon the ideas that we shared in the previous point.

Again, we are talking about our thoughts and out mindset and our attitudes, doing so within the context of what Paul would instruct and exhort us to regarding the practical aspects of walking and living successfully as Christians and most importantly within the context of a church fellowship.

In point number one we were essentially told to take care to be humble and balanced in terms of the way we think about others and ourselves.

Here in this second point, Paul actually gives us a very important reason why we should do that.

Now looking at Romans 12:3, we want to notice the words “a measure of faith”

We are to be honest, we are to think soberly, we are to be clear- minded in terms of how we think about ourselves, by remembering and understanding the gift that God has given us.

Here in the passage from Romans 12:3 we notice the word FAITH.

Now the word faith as it is used in this context isn’t speaking specifically to the idea of faith in the classical sense.

What is being communicated here is the notion of faith as a gift in which God gives the believer “the ability to function and flow in an area of ministry. 

Another way to look at this is to consider the idea of “the measure of faith” as the spiritual gift or ability that God has given to each believer.

Thought:

Each of us has been the recipient of a special gift that came from the generosity of Christ.

Therefore in light of that reality, we are to walk humbly and to resist thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought because whatever gifts we have, have been given to us by God.

All of our gifts have a common origin.

Each of us has been the recipient of a special gift that came from the generosity of Christ.

All of our gifts, all of abilities, all of our blessings were handed out by the Spirit of God and it is HE who decides who gets what and when.

This is why we never ever, ever, ever have a reason to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, or to compare ourselves to other members of God’s family.

If you have an ability that another person doesn’t have, you only have it because God gave it to you.

It is God who has distributed.

It is God who has allocated.

It is God who has assigned and apportioned, these gifts from above.

The one that you have may seem to be more spectacular, or the gift or ability that you have may not seem as glamorous, but God has determined in his own wisdom to give every believer a measure.

You can be the best singer, you can be the best administrator, you can be gifted in a way that makes you stand out, but no person has a full measure of anything, for God gifts us with just a measure.

Thought:

No person should ever get an inflated head about his or her level of anointing or giftedness; church folk should not worship and or be so impressed with a leader or elder or minister thinking that he or she is so anointed.

Every thing that God has enabled us to do, came as a result of HIS gifting, but NONE OF US HAVE IT ALL, we’ve only got a measure.

So think about your self in that context.

You process the reality of who you are, not in comparison, but according to the reality, that what ever you have and whatever you’ve been dealt, is a gift from God to you.

As Christians who are connected within the body of Christ, you and I are called 3rd and finally to….

  1. To think of ourselves only in terms of who we are           within the body.

Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)
4  Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,
5  so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

1 Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)
12  The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 (MSG)
27  You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.

In this third and final point the scripture calls for us to embrace a radical type of thinking that goes completely against the flesh and the modern mindset.

As believers we are called to consider ourselves as one part, of many parts, with a God given function that is vital and important only as it relates to and is connected to the whole.

You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are!

We as believers must never forget this.

Only as you accept your “part” as being “a part” does your “part” mean anything.

This my friend is RADICAL thinking, but adopting this mindset is possible only if you embrace the blessing of our unity and connectedness in Christ.

Whatever gifts or talents or abilities you have don’t really mean anything apart from the plan of God, to use those parts as parts and gifts as interconnected mechanisms within his body as a functioning living spiritual entity.

In other word your part isn’t really worth anything nor is it truly distinctive unless it is a part of the other parts.

Thought:

I know that we live in a society, which celebrates and promotes the notion of the individual as the highest form of being.

I know that in today’s word it’s about you making an impact and a name for yourself.

It’s a selfie-society.

YOU are the focus, forget about anyone else, it’s all about YOU it’s about making sure that YOU get your props and your recognition.

But in God’s church and in God’s kingdom it’s about being a part of the body and it is about the blessing of being connected and inter-dependent.

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

I belong to you, you belong to me and we belong to God.

AMEN.

