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.

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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…

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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.

 

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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

Click here to view the entire service and sermon 

 

God’s Great Plan Revealed

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

                                    God’s Great Plan Revealed

Romans 11:25-27 (NLT)
25  I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.
26  And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
27  And this is my covenant with them, that I will take away their sins.”

Romans 11:25-27 (NKJV)
25  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
26  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27  For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

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

If you were here for the previous sermon entitled” a warning against spiritual pride and prejudice”, you might recall that in that teaching Paul spoke to us quite extensively about Israel’s spiritual condition.

And part of what we learned in that final point of the four-point sermon, is that the Spiritual condition that Israel is in, is a temporary condition.

Romans 11:23 said and I quote “And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Then the scripture goes on to say in vs 24 and I am paraphrasing now “For you, or in this case if we, by nature meaning the Gentiles, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree, who were grafted in, how much more would God be eager to graft back in the original branches back into the tree where they belong.

Today we are going to dive deeper into that subject, in this four-point sermon entitled “God’s Great Plan Revealed”

And again, we want to encourage you to embrace this teaching as a way of helping you to grow in your faith and trust in God and his love.

And this is particularly important and helpful in these troubling times when it seems as though our society is in such turmoil.

In the midst of confusion, you and I as born again children of God may take solace and comfort in the fact that God is in control. He is working it out, he is working things together for HIS plan and we will see that revealed in God’s great plan concerning the nation of Israel.

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

God’s great plan concerning Israel is revealed in the coming reality that…

  1. Israel’s current state of blindness (spiritual condition) is only temporary.

Romans 11:25 (NKJV)
25  For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Romans 11:25c-d (NLT)
25  Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.

John 10:16 (NKJV)
16  And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Revelation 7:9 (MSG)
9 I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb

God’s blessed plan regarding the spiritual state of nation of Israel is that the blindness that now characterizes the nation will at a future point be lifted because God’s plan is to allow that to continue…..temporarily.

Paul touched upon this earlier, but here he addresses the issue within the context of a warning against ignorance.

And the warning is directed towards those who know Christ and have been enlightened regarding the love and grace of God.

The warning and the teaching is directed to believers; to folks like you and I who would, as human’s are bound to do, might be tempted to start to feel puffed up or conceited about where we stand as enlightened believers and where the nation of Israel stands, with reference to the issues and mistakes that we have learned about in Paul’s teaching.

Here Paul pivots, not only to warn the church against conceit and high mindedness, but also to expose a blessed mystery.

And the mystery is this: The blindness and hard heartedness of Israel, is only temporary and it is only in place, so that a time of salvation could be given to us, the Gentiles.

Paul says that what he is revealing here in this writing, was previously unknown.

It was hidden, it was part of God’s plan, laid out before the foundation of the world, but it was kept secret and is now revealed to US, so that we don’t operate in ignorance.

Thought:

Ignorance will have you doing silly things and operating in foolish ways and it will have you making decisions that end up hurting yourself and those you love.

I could pause here, I could pivot if you please, I could develop a sermon based entirely on the subject of the problems caused in our lives and the regrets associated with ignorance….

Ignorance is a terrible thing; conversely knowledge is a wonderful thing.

Here Paul reveals a wonderful mystery, which is mind blowing in it’s blessedness, because it reveals the massive complexity of God’s plan, which was laid out and put into place before the foundation of the world.

This reality makes John 3:16 come into focus an entirely new light, for when I hear the words, that God so loved the world, it opens up my mind to an entirely different reality.

You see God had a special people whom he chose for himself.

He did not choose them because they were more numerous than other nations.

He did not choose them because they had some physical advantage, but he chose them because the father of that nation, believed God and trusted God at a time when faith in God was not the norm or general rule concerning man.

God chose Abraham because Abraham believed God.

Notice that I did not say that he believed about GOD. I said he believed God.

Thought:

Most of us would like to say that we too believe God; but I don’t think that very many of us here today could say that we believe God on a level like that of Abraham.

I feel like I believe God, but if you ask me to take my only SON up to the mountain top to sacrifice him, I don’t believe that I’d be capable of doing that.

There are some here today who say that they have great faith and I am the last person to challenge that, but if God were to ask them to sell their house, or to empty out their bank account and pick up all of their belongings and go down the airport and wait, such a one might not be able to pull that off today.

God chose Abraham because he believed God enough to do something that made no sense from a human stand point.

He chose Abraham and called HIS descendents, Isaac and Jacob to be a special people for him.

He gave them the sign of circumcision.

He gave them his laws.

And he brought them out of Egypt with a powerful hand.

These were the people who knew and worshipped God, when folk in the Gentile world were burning their children in the fire and worshipping idols made of wood and stone.

These chosen people, even with all their mistakes were heads and shoulders above the Gentile world, but they were blinded and put on hold, so that the Gentiles could be grafted into the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Think about the power of that for a moment and let it sink in if you please.

God so loved the world. God so loved us, God loved you and God love me, so much that he cut off a place in HIS tree and he set aside the natural branch, so that there would be a time in which the Gentiles could come in.

This is what Jesus was talking about, when he spoke of the sheep which were not of this fold.

This is what John the revelator saw in the vision that was recorded in Revelation chapter 7 verse 9.

This is blessed mystery that is revealed to us, that what is happening to Israel is only temporary and it is happening for the benefit of us.

Thought:

If you are here today and don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and savior I want to talk to you for a moment, even though it is early in the sermon and we typically reserve this for the close.

God so loved the world and YOU that he cut off his own people, so that he could provide an opportunity for you.

If you are a Gentile, you were outside of the commonwealth of Israel.

You and I were called the unloved.

Yet we’ve been courted and wooed and drawn, by the Spirit of God himself, who speaks to our hearts and opens up our eyes, so that we can see and embrace the very Christ, who is invisible to HIS own chosen people.

That is why the scripture says in John chapter 1:11, that…

He came to his own people, but his own received him not, but to all who receive him, to those who recognize the pull and tug of his Spirit, to all who believe on his name, HE has given them the right (though it makes absolutely no sense) to become the children of God.

My friend, if the Spirit of God is speaking to you in this first point of the sermon, make a decision right now, that when the invitation comes, that you will accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior and that you will come into his blessed family by faith.