 

Click here to see the sermon and service on line

 

 

 

A Call To Devotion

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

               Practical lessons on Christianity: A Call To Devotion

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God , which is your reasonable service.
2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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

We transition in our studies through the epistle written to the church at Rome, turning a page this morning not only in terms of coming into a new chapter, but transitioning also into a series of teachings that are very practical and instructional to the believer.

If you have not been here for the previous teachings I highly recommend that you go through the last 5 or 10 lessons which are archived on our website at mysccf.com because Paul really gave us some dynamite doctrinal teachings.

This entire letter up to this point for me has been such a blessing, because as we’ve learned together Paul has helped us to tackle some really huge subjects, such as justification, sanctification and predestination just to name a few.

Then of course there was the series of teachings that he shared on Israel and God’s glorious plans for the nation and for his chosen people.

I like the fact that as Paul transitions to this portion of the letter, he uses the term therefore. The new living translation simply says “so dear brothers” and the message translation says “so here is what you want to do”

Those thoughts though written differently, all point to the idea that, as we move into this area of teaching, that we as believers ought to take into account the weightiness of the blessings and teachings of the previous 11 chapters and having done that, we therefore should embrace and look forward to moving into what is being shared.

Today, we are going to talk about a call to devotion. A call to living and dedicating YOURSELF to God.

This call to devotion, to making a total commitment to God and living for him, is as stated in the “c” portion of Romans 12:1 “our reasonable service”

It is what God is worthy of, it is the best thing that we can do and it is reasonable that we respond to God by presenting our selves in this way, in light of what he has done for us.

So that is what we want to talk about this morning.

We want to learn and we want to be inspired to embrace the call to devotion, so if are ready to go forward….say AMEN

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen firstly in….

  1. His appeal to believers to be committed to God on the basis of the “mercies” of God.

Romans 12:1a (NKJV)
1a  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God

Romans 12:1a (Berean Study Bible)

1 Therefore I urge you brothers, on account of God’s mercy

Deuteronomy 14:2 (NKJV)
2  For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Paul here begins this first point of exhortation with a call to commitment.

Say that word, commitment…

Now at first glance it may seem that the need for commitment and the call for the Christian to be committed to God, is an obvious one.

Yet Paul urges, yes he beseeches the believer to embrace and understand the centrality of this first point, because commitment is the lynch pin that pulls together and makes possible the fulfillment and the performance of the next three calls to action.

In other words you are not going to get anywhere or do anything for God, without commitment.

Paul here is speaking about what it takes, in order for a Christian to operate and function at a level, which is commensurate and appropriately reactive to the incredible realities and gifts of God, as expressed in the manifold mercies and blessing that Paul has previously outlined in the first eleven chapters of this letter.

He says “ I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God”.

I implore you, I urge you, I appeal to you on the basis of the overflowing mercies of God and the incredible message of what God has done for you, that you respond by making a commitment to being devoted to God.

Thought:

Commitment is where the rubber meets the road. It’s not intension, it’s not having a plan, its not desire, or even love, it all rises and or falls based on commitment.

I believe that Paul understood this; he understood that fleshly people struggle with commitment, which is why he begins his exhortation with the word, THEREFORE

He calls the believer to embrace a new level of commitment, not on the basis of our feelings.

Not on the basis of whether we are happy or not.

Not on the basis weather we feel our current needs and or desires are being met, but he exhorts and calls us to a level of devotion and commitment that is based on the reality of the “mercies”

Now truth be told, I believe that a failure to fully embrace and understand the realities of his mercies, is at the heart of what we struggle with today as Christians in this modern world.

The lack of an understanding and a lack of appreciation regarding the mercies of God is part of the problem.

The failure to properly value the massiveness of what God has done for us, through his manifold mercies.

We reduce God and our relationship with him, to a human feelings level, down to a set of childish wants and desires, which vary depending upon our happiness or the circumstances of our lives.

Thought:

When our commitment and or lack thereof, is pegged not to his manifold mercies, but rather to how we feel, commitment becomes not a responsibility, but rather an easily thrown off garment, that is situational and circumstantial.

Now I realize that what I just shared there a moment ago, was a mouthful, so let’s just take a moment to digest and ponder those thoughts together.

You see the mercies (and I love that Paul wrote this word as plural rather than singular) …the mercies of God and the incredible truth of what God has done for us through, Christ Jesus are far beyond anything that we can really understand.

But if you just look at and embrace the realities of what was already shared with us, in these previous teachings; things like justification and things like the concept of being bought and paid for and ransomed.

I believe that these things, when fully imbibed, will transform a person’s thinking.

Think about what we read together a moment ago from Romans 8:1-2

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

You and I have been privileged to be set free by Christ himself.

We’ve been justified.

We have peace with God.

We’ve been chosen and he chose us WHILE we were yet sinners.

We’ve been predestined and called before the foundation of the world.

God chose us and called us to himself and he did so completely as an act of his great love and manifold mercies.

Therefore, in light of these realities and in light of his overflowing mercies, our response must be a commitment to totally devote our selves to him.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen secondly in….

  1. His challenge to believers to present their bodies to God.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)
1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service

Romans 12:1b-c (MSG)
1b-c  Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)
19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT)
15  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

In point number one, Paul essentially lays the foundation for the call to believers to express their commitment and devotion to God.

Here in point number two he puts forth that call as a challenge to express that commitment in a practical and real-time manner.

“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies “a living sacrifice”

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Paul would say my Brothers and Sisters I want you to do this, because it is logical; it is intelligent and it is the reasonable response to all that God has done and is doing for you.

Thought:

No doubt if you’ve been in and or around the church for a long time, you’ve heard this passage read and perhaps studied from it several times before.

To the congregants now gathered here today and to those who may be engaged with us on-line, I want to speak to regarding the reasonable-ness and the logic, of God’s desire concerning the child of God and his or her physical body.

Thought:

God wants your body…(tell your neighbor that)

This may be a surprising thought to some, who incorrectly assume that God is only interested in your Spirit.

But according to what I read, it is my understanding that God wants your body.

Thought:

Now of course this immediately raises a level of conflict between man and God and it will quickly challenge your commitment to him, because we very much want to be in charge of our own bodies.

We are physical beings.

We want to do what feels good to us.

We want to fulfill our own physical desires and wishes, yet God’s will is that we give up what is appealing to self and instead offer to God, the thing that we value above anything else.

I don’t care if you think it’s too fat or too skinny…..I don’t care if that body doesn’t fit the jeans that you’d like to wear, it may not be what you like, but the truth is that you LOVE IT.

And this is a problem when it comes to commitment, because God wants our number one physical possession.

He wants us.

He wants the thing that we kiss and pamper; he wants US to give it up to HIM.

Thought:

Now notice, what God says through Paul he said that we are to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice”.

Thought:

Have you ever thought about that much?

You see, this idea of a living sacrifice is much bigger and more daunting in the practical sense, than what happens to a traditional sacrifice.

Living Sacrifice….say that word.

A living sacrifice is more than a one-time commitment. 

It is a constant on going-daily, moment by moment continuous dedication to living for God, as a constant reality that occurs until the day you die.

A living sacrifice means giving up your own desires daily.

It means, giving up the right to think about your own wants and desires and to instead to put God’s will first.

A living sacrifice has to abandon his own ambition and to put those things aside in favor of God.

And truth be told, this kind of sacrifice takes a lot more than offering a lamb, or writing a check, as a one-time offering.

This kind of sacrifice is a huge transition, which affects your entire life, at every point, in every place and at every level.

It is only reasonable, given the reality of the “mercies” of God and all that he has bestowed upon you and me.

It is logical AND HE deserves it.

It’s reasonable. But it is also acceptable and pleasing to him.

Thought:

I found the “c” portion of Romans 12:1 to be interesting, because the idea of acceptability to God is very important.