God’s great plan concerning Israel is revealed in the coming reality that…

  1. The “nation” of Israel will be restored.

Romans 11:26a (NKJV)
26  And so all Israel will be saved

(SCREENS)

Romans 11:25c-26a (MSG)
25c This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary

26a  Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel.

Isaiah 45:17 (NKJV)
17  But Israel shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.

Jeremiah 32:37 (NKJV)
37  Behold, I will gather them out of all countries where I have driven them in My anger, in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.

Again, thinking about the context in which Paul is addressing the church in this writing, it is helpful and mindful to embrace what Paul is sharing with us so that we be informed and not be high minded or ignorant.

Here in this second point, we are told that the nation of Israel will be restored.

Thought:

Now if you were here a couple of months ago, you might remember that I delivered a sermon entitled “who are the true children of God” and then there was a follow up sermon entitled “who are the chosen people of God”.

In those sermons, I shared with you some concepts and ideas that I had as a child, which bothered me greatly.

One of those thoughts was the idea and notion, that everyone who was born Jewish would automatically go to heaven.

As a child I did not like the idea of their being “a chosen” people, especially when I was not one of them.

That is how I felt and what I believed as a child…

But later on I learned and we learned that “not all who are born” into the nation of Israel are of Israel.

Not everyone who is born Jewish is automatically going to go the heaven.

BUT there will be a restoration of the nation of Israel in which a community of people, who are Jews and the nation of Israel as a spiritual community, will be restored.

And this is great news for ANYONE here today who may be like me and have close personal friends or family members who are of a Jewish background.

I’m encouraged by this reality.

I’m excited about the grace and plan of God.

Thought:

One of my closest friends is Jewish. He has been a friend for over 35 years.

We can talk about everything but Jesus, but in this word I am encouraged that there is hope and that nothing is impossible with God.

The same God who saved while you were yet in your sins, is able to graft the branches of the natural tree, back into the place where they belong.

That brings us to the third point…

God’s great plan concerning Israel is revealed in the coming reality that…

  1. A deliverer will turn the hearts of the Jewish people towards him.

Romans 11:26b (NLT)
26 As the Scriptures say, “The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem, and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.

Isaiah 59:20 (NLT)
20  “The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the LORD.

Zechariah 12:10 (NLT)
10  “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died.

1 Timothy 2:6 (NLT)
6  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

In the second point of the sermon, we touched a bit upon this earlier and point number three is really a continuation of that.

God’s great plan concerning Israel is that something is going to happen which will cause a turning of the hearts now hardened, towards Jesus the Christ.

What this means, is that the power of the Spirit of God is going to change people’s hearts.

The mighty redeemer himself and the power of his love, is going to turn the hearts and minds of his chosen people, towards him.

Right now you cannot talk with many of our Jewish friends and brethren about Jesus, but God is going to turn their hearts and he is going to OPEN their eyes to the power and truth of the cross.

Thought:

You see right now, the message of the cross is foolishness and offensive, but one day it is going to connect.

One day the message of the redeemer who suffered, bled and died on the cross for the entire world will become clear to everyone.

Thought:

Zechariah as recorded in chapter 12 verse 10, looked out prophetically through time and space and what he saw was an absolutely astounding picture of God’s grace and his plan of restoration as it took place IN and through Jesus.

The prophet says and I quote 10  “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem.

This is a powerful picture of God’s incredible commitment to keeping his word and his unwavering nature as it regards his covenant promise.

The prophet speaks further and he says of Israel “that they will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died”

And out of that awakening. Out of that realization, made possible by the Spirit of God, working through the great deliverer himself, there will be a mighty repentance in which a turning will occur.

  • A turning in the hearts of Israel unlike anything that we can imagine.
  • A shift away from ungodliness.
  • A shift away from spiritual blindness.
  • A shift towards the grace of God.

And a shift in the direction of the one they had previously rejected.

Thought:

As I think about that day, I cannot help but hear the weeping and the anguish of God’s special people.

Tears of anguish, tears of regret BUT most importantly tears of thankfulness, as they finally embrace JESUS as the one who has come to their rescue.

Thought:

The visual that is given by the writer of weeping, very likely reminds you as it remind me, of that incredible moment in which you came to realize the love and grace of God for yourself.

Those who know Jesus and are sitting under the sound of my voice, remember the moment you came to Jesus. 

You know what it is like to suddenly see and hear in a way that you’ve never seen and heard or understood previously.

You know about the blessing of having God’s own Spirit to connect with you, so that your eyes could be open to the wonder and the power of the cross.

You know what it is like to finally understand that Christ suffered and died on the cross, not for his own sins, because he had none; but he suffered on that cross for you.

You know the weight and the feeling of coming to a realization that you are lost without him.

But you also know the joy of being able to embrace and to be embraced by the deliverer, Jesus Christ himself.

God’s great plan concerning Israel is revealed 4th and finally in the coming reality that…

  1. They will receive forgiveness of sins.

Romans 11:26-27 (NKJV)
26  And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27  For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

Isaiah 44:21-22 (NKJV)
21  “Remember these, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!
22  I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”

Acts 13:38-39 (NKJV)
38  Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
39  and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.

It’s very likely that you already knew where the sermon would end, for the story of the people of Israel is a story that applies to all mankind.

God’s great plan is a plan of grace and mercy.

Everything that God planned and all that he did, was done as a result of His covenant and his desire to gift man, with the unbelievable gift of forgiveness.

Thought:

This word covenant by the way is an interesting word. My wife and I use it quite a bit when we are counseling couples that are getting married and often when we explain that marriage is a covenant and we tell them what the word means, it’s a surprise.

You see most people understand the idea of contract. It’s an agreement between two or more parties who come together and promise to do something.

In a contract the whole thing becomes void of one of the signatories fails to hold up their end.

But a covenant is different than a contract. It is an agreement, just like a contract is an agreement, but the difference is that in a covenant, you can’t break it just because one party didn’t keep their end of the bargain.

God was in a covenant relationship with Israel.

He promised and pledged, that he would take away their sins.

He promised that he would offer forgiveness and he fulfilled his covenant promise, regardless of the fact that Israel didn’t keep up their end of the deal.

God did what HE said he would do and he provided what he promised through faith in Jesus Christ.

Close:

God’s great plan for Israel speaks to his great love and grace towards us.