In light of the manifold mercies of God, in light of his incredible grace and love and kindness, it is only reasonable that we offer our lives to him each day, but I love the fact that beyond being reasonable, such an offering is acceptable to God.

The word used in the passage means “well pleasing”.

It means extremely satisfying to God.

It means that God is happy when we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects our understanding that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

It is pleasing to God when the child of God continually glorifies God, by making sure that every act, every deed, every thought, every engagement, every relationship, every word is pleasing to him, who bought us with a price.

It is well pleasing and acceptable.

So you and I my friends are called to embrace and walk in this reality in real-time, to dedicate ourselves to him, not just on Sunday morning, but each and every day no matter where this physical body may be, conducting ourselves day-by-day as a living breathing walking sanctuaries of the living God.

It’s reasonable. It is logical. It’s acceptable and pleasing to him.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen thirdly in….

  1. His command to the believer to reject the pressures of worldliness.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)
2a  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world

Romans 12:2a (NKJV)
2 a And do not be conformed to this world

Romans 12:2a-b (MSG)
2a-b  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.

2 Corinthians 6:17a-c (NLT)
17a-c  Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, 

1 John 2:16 (MSG)
16  Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.

This third point in my mind is related to the second, in that it speaks to matters of practicality and that which fights against God’s will and desire for the lives of his chosen ones.

In point number two we talked about the conflict between man and God, that will often challenge our commitment to him, because we want to be in charge of our own bodies.

That is the default. That is the natural selfish response of the flesh and we have to fight against that every day, by actively submitting ourselves and our bodies to him, daily.

There is also another challenge and that challenge comes from the pressures of the world.

Presenting our bodies, being committed and devoted to him as Christians is our reasonable service, but there are pressures in this world, which are real and constant and pervasive.

The new living translation simply says don’t copy. The New King James says and do not be conformed.

This word conformed, is taken from the word Schema with means to fashion.

In our Christian devotion to God, we are to resist the pressures of the world, to be fashioned and adjusted to it.

Now this is deep because it goes way beyond, hanging out at parties or going to clubs, or being involved in worldly entrainment and dressing like the world, it goes way beyond that.

But don’t think that those things are not problems by the way; and I have to say that just for some of you who thought that I was letting you off the hook for stuff that you do in Friday and Saturday night. I’m talking about something bigger right now but don’t think that I am excusing that kind of foolishness…

To be conformed to the world means becoming so well adjusted and comfortable in the modern culture “that you fit into it without even thinking”

It means that you can actually become worldly without even noticing it….and that is where the danger comes in.

The danger is not only in the obvious things like clubbing and partying.

The danger is in “Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important. This is the way of the world and it has nothing to do with the Father, in fact the way of the word just isolates you from him.

Thought:

You see my friends; the world around us is one big lie.

It is a masquerade. It is a circus, it’s a cover up it is a façade, it looks so powerful and all encompassing, but the world and all that it is…shall pass away.

The world very powerfully tells a person, that YES, you can have it your way, it’s all here for you.

The world very powerfully tells a person, that YES you can tie into what we are offering and it will be great and you’ll have fun.

We can get impressed with and consumed with the technology and the choices and the shopping and the entertainment and money and possessions.

We can become addicted and not even know that we are addicted to materials and the word’s unending ability to come up with more and more things that appeal to our appetites and needs.

We can become, even in the midst our very walk with God, so comfortable with our success and blessings, that we fit in to the world, without even thinking about it.

We want to be important. We want to feel accomplished. We want to be distinctive, we want more and more and more and we get seduced by the world’s ability to give MORE to us…..and the result is…a slow, but sure, but measurable distancing of ourselves from God.

The evidence is overwhelming and staggering.

The better the world gets at giving us the stuff we want and creating a desire for stuff we didn’t even know we want the less interested we are in God. The less interested we are in HIS word. The less interested we are in HIS church.

Folks fall away from God, because they just fell in love with the world and it’s stuff.

It wasn’t planed. It just crept up and crowded God out.

The solution of course is a painful yet proactively necessary step that we as Christians must take, when we come to recognize that ANYTHING is coming to a point of eclipsing our passion for God.

2nd Corinthians 6:16 said and I quote. “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things.

Separate yourself, remove your selves, and detach yourself from those things that you have unwittingly become so comfortable with. 

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture, to your group, to your social network that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.

That is the key and that brings us to our 4th and final point.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen 4th and finally in….

  1. His plea to the believer to embrace an inner transformation.

Romans 12:2b (NKJV)
2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind 

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
5  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)
18  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
8  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 

This 4th and final point is very much related to the previous points, but it comes together in the all-encompassing concept of embracing the reality of a renewed mind.

The world and everything in it is going to pass away.

The things that seem to be so appealing to the eyes and the flesh and the pride of life, are departing into time and space.

This statement in and of itself is a radical departure that can only be accepted as true, when your mind has been transformed.

Paul is exhorting us; Paul is calling us to a higher level whereby we begin to live and flow in a renewed mindset.

The passage here uses the word transformed.

It is our reasonable service; it is pleasing to God, when we as an act of worship and devotion adopt a transformed way of thinking.

Paul’s plea is for you and I to allow the work of the Holy Spirit of God to transform our MINDS.

To change the way we think.

To use our powerful God given tools of prayer and the word, to smash and destroy worldly ways of thinking and worldly philosophies.

To fill our minds with the word of God and to bring every thought, every into captivity.

It happens here with the mind.

It is with the MIND that we dedicate ourselves to HIS word.

It is with the mind that we can change the way we process our day-to-day lives, learning not to focus our gaze on the seen things, but rather to process this reality as nothing more than a passing vapor that will soon be gone.

It happens here with the mind.

It’s transformative thinking that we embrace by the power of the Holy Spirit, doing our best to fill our minds, with HIS world.

Doing our best to fill our minds not with fear or greed or desire for worldly things, but instead meditating on God’s word, which is true and noble.

Filling our minds with good thoughts about HIS praise and his goodness.

CLOSE

As a child of God, as a born again believer, as one who has been regenerated and remade in God’s image, Christ himself has given you the ability to flow in this reality.

The question is do you want to embrace it and make it yours?

Do you think that it is reasonable?

Do you think that God is deserving of you making a commitment to present yourself to him as one who is totally and completely devoted to God.

For me I can tell you that I am convinced than ever that he deserves it.

It is the least that I can do, considering the wonder of HIS manifold blessings and the greatness of his mercies.

What about you?

Child of God I beseech you my brothers and sisters, on the basis of HIS tremendous gifts, that you respond to him in a manner that is worthy and commensurate of HIM.

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

AMEN.

Click here to view the service and the sermon.

How Great Is Our God

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

                               How Great is Our God 

Romans 11:33-36 (NLT)
33  Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!
34  For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice?
35  And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?
36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

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

This is the first Sunday of June 2018 AND a day of wonder and celebration as we mark the our 22nd year in Ministry.

It is also the ½ waypoint of this year AND we are continuing in our studies through the epistle written to the church at Rome.

I want to thank you again for your prayers for this church over the years and your prayers on behalf of those who are in the ministry of sharing the word of God.

Your prayers are a blessing to everyone who studies and prepares and seeks to feed the people of God and to grow in HIS word.

Keep on doing that. Keep on praying for this church. Keep praying for those who preach and teach the word.

AMEN

Today we pick up our studies, at a wonderful point where Paul teaches and speaks to the issue of God’s greatness.

You may recall that in our last sermon, entitled God’s great plan we learned of the incredible plan of God concerning the nation of Israel.

We learned that you and I as Gentiles were actually experiencing a time when we as wild olive branches would actually be grafted into the family of God.

The natural tree ISREAL, was set aside and will be set aside for a season, but this situation, this blindness in which the nation of Israel rejects Jesus as the messiah is only a temporary condition.