I just love the word as recorded in Romans chapter five, verse eight. It simply says 8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:9-10 (KJV)
9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
10  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

God’s great plan concerning the entire world is that through faith in Jesus Christ every man, every woman, every boy and every girl might be saved.

And it’s a plan that you can embrace by FAITH.

AMEN:

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed, I wonder if there is anyone here today who does not know the pardon of your sins and the wonder of God’s incredible grace.

His great plan is a make a new nation for himself.

His great plan is to populate with a mixed multitude of Jews and Gentiles and nation of peculiar people, his own special people called forth to show and declare the praises of HIM who called us out of darkness and into HIS marvelous light.

Are you here today?

Do you hear the voice of God, calling you into HIS beloved family?

Salvation, Recommit, Baptism, Membership.

Click here to view the entire service and sermon

A warning against spiritual pride and prejudice.

                                                                                                                                                              A Warning Against Spiritual Pride and Spiritual Prejudice

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

Romans 11:17-20 (NLT)
17  But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.
18  But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.
19  “Well,” you may say, “those branches were broken off to make room for me.”
20  Yes, but remember—those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen.

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

When we were last here together in the study of the epistle written to the church at ROME, we examined a lesson on the salvic future of the nation of Israel.

Paul in the portion of the letter we looked at, asked the question HAS GOD rejected the nation of Israel?

And the answer that was given was a firm absolutely not, for God himself, in spite of the fact that the majority of Jews have rejected Christ, had reserved a remnant for himself.

In that teaching Paul gave 4 powerful examples and proofs that God has not rejected the nation of Israel.

Firstly he spoke of the grace and kindness of God as evidenced in HIS own life, as an example of that.

Paul also taught us about the fact that God foreordained that there would be exceptional people, who would believe in him and have faith in him.

Our faithful God, demonstrated his continued kindness and the keeping of his promises, showing us that God’s grace and salvation through faith is still active and present in the lives of Jews and Gentiles today.

If you want to study more about that, you’ll find some interesting and very deeply complex readings in chapter 11: verses 1-16.

You can also find the sermon on our website at mysccf.com; just click on the sermons tab and scroll through the video listings.

Today, the sermon switches gears a bit, as Paul in verses 18-24 of chapter 11, gives a little warning to Gentile believers.

In this warning Paul reminds us, to make sure that we as born again Gentile children of God, keep our heads on right.

Watch your attitude, check yourself, be careful that you as a believer don’t get a big head, or start acting as if you are all that…because you now flow in the blessings of God, while Israel stumbled.

 Over the past few sermons as we’ve gone through the letter to the church at ROME, we’ve learned some pretty tough things about the nation of Israel.

We shared a sermon on how the nation of Israel actually missed connecting with God because they failed to accept that the way to connect with God was through faith, rather than works.

Israel missed it because they were determined to approach God in their own way.

They missed God, but the gentles, who were outside of the family of God….. GOT IN, because we came into the family by faith….and that was a great blessing.

But you and I understand too well, as does Paul that people because they are people, can easily take the blessings of God and turn them into a problem.

So Paul here warns the gentile nations, not to become arrogant, or to began to look down their noses at the nation of Israel but instead to remember that they are wild olive branches who have been grafted in.

In other words, Paul here is dealing with spiritual pride and prejudice.

Now this might not be an issue in your life, but the truth of the matter is that there are many in the body of Christ, who struggle with pride and spiritual prejudice.

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself, in the form of academic snobbery.

Sometimes when a person takes a couple of classes or becomes degreed (and again there is nothing wrong with that, I am a great believer in studying to show yourself approved, as a minister of the Gospel you have to study and learn) BUT you sometimes find, that there is a haughtiness or a bit of puffery if you please, in which one Christian begins to look down upon another brother or Sister who hasn’t studied or become conversant in Hebrew or Greek.

Spiritual pride and prejudice.

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself, in terms of one’s spiritual giftedness or the perception of the lack there of.

Folks who have the gift of “X” can began to become prideful and or prejudiced against those who are perceived as being less gifted, because they don’t flow in the spectacular expressions that characterize your life.

Spiritual arrogance and uppity-ness..

We see that kind of problem evidencing itself in terms of those who have been saved for a long time and that length of salvivic experience, becomes not a tool to help those who are new, but rather a measuring device, which separates and dismisses and marginalizes those who are new to the body of Christ.

Here in the passage we are examining today we are addressing those Gentles within-the-body of Christ who look down their noses at the Jewish people.

You may not have this problem, or you may not be aware of it; but the issue was important enough for Paul to write to the church about it, so let’s embrace and be open to what the Spirit says to us, in these four points of admonition and warning…

If you are ready to get going say AMEN

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people.

  1. Not to fall into the human tendency to be boastful and arrogant regarding the current spiritual state of the Jews.

Romans 11:18 (NLT)
18  But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root.

 Romans 11:17-18 (MSG)
17  Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root
18  gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
18  Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 (MSG)
18  First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

John 4:22 (MSG)
22  You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews.

I found this first point to be a very interesting one, in that it was a struggle for me to embrace the applicability of this until I thought about and explored what Paul is teaching here, more deeply.

Remember now that Paul in this letter has previously outlined and highlighted the struggles of the people of Israel and he has taught us much about the wonder and blessing of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

I believe that Paul pivots here to give the reader a word of warning because he understands how easily people can take something that is a blessing and make it into a problem, especially when it comes to looking at the mistakes of others and comparing ourselves in a slanted and distorted way.

Thought:

Some times when we read about how rebellious the people of Israel were and how they turned on God and how they worshipped Baal; you look and think WOW, what were they thinking.

I would never do that.

Church folk look at what Israel did and think to themselves, no way that I would ever sacrifice my children to molech, I would never reject God if I saw him open the red sea and do all of those miracles….

Thought:

When I delivered the first part of this sermon three weeks ago, I recall the reaction that many of us had when I told you that modern day Israel was recognized by Out Magazine as the gay capital of the Middle East.

There were more than a couple of humrumps in the room and the shaking of heads as though the gentile world is NOT mired in the same thing.

Anti-Jewish prejudice. Bigotry against Jews, it’s out there in the unsaved world, but you’d be surprised that anti-Jewishness exist in the modern church.

We find Christians who don’t like the Jews, or even worse those who consider themselves superior because “we know and except Jesus and “they don’t.

Paul cautions and speaks directly to this reality and here is what he says

“You must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off”

The fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches.

Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.

Thought:

We should never treat our Jewish brothers and sisters, as though they are inferior because they have not YET accepted Christ.

We should never harbor anti-Semitic thoughts.

Some of the most prejudice people you will find in the world today, base their hatred of the Jews on an inward pride, that considers the Jewish nation as rejected people…..

And that wrong minded thinking is completely off base AND it is an offense to God himself.

  • If it were not for the Jews being broken off, we as Gentiles would have not been brought in.
  • If it were not for the Jews, we wouldn’t have the gospel.
  • And just in case you forgot it, Jesus the Christ came through the JEWS..

Thought:

Every Gentile owes a debt to the Jewish people.

We must never project an air of superiority over the gift of grace we have received, but instead every Christian should think soberly, giving honor to God who made a place for us, thanking HIM that he has saw fit to deal us a measure of soul saving faith.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…

  1. Not be become hard headed and self-satisfied; we must remember the lesson of Israel’s past.

Romans 11:19-21 (NKJV)
19  You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
20  Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.

Do not be haughty, but fear.
21  For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV)
12  Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

Hebrews 12:25 (NLT)
25  Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 

Hebrews 2:2-3 (NKJV)
2  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward,
3  how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

We touched upon this briefly in point number one when we spoke about the idea that Christians can sometimes be guilty of thinking of themselves as spiritually superior, because we as Christians have accepted Christ and the Jewish nation has not.

Paul here admonishes Gentile believers to make sure that they don’t become arrogant and self satisfied because of the tremendous gift of salvation through grace.

Thought:

Israel was not broken off, because God decided to replace the Jewish people with Christians.

Christians are not the NEW JEWS and there are some crazy folks out there who are teaching people that..

Christians are wild olive branches that have been grafted into the tree because one branch was broken off, because of un-belief.

Thought:

You and I as Christians have something that is absolutely fantastic, but it was undeserved on every level you could imagine.

The Jewish people had a history with God and they were given the words and commandments of God, directly to them; our ancestors and forefathers were heathens who were steeped in idol worship and spiritual debauchery.

  • We were the unnatural branches, who through faith have become acceptable to God and have been adopted into HIS family and that feels wonderful.

But we are people. And like all people, we can very easily fall into complacency.

This is a problem in every church, including this one.

The modern church today is confident. Happy. Easy going. Self Satisfied. And ………….Unconcerned.

Thought:

This is at the core of what Paul is trying to communicate to us in this second point.

You see we feel safe in the beauty and simplicity of Grace.

We’ve become dull and self satisfied in our-selves, even to the point of becoming people who are merely listeners of the word and not doers.

We can begin to abuse the grace of God, by allowing sinfulness to take over our lives.

And so the modern church as become a church of lazy and listless people who don’t heed the word of God, who don’t respond to sound doctrine, who’s ears are always itching, and who’s ears are dull.

Like ancient Israel, who responded to the challenge of Jesus by declaring their Abrahamic pedigree, we too can fall into the trap of feeling safe and secure in our superior Christianity.

Yet, hear the caution my friends, YES fear if you have the sense enough to do so.

For the word of God says

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;

“Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking.

For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!
For if the word spoken through Angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward.

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

We must learn from Israel’s past

For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…

  1. Not to forget that there are two sides to God: do not forget the lesson of Israel who failed to abide in God’s goodness.

Romans 11:22 (NKJV)
22  Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Romans 11:22 (NLT)
22  Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. 

Romans 11:22 (MSG)
22  Make sure you stay alert to these qualities of gentle kindness and ruthless severity that exist side by side in God—ruthless with the deadwood, gentle with the grafted shoot. But don’t presume on this gentleness. The moment you become deadwood, you’re out of there.

2 John 1:8-9 (NKJV)
8  Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.
9  Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.

In this third point we want to focus on the concept of abiding and the lesson that we as Christians must learn, as we look at and remember what happened to Israel.

Now in point number two we spoke about the danger of arrogantly becoming self-satisfied; this third point is somewhat related to that.

We in the modern Christian church, sometimes think that we have it better in terms of the simplicity and gift of the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Jesus Christ…and I believe that too…yes.

But we also sometimes have a wrong-minded notion concerning the God of the    “Old testament” versus the “God of the New” testament”

There are even some places where the Old Testament isn’t read because folks don’t like to think about that Old Testament God.

And here is what we need to understand my friends; Listen closely now; are you ready.

The God of the Old Testament and God of the New Testament is exactly the same God.

The God who opened up the earth and swallowed people alive.

The God who burned up people with fire that came down from heaven.

The God who sent the children of Israel into 70 years of captivity because they disobeyed him; IS the same God who said that you had better follow all of my commandments.

That God is the same God, who says “ I’ll accept you and declare you to be in right standing with me, not because of your works but because of your faith in my Son Jesus Christ.

The same God who burned folks alive is the same God who grafted us in with loving-kindness.

…..but you need to understand that God STILL expects us to continue.

Thought:

Make sure you get this, because this was one of the problems with Israel.

They were given the relationship, they were given a special connection with God, but they failed to abide in his goodness, by keeping his commandments and honoring him as God.

Thought:

Now I know that I am rocking some folks in terms of your personal theology; you’d like to think that God doesn’t expect a child of God to live like a child of God and to obey his commandments.

And you can reject what the word says here if you want, but I believe that we have got to remember that God is NOT A TOY.

The scriptures teaches us, that we must remain, we must abide, or we too can be cut off.

Now you can go ahead and find yourself a different translation if you want to, but my bible says, you’d better consider both his goodness AND his severity.

The Gentile Church is warned concerning our attitude towards the Jewish people…4th and finally..

  1. Not to count Israel out, for the same God who grafted in the wild branch is able to graft in, the natural branch.

Romans 11:23 (NKJV)
23  And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Romans 11:24 (NLT)
24  You, by nature, were a branch cut from a wild olive tree. So if God was willing to do something contrary to nature by grafting you into his cultivated tree, he will be far more eager to graft the original branches back into the tree where they belong.

Jeremiah 3:22 (NLT)
22  “My wayward children,” says the LORD, “come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” “Yes, we’re coming,” the people reply, “for you are the LORD our God. 