It is temporary, because God in his divine plan will through the great deliverer, restore the nation of Israel and there will be a great turning of the people, who open up their eyes to Jesus Christ and embrace him as Lord.

Today the topic of the sermon looks at and celebrates the greatness of our God.

Now clearly, no amount of words, nor could anything we could say or sing could capture or aptly describe him, but I believe that you will, just as I did, find a blessing in the celebration of our great God as noted in these five points, that are outlined in Paul’s letter.

If you are ready to walk with me through this, say AMEN

Our Great God is…..

  1. A God of unmatched riches, wisdom and knowledge.

Romans 11:33a (NLT)
33a  Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! 

Psalm 135:5-6 (NKJV)
5  For I know that the LORD is great, And our Lord is above all gods.
6  Whatever the LORD pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places.

Psalm 147:5 (NLT)
5  How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!

Isaiah 40:28 (NLT)
28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Our great God is a God who knows everything and his wisdom is absolute.

He is wise and complete in his knowledge about every detail.

He understands every dimension of everything that has ever started, or will start.

He knows the complete details of every beginning and every end and every pause.

He is unmatched in is wisdom.

His knowledge is unrestricted and immeasurable at level which can only be described as infinite.

He is unrestricted in every aspect of everything.

He is omniscient, which means that he sees everything and he is knowledgeable about everything

His wisdom is boundless and pervading into the smallest details.

His understanding is marvelous and excellent at a level that can only be described as impeccable, incontrovertible, faultless and un-impeachable.

A God of unmatched wisdom and knowledge concerning US, who has never the less, in spite of that knowledge, decided to love us and care for us, from the storehouse of his incredible grace and mercy.

Thought:

This brothers and Sisters, is too much for me to handle.

It’s too wonderful; it is so over whelming that all I can do is to sign deeply within myself.

God who is the maker of heaven and earth, chooses to hear our faintest cry, in spite of the fact that we are sinful and he knows everything about us.

Our Great God secondly is…..

  1. A God who is beyond our ability to understand.

Romans 11:33b (NLT)
33b  How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!

Job 9:10 (NKJV)
10  He does great things past finding out, Yes, wonders without number.

Job 9:10 (MSG)
10  We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does; his miracle-surprises can’t be counted.

Isaiah 55:8 (NLT)
8  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

To me this second point is both reassuring and humbling.

You see Julius A. Harper Sr. likes to think of himself as a pretty smart guy. You may be the same my brother or Sister; I know that I am not the only one in here who thinks that they can think.

Now truth of the matter is that some folks want a God that they can understand and figure out, but for me I am one who celebrates and embraces the fact that our God is a God who ways are far beyond anything we can understand.

I like what the writer said in the message translation of Job chapter 9:10. It said and I quote “We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does; his miracle-surprises can’t be counted”

That particular passage resonated with me and I believe that it also speaks to some of you here listening today, because our great God has done some things and treated you to come miracle surprises in your life that simply blew your mind.

God did some stuff that was like WOW…this is beyond anything that I could have even planned and God you just did this like…… POW

I like the fact that our great God, does things and that he operates on a level that is way up above my head.

A level that takes into account HIS unmatched wisdom and his unrestricted knowledge about everything.

Thought:

Think about that for a moment and let that sink in.

Think about HIS ability and his wisdom and his power, versus our own lack of ability to understand and the ridiculousness of our actually trying to get him to clear his decisions and his ways, through us.

It is impossible for you.

It is impossible for any human being to understand his decisions and his ways, but because he loves us, sometimes he will give insights and information.

That is what the gift of the word and the preaching of the word is all about.

It is NOT about me entertaining you, it’s about God giving us some info.

He may not give you the entire plan and all of the details associated therewith because he knows, that you and I couldn’t handle it.

He is not going to reveal things to you that are way above your head, but he will give you the tools and the ways of escape and the knowledge to keep yourself from falling into sin and judgment.

Thought.

Now this is where the issue of humility is required.