Romans 11:25-26 (MSG)
25  I want to lay all this out on the table as clearly as I can, friends. This is complicated. It would be easy to misinterpret what’s going on and arrogantly assume that you’re royalty and they’re just rabble, out on their ears for good. But that’s not it at all. This hardness on the part of insider Israel toward God is temporary. Its effect is to open things up to all the outsiders so that we end up with a full house.
26  Before it’s all over, there will be a complete Israel. As it is written, A champion will stride down from the mountain of Zion; he’ll clean house in Jacob.

Wow….God has a master plan, to fill up his house and the house will be comprised of Jews and Gentiles.

God has always reserved a remnant for himself and his grace and mercy will be seen, in the reality, that he is able to graft in the natural branch.

As we learned in a lesson earlier, this does not mean that everyone who is born Jewish will automatically get into heaven, but what it does mean is that in the future there will be a tremendous turning that will take place in the hearts of many, many Jewish people.

John 3:16 said that God so loved the world; don’t think for a moment that his love does not extend without reservation to the people of the covenant.

God is able because he is God.

He knows the heart of man. He knows the longing need of man. He knows that the power of the cross and the message of salvation through faith in his beloved Son.

The Gospel might sound like foolishness to some folks today.

But that word is going to find it’s mark and many JEWISH people will turn TO CHRIST and be grafted in once again, where they belong.

God can make it happen.

He can change hearts just as he changed your heart and gave you who are in the church today; the ability to respond in faith to HIS son.

AMEN.

Today we’ve shared a sermon about the nation of Israel and God has spoken to us through this word, concerning the wonder and blessings of what we have been provided in HIM and through the Jewish people.

This book is full of lessons to be learned about God, especially if you look back at the Old Testament.

Earlier in the sermon, I made a point of telling you that The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament is exactly the same God.

God is a HOLY God.

He’s a righteous judge.

He’s merciful and he is kind.

But he is also an executer of punishment on those who disobey and reject him.

Reading through the book of Leviticus and many writings contained in the law, is something that I personally found to be overwhelming.

I couldn’t get it right. We couldn’t get it right. Every single day we’d be guilty of offending God and therefore would ultimately be condemned to eternal death.

I’m glad that today, we live under the dispensation of Grace, where we have an opportunity to come in relationship with God, through Jesus his Son who paid the price for our sins.

Through faith in his Son who suffered, bled and died for our sins, we who cannot qualify on our own can be accepted into God’s family.

The good news is that Christ came to this earth, that he died on the cross and rose again, so that you by believing in him as Lord of your life, can be saved and thereby grafted into the family of God.

To you my dear friend, the question simply is this….do you know this reality for your self.

Have you come into the forgiven family of God by faith in Jesus Christ?

Have you been born again?

If the answer is no and you want it to be YES, then the Spirit of God is calling you to come.

WHILE ALL HEADS ARE BOWED AND EYES ARE CLOSED AND CHRISTANS ARE PRAYING.

Salvation

Recommit

Baptism

New Memberships

DON’T FORGET COMMUNION

Click here for the full service video

Has God Rejected His Chosen People?

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

                              Has God Rejected Chosen People?

Romans 11:1-5 (NLT)
1  I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.
2  No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said,
3  “LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”
4  And do you remember God’s reply? He said, “No, I have 7,000 others who have never bowed down to Baal!”
5  It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. 

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

We are returning to our studies through the epistle or letter written to the church at Rome and we again find the Apostle Paul’s extended teaching regarding the nation of Israel.

Earlier we learned about the nation of Israel and their rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul taught us about how that rejection actually made it possible for us who are Gentiles to be grafted into the family of God.

We shared a sermon back in February entitled “ How to Miss connecting with God”

In that sermon, Paul showed us how Israel failed to connect with God, not because they lacked sincerity or effort or zeal, but rather they failed to connect with God because they refused submit to God’s way of making people right with HIM, which is not of works but rather is by faith.

It is by faith that God accepts a person.

Abraham, the father of faith was counted as righteous by God, not because of what he did, but because of his faith.

He believed God and it was accounted or credited to him as righteousness.

Israel didn’t get this. Even though they were God’s chosen people, they failed to connect with God because they rejected the way of faith and instead pursed God with a righteousness of their own making.

That is why the scripture says in John chapter one that “ he came to his own and his own did not receive Him.

The chosen people of God, ended up missing God and the Gentiles who were outside of the family of God, where then grafted in, as wild olive branches and we became heirs of the promises of God, by faith in Jesus Christ.

Thought:

Now this reality of course was good news for us.

We got in; we obtained a blessing that was totally undeserved.

But this reality and this blessings associated therewith raises a question in our minds and here it is…

Did this blessing and our entrance into the family of God mean that Israel had been totally rejected?

Because we got in…… is Israel now out ?

We’ll that is a question that Paul answers for us in this teaching regarding Israel’s future and God’s incredible grace…

So let’s get started, let’s look at and celebrate the goodness of God and HIS grace as demonstrated towards the nation of Israel in these four biblical proofs.

Has God completely rejected His chosen people? Absolutely not and here is the first point of proof.

  1. Paul himself was evidence that God has not utterly rejected Israel and that HE (God) is true to his promises.

Romans 11:1 (NLT)
1  I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

Philippians 3:5a-b (NKJV)
5  circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews;

Acts 9:17 (NLT)
17  So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

1 Corinthians 15:9-10a (NKJV)
9  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10  But by the grace of God I am what I am

Israel, as we learned in previous lessons, was a nation that was defined by rebellion and obstinacy.

Reading through the Old Testament, you will find story after story, after story of Israel’s rebellion and disobedience towards God.

God had rescued them with his powerful hands; he had led them in the wilderness and fed them with manna from heaven.

He had brought them into the Promised Land that was flowing with milk and honey.

He had given them his laws and statues and set them up to be an incredibly blessed nation, but they turned on God and rebelled against him and worshipped idols in defiance of the living God.

And instead of living under the blessings of God, the nation of Israel came under HIS punishment.

At the time of the words that were written by Paul, the nation of Israel had been held under Roman bondage. They had rejected the Messiah; they had rejected Jesus Christ God’s own Son and they had plotted and conspired in his death.

Yet to the question of whether this meant that God had rejected and cast away his people, Paul responded with an emphatic declaration “that God forbid that he would utterly reject his people”

In fact from Paul’s perspective the notion that God would utterly reject his people was impossible.

And the first proof that he offers….. is the grace of God as evidenced in himself.

Thought:

Paul was a true son of Abraham who was circumcised on the 8th day of his life.

He was a Jew of Jews, he was a member of the tribe of Benjamin, he himself was part of the group of people, called the Pharisees who were actually in rebellion towards God.

Yet God showed through Paul, that he would extend his grace towards Israel, in keeping with his promise, so that through his GRACE there would always, evidence of his promise, as seen in the lives of individual people.

Paul was perfect example and a living proof-answer which showed us that God kept and keeps his word.

Even though Paul was formerly an enemy of the church.

Even though he stood by and witnessed the stoning of Stephen

Jesus himself appeared to him and called him to salvation.

Even though the Jews as a group of people, had rejected Christ himself, he still reached out in grace to fulfill his promises to all who are willing to believe in him and obey him.

Thought:

I believe this is why Paul was constantly overwhelmed and over powered by the grace and mercy of God.

He was from his perspective the least of the Apostles.

He was part of the sect of Israelites who had rejected God, yet by the grace of God he was accepted as one of God’s chosen and beloved.

Thought:

Paul in his personal experience with God, was proof that God’s grace and His determination to keep His promises, can never be over come or overwhelmed by the sins and failures of man.

This is something that I want to make clear to every listener today.

This is something that I want you to grasp and hold on to as an unchanging reality, that God himself always keeps His word and he extends his grace.

You and I who are saved today.

You and I who have the blessing of being grafted into the family of God, are living proofs of evidence, that we can be accepted, we can be brought in, we can be the beneficiaries of God’s incredible grace and mercy, because nothing of our sinful past can overwhelm the grace and mercy of God.

Has God completely rejected His chosen people? Absolutely not and here is the second point of proof.

  1. God foreordained that there would be exceptional people.

Romans 11:2a-b (NLT)
2a-b  No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. 

Romans 8:29 (NLT)
29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

1 Peter 1:2a-c (NLT)
2a-c  God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:2 (NKJV)
2  elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.

In this second point I want to try to unwrap the complexity of the language here, by focusing on the issue of foreknowledge.

Say that word. Foreknowledge

Foreknowledge tells us that God knew in advance.

He had foresight.

He had precognition; he had divine providence regarding the fact that there would be those among the people of Israel who would not reject him in spite of the fact that the nation as a whole would turn their backs on God.

In other words, God foreknew that there would be exceptional people within the nation of Israel overall.

In answering the question as to the salvivic future of Israel, we learn that God has absolutely not rejected and utterly cast out the Jewish people, because he has always known that there would be exceptional people who would respond to his love and grace,.

And this is the message that we can celebrate today.

For in God’s dealings with the Jewish people, he is also speaking to the Gentile world.

In his actions of grace towards the Jewish nation, he is speaking to and picturing the reality of the marvel of his grace and love and mercy, which God has towards us.

You see, the nation of Israel in many ways is merely a microcosm of the sinful and rebellious Gentile world.

The world we live in rejects God in favor of man made idols.

The world we live in is steeped in pride and arrogance.

The world we live in, is dominated by self-righteous folks who want to design their own God and to dictate the terms of the relationship.

But because of God’s grace and love and mercy, he has not rejected all people, but in his love he gave the world his only begotten SON.

And in that giving he also knew and foreknew, that there would exceptional people like you in this world.

People who in spite of all of the confusion and sin that is present in this world, would respond to Jesus his Son, and who as the scripture said, would become like his Son.

And so he chose them and he is choosing YOU.

He knew YOU my unsaved friend.

He knew who would be listening to this sermon today and he knows who will respond to his offer of love and grace and peace.

Has God completely rejected His chosen people? Absolutely not and here is the 3rd point of proof.

  1. Scripture points to and confirms that God always has a remnant. 

Romans 11:2-3 (NLT)
2c  Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said,
3  “LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

1 Kings 19:18 (NLT)
18  Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him!”

1 Kings 19:18 (KJV)
18  Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

1 Kings 19:18 (MSG)
18  Meanwhile, I’m preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven’t bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven’t kissed his image.”

For this 3rd point, I choose three confirming scriptures which are based on the same passage, yet have three different translations and I have done so in order to drive home a point that has to do with God and his sovereignty.

In thinking about and answering the question as to where Israel stands in relation to the salvation of the Jewish people, it is imperative that we embrace and understand, that the question of where Israel stands and the thought of God having abandoned his people, is not one which should be processed in terms of our thinking about what Israel has done, but rather the question needs to be looked at in terms of God’s predetermined purpose and plan and HIS will.

Let me repeat that again for clarity…

Scripture points to and confirms the reality that God always has a hand in AND is always in control of the events and lives of people, so that HIS will and His purpose and His word will always come to pass.

Notice a key thought in those three confirming scriptures;

The new living translation says “yet I will preserve” the King James version says “ yet I have left me” and the message translation says I’m preserving for myself”

In other words, God has not cast Israel off nor has he completely rejected his chosen people, because his commitment towards them was not about them and their actions.

God’s commitment was about His word.

God’s commitment was about HIS purpose.

God’s commitment towards Israel was about HIS love and His covenant grace, which flows not out of what they deserved, but rather it all flowed out of who God is.

Thought:

Again, I want to make sure that you grasp the relevance here for us today.

God is communicating to us, a message concerning HIS sovereign will and grace in that he will always reserve for himself a people who will be the recipients of his tender mercy.

And he does that not because of what people do, but because of HIS “GOD-NESS”

When Elijah was complaining to God about the state of the nation of Israel, he was living in a society in which the majority of people at that time were living lives of total rebellion and sin.

They had killed the prophets. They had torn down God’s place of worship and from Elisha’s perspective, He was the only one left.

But God says NO.

You don’t get it Elijah. I’m not depending upon people, but I am taking care of things for MY names sake.

I’ve got some folk reserved for me.

I am going to make sure that for my names sake, that some folks will get the BLESSINGS of MY promise because I am GOD.

And that is the same truth that is in operation today.

Even though this nation, the UNITED STATES is going down the drain.

Even though man is rejecting God.

God is always involved and super-ruling in the affairs of man, to see that there will always be a few.

That is why today, perhaps even at this very moment, he may be reaching out and drawing you to HIS Son.

And so he orchestrates time and space, to bring you into contact with his beloved Son.

And then he generates faith in your heart, so that you can believe in His Son and be forgiven and reconciled and made right with God, through faith.