I told you that Julius Harper likes to think of himself as a pretty smart cookie, but in order for me to tie into the power of the God who’s knowledge and ability far outreaches my own, I must put my wisdom to the side and humbly submit to him, in obedience. 

The words says that we must lean not on our own understanding but in ALL our ways, we must acknowledge HIM and HE will direct our paths”

This is where the rubber meets the road for you, my upscale talented degree holding resident of this awesome town called Santa Clarita.

God is above our ability to understand him in terms of the total picture of his decisions and ways.

Even though you may not understand why he is saying NO to that relationship that you are lusting after, because he is God he simply can say no and the fact that you may not understand……MEANS nothing.

God’s wisdom and knowledge and directives are not subject to the understanding of MAN or the approval and buy-in of man.

What he calls us to “is to express faith” in his wisdom as DEMONSTRATED in our obedience to HIS word.

I like the fact that our great God, operates on a God level.

And in order for us as believers to access the features and benefits of that, we must humble ourselves and not be offended by the fact that God dismisses our wisdom, but rather we must take comfort and assurance in the fact that he operates on a level that is way, way, way, way up there, because he is God.

Our Great God 3rdly is…..

  1. A God who needs no counselor.

Romans 11:34 (NLT)
34  For who can know the LORD’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice

Job 21:22 (NKJV)
22  “Can anyone teach God knowledge, Since He judges those on high?

Isaiah 40:13 (NLT)
13  Who is able to advise the Spirit of the LORD? Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?

Isaiah 40:13-14 (MSG)
13  Who could ever have told GOD what to do or taught him his business?
14  What expert would he have gone to for advice, what school would he attend to learn justice? What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, (or) showed him how things work?

This third point is one that can pretty much preach itself.

Our great God is a God who needs no counselor, yet we often find ourselves acting in ways, praying in ways and speaking in ways, which are in complete defiance of this reality.

Thought:

I won’t ask you to raise your hand or to admit publically, that you have been guilty of trying to tell God what to do.

But God is so merciful and wonderful and patient, that he doesn’t slap us, he doesn’t get offended…and he hasn’t punished US for such arrogance YET.

Paul here in this teaching reminds us and assures us, that our great God is a God who needs no counselor.

Thought:

God can say this about himself, but no person could make such a claim.

It would be the height of arrogance and it would be completely untrue, but truth be told that this is how some folks think about themselves; they think that they know it all, but it is an arrogant lie.

I don’t care what kind of degree you have. You as a person can always be taught something and someone always knows something that you don’t

But our God because he is God, needs no counselor. He doesn’t have to bounce anything off of any body, but himself.

Who could give God advice? Who could give God insights and knowledge, since he already knows everything?

I like the message translation and how the writer points out the ridiculousness of someone actually trying to teach God about HIS business.

What school would he go to in order to learn what is just and what is fair and right?

Obviously It’s a silly question but it speaks to a truth about people who question God and try to give God advice and direction.

Think about your prayers and challenge yourself with a tough question about how much telling and advising you may be doing, as opposed to listening.

When you pray, even when you think you know what is happening or what is needed, have the courage and the faith to say Lord God, this is what I think, but I know better than to trust myself, Lord, let it be your will and NOT my will.

Let it be not according to my desires, but Father from the abundance of your great knowledge do what you know to be best and please do so independent of my words or thoughts or desires.

Let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth, in my life, in my family and let it so be Lord Jesus, according to and from the abundant resources of your unlimited wisdom and GODNESS.

Our Great God 4thy is…..

  1. A God who is not beholden to anyone.

Romans 11:35 (NLT)
35  And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back?

Job 35:7 (NKJV)
7  If you are righteous, what do you give Him? Or what does He receive from your hand?

Job 41:11 (NLT)
11  Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine.

Titus 3:5 (NLT)
5  he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.

Again in this 4th point I cannot help having the feeling of stating the obvious, that being that our great God doesn’t owe anything to anyone, nor can he be indebted or obligated to anyone on any level.

Paul the writer in Romans 11:35 rhetorically asks, who has given him so much, that he (meaning God) needs to pay it back.