Has God completely rejected His chosen people? Absolutely not and here is the 4th and final proof.

  1. God’s grace and salvation through faith alone, is still active and present today.

Romans 11:5 (NLT)
5  It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them.

Romans 8:30 (NKJV)
30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)
5  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

As we close our thoughts today, we’ve already looked at some convincing evidence of God’s love and grace, as expressed towards the nation of Israel in the previous three points.

Today, in our modern times, we can clearly see that the nation of Israel is evidencing many things that do not reflect the chosen status, which is often referenced in the bible.

I was looking on-line the other day to learn some facts about modern day Israel.

Just last year, Out Magazine named Tel Aviv as “the gay capital of the Middle East,” a place where the gay flag flies high and where the colors’ of the rainbow adorn Israel’s gay clubs, beaches, and café’s.

Just as sin and rebellion is currently active and growing in Israel so also is SIN active and growing throughout the gentile world.

But in the midst of all this, the answer to the original question that formed the basis of this sermon today is NO.

God has not cast off the Jewish nation completely, because his grace is still active.

His mercy is still extended.

His arms are still opened wide because of God’s grace and his underserved kindness in choosing them.

It’s the same today for the gentile world.

Even though the modern world in which we live in does not merits God’s attention….HIS GRACE, HIS LOVE, HIS MERCY and his kindness, is still being extended.

Not because we would qualify on any level, but gift of salvation is extended through faith in Jesus Christ, because of God’s goodness and GRACE.

CLOSE:

My friend, if you are here under the sound of my voice and the Spirit of God is speaking to you through this sermon today, I want to encourage you to embrace the kindness of God and the mercy of God and the grace of God which is being extended to you.

The purpose of this message today, was not just to give you a history lesson on the nation of Israel, but it was offered as a statement and an example of the grace of God.

Those of us who are sitting here in this place with you.

The person next to you, the person in the row in front and behind.

The person, who is standing here behind this lectern, has come into the family of God by faith.

And we are PROOF that God accepts the dirtiest and filthiest people you could think of.

We were enemies of Christ, who lived and breathed and were steeped in SIN just like you my unsaved friend.

But Jesus himself met each of us in the middle of our sins one day and he called us into the brotherhood of born again believers.

Every person who is sitting here this morning, has come into God’s family because HE foreordained us and chose us before the foundation of the world to be conformed to the image of HIS son.

My closing question to you this morning is simply this; do you know THIS REALITY as a defining fact in your own life?

Do you know that you’ve been forgiven and accepted and declared right with God, because you have placed your faith in God’s only begotten Son Jesus the Christ?

  • Do you hear HIS voice?
  • Do you feel his tug upon your heart….because if you do,
  • that my friend is the evidence that God almighty is calling YOU.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed and Christians and praying.

Click here to view the service and sermon on-line

 

Why did Jesus come to the earth?

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

                                    Why did Jesus come to the earth?

Matthew 21:1-5 (NLT)
1  As Jesus and the disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the town of Bethphage on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead.
2  “Go into the village over there,” he said. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a donkey tied there, with its colt beside it. Untie them and bring them to me.
3  If anyone asks what you are doing, just say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will immediately let you take them.”
4  This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5  “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you. He is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.’”

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

Today we are entering into the week known as Holy week, in which we prepare to celebrate the tremendous resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as he demonstrated his power over sin and death.

Matthew records the approach of Jesus as he drew near the city of Beth-phage, which was a suburb of Jerusalem.

Scripture records that Jesus sent two of his disciples to go and pick up a donkey and her colt and to bring them back for the Lord’s use.

Now the day that Jesus rode into to town was a day of an incredible celebration.

Numerical details on the size of the crowd are not indicated here in the passage, but if you read down to verse 9 it says that there was a multitude.

A deeper study of the passage indicates that the Passover event attracted at least two million visitors.

Most of the pilgrims were in town for the Passover but many were gathered to see Jesus.

They wanted to see the man who had been the subject of so much speculation; they wanted to see the man who was credited with the raising of a man from the dead, they were excited about Jesus but most did not understand why he really came.

As I prepared for the sermon today and tried to determine the message that would be delivered, it occurred to me, that the question of why Jesus came and what his mission was, is a question that is still valid for examination today.

Why did Jesus come not only to Jerusalem but why did Jesus come to the earth.

What was his mission, what was his purpose and what can we learn about the love and grace of God as revealed in the coming of Jesus Christ on this wonderful Palm Sunday?

Let’s look to the scriptures, to answer that question in these four simple points

Now if you are ready to do that say AMEN.

Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem and why did he come to earth?

  1. To fulfill biblical prophecy.

Matthew 21:4-5b

4  This took place to fulfill the prophecy that said,
5  “Tell the people of Israel, ‘Look, your King is coming to you

Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV)
9  “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matthew 1:21-22a-d (NKJV)
21  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22  So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet…

Deuteronomy 18:15 (NLT)
15  Moses continued, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.

In the opening passage we read together, we noted that Jesus sent two of his disciples to go into the city and to secure a donkey and her young colt.

We read a bit earlier from Zechariah 9:9, where the prophecy noted in exact detail the manner in which Jesus the Messianic King would enter into the city of Jerusalem.

Scripture records that he rode on a donkey, coming as a humble servant, not riding upon a powerful steed, not coming with the trappings of power and human might, but coming with salvation and coming to bring peace.

In our confirming scriptures as recorded in the gospel of Matthew chapter 1:21, we note that the name Jesus was given to the Christ child, prior to his birth.

The name Jesus means rescuer.

He was given that name because his mission and purpose was to save people from their sins.

Jesus came to Jerusalem and he came to the earth to fulfill biblical prophesies.

Thought;

Doing a quick Google search, asking the question as to how many prophesies there were in the bible concerning the Christ, the answers given were wildly different, some said as high as 400.

I don’t know the exact number but what I do know is that Jesus came to fulfill each and every one.

All that he did during his earthly walk, all of the people that he healed, every word he spoke was designed to proclaim and offer undeniable proof that Jesus was the Messiah, savior of the world and God’s only begotten Son.

Thought:

Moses spoke of Jesus Christ prophetically by the Holy Spirit when he looked into time and space.

He saw that God would raise up a prophet like himself.

He saw that this prophet would have a word from God.

And the word that the prophet would deliver would be a wonderful message.