God simply says in Job 41:11 and I quote “ Everything under heaven is mine”, and then in Ezekiel chapter 18 he says and I quote all souls are mine.

Two Thoughts:

First thought: Man can give nothing to God, which was not first given to him.

Second thought: God owes nothing to man, but man owes God big time.

He saved us not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.”

He blesses us because of HIS goodness. He prospers us, because of his unmerited favor and therefore God is not beholden to anyone.

Thought:

As I stand here this morning I am aware that not everyone who is listening to what I am saying actually believes this.

And I am particularly sensitive to the hearts and minds of the unsaved who may be sitting here in the church house or connected to us electronically.

I know the rebellious and prideful workings of your heart, so I want to make this clear to you on this Sunday morning or whatever day it may be, when you hear this word…

Don’t you think for a minute that God has got to prove himself to you?

God doesn’t owe you anything.

I praise God for allowing us to see our 22nd year in Ministry. In the 18 years that we’ve been in this location, we’ve seen thousands of folks come through those doors.

Some time you’ll see folks grace the doors of the church and they come in and sit down with their hands folded and their necks stretched out, as though they are customers at a presentation, waiting to be sold.

And to such a mindset and attitude I can tell you with 100% certainty that God is not going to sell you.

God is not here to beg you, but he is here to LOVE you.

And he offers you in invitation and a gift from the abundance of HIS great mercy.

The day that you hear his voice and the day that you are able to understand the simple power of the gospel, you must embrace that day as a blessing from almighty God himself, who is actually the one who gives you the ability to hear and understand the gospel.

If it were not for the mercy of God, you couldn’t even understand the gospel.

This is the crazy thing that we need to grasp about the entire salvation process; God himself, draws sinful men and women, boys and girls to the cross of his only Son, and he, as a gift, gives them the ability to express a saving faith in him.

He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done.

He saves unwashed sinners who belong in a devil’s hell, not because he owes us, but because of his mercy.

He washed away our sins, having done that for this US, not out of guilt or obligation, but strictly and completely on the basis of HIS love.

God loves you baby, that is why he chose and saved each of us and that is why HE is drawing you.

You didn’t come here by accident, no it was God who orchestrated time and space so that you would encounter HIS SON.

5th and finally…

Our Great God is…..

  1. A God who is the source of all and through whom all things exist.

Romans 11:36a-c (NLT)
36a-c  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory.

1 Corinthians 8:6 (NLT)
6  But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

Colossians 1:16 (NKJV)
16  For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

We draw our sermon to a close, as we discuss and celebrate our great God who is the source and end of all things.

In him, says Colossians were all things created.

This is such an awe-inspiring proclamation that it defies our ability, to speak it.

Our God is everything. He is the source code, if I could use that language for the programmers and computer geeks out there.

He is the originator and the instigator, from who all spiritual and physical reality not only emerged, but also is held.

In him, the world that we see is sustained by HIS mighty power, you’ll see that idea reflected in Hebrews chapter 1:3

Without him, nothing that exists would exist.

It all came though him. It all exists for him.

For his pleasure.

Not because he needed a world, not because he needed the Angelic beings, but he simply made these things and beings for his pleasure.

Thought:

You and I as believers have got to embrace and flow in this reality; for the word tells us that it’s always been about him and his pleasure.

YES he saved you because he loved you, but HIS love expresses the grandeur and greatness of HIS glory.

He loves us and created us to exist in him.

He loved us and created us to exist in this reality and he calls us to be with him in heaven because the splendor and greatness of God’s honor would be reflected in you and I, shining like little gems and precious stones around the throne of God.

Shining, in the presence of his brightness.

Shining in the light of a glorious and splendid God.

It’s all about HIM.

He chose US to occupy a place of honor and dignity, that we might proclaim the praises of him, who has called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

It’s enough to take your breath away.

God …….you are the name above all names.

You are worthy of our praise

And our hearts will sing, how great is our God

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