It would be the gospel, it would be the good news that salvation and a right standing with God would be available to all who would listen to the good news and embrace it by faith.

This is what Jesus preached when he preached the gospel.

He declared and proclaimed the gift of God that would be available through HIM to all who believe.

The challenge to you my unsaved friend is that you don’t want to just be a watcher.

You don’t want to just to be among the crowds of people who simply look at Jesus. 

The challenge is to hear the gospel and to respond to the gospel by believing not only the prophetic scriptures concerning Jesus, but to actually believe the gospel and the good news that he declares.

Why did Jesus come to the earth?

  1. To seek and the save those who were lost.

Matthew 21:9 (NKJV)
9  Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

Matthew 18:11 (NKJV)
11  For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Luke 5:31-32 (NKJV)
31  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.
32  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

1 Timothy 1:15a-c (NKJV)
15  This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

In the opening of the sermon I mentioned that at the time of the event when Jesus entered into Jerusalem, the Passover feast and celebration attracted as many as two million people.

Lots of folks came for the Passover, but there were a great number of people who had been drawn by the incredible stories and events surrounding Christ.

The news about Lazarus was a hot topic. Folks wanted to see the man who had raised someone from the dead.

I’m sure that folks heard about the fact that Jesus was known for feeding people and you know how powerful news of free food can be.

And then there was the unspoken yet all too real underpinnings within the hearts and minds of the people, who were looking for the promised Messiah to save them from oppression and to restore the nation of Israel to it’s place of prosperity and power.

Reading from Matthew 21:8 we note the following.

Matthew 21:8 (NKJV)
8  And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

If you’ve ever wondered why we have the palm branches as part of our Palm Sunday celebration, this is the reason why.

Thought:

Palm branches and folks laying down their clothing to form a walk way for Jesus, is important.

Laying palm branches and putting your clothing down to form a walk way was something that you did for a king.

They were shouting SON of David, which is a Messianic title and they were shouting HOSANNA, which means “God save we pray”

Thought:

In answering the question that we posed to form the basis of the sermon today, the answer that we learn here is that Jesus came to save the lost

  • He came to this world to save a world of lost men and women.
  • He came to save boys and girls.
  • He came to save YOU.

Thought:

Now you need to understand that the folks out there that day didn’t get it.

They didn’t understand what Jesus was doing, because were thinking about a kind of deliverance that would meet their physical needs and desires.

They were crying out HOSANNA, they were declaring a need for salvation, but they didn’t understand that the need that Jesus came to fulfill was spiritual.

This is something that is often a point of confusion today, because sometimes you’ll hear Jesus presented as someone who is coming to hook you up and to take care of your physical needs and desires.

Jesus didn’t come to town to hook them up, he came to save them from their sins.

1st Timothy 1:15 says that Christ came into the world to save SINNERS.

Matthew’s gospel records the words of Jesus Christ himself, who proclaimed and declared that he had come to save that which was lost.

He didn’t come to see that you had a better job.

He didn’t come to this world, to pay your bills.

He didn’t come to make you happy and solve all your problems, he came for the same reason that a Doctor comes to your house when YOU ARE SICK and that is to heal those who are sick.

And that applies to each and every human being who was ever born or will be born upon this earth.

That applies to all mankind because MAN is born in a state of sinfulness.

That applies to all people, because people are born with a sickness called SIN.

Thought:

Maybe you are here today and didn’t expect the preacher to bring up the subject of sin.

Maybe I offended someone with what I just said, but before you mentally just pack up your stuff and leave, hear me out.

Everyone one has a sin problem.

I have a sin problem, the person next to you, who looks so great in their Palm Sunday best, has a sin problem, but Christ remitted and paid the penalty for my sins, that is the only difference between the saved and the unsaved.

My unsaved friend, you may be someone who never broke a law, but I doubt it.

The fact that you may have told yourself that you are better than the bum down the street, makes you a prideful liar in God’s eyes and I can talk to you about that, because we each were right where you may be today. 

We didn’t like it when someone pointed out the ugly truth about Sin.

We bristled at and struggled with the notion that there was nothing in us that would qualify us in God’s sight.

We had to accept the truth about ourselves, in order to see and appreciate the power of the cross and the reason why Jesus came. 

You may not see yourself as a sinner and the idea may offend you, but if I started taking you through the Ten Commandments right now, I could not get halfway through the list without finding that you’ve broken at least one commandment.

You may have never stolen a thing in your own mind, but if you took one paper clip from your office, you stole it.

If just one time, you used the copy machine and didn’t pay the company for the copies you made on their dime, you are guilty of being a thief, the same way that a person is guilty who stole a car.

If you fibbed just once you lied.

If you told a little white lie just once, you are a lair and if said in your heart that you never lied, that was lie and that makes you just a guilty of lying as someone who told a great big lie.

We all have a sin problem and because of that we are all in need of a savior.

We are all in need of a physician.

We are all in need of Jesus who can cleanse us from the stain of sin, which separates us, from almighty God.

He came to seek and to save that which was lost and that applies YOU and me.

Why did Jesus come to the earth?

  1. To reveal the Father and to show us his love

John 3:16-17 (NKJV)
16  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
17  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

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

John 12:45 (NLT)
45  For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me.

John 14:9a-d (YLT)
9  Jesus saith to him, `So long time am I with you, and thou hast not known me, Philip? he who hath seen me hath seen the Father;

Earlier in the sermon, we talked about the way and manner in which Jesus entered into the city of Jerusalem that day.

We talked about how the Lord came in riding upon a donkey.

Jesus came in humility.

Jesus came without pomp and material trappings, but that doesn’t mean that when he came he came, baring nothing of value.

Thought:

Jesus in fact came to this earth to reveal to us, the most important message that we could ever see or hear.

In fact Jesus came to this earth to deliver a message of God’s love and grace.

He came as a conqueror not of men’s properties, or cities or nations but rather as a conqueror of men’s hearts.

Thought:

On this Palm Sunday morning, I’d like you to picture in your mind for a moment, Jesus riding into town on little donkey

Very likely you’ve seen some sort of depiction of this event, in a movie or maybe in a book when you where a child.

When you look at someone riding on a donkey, it’s really looks kind of funny.

Lot’s of times when you see a person riding on a donkey, it looks like the donkey is too small to be carrying a man.

Lots of times when you see a person riding on donkey, they don’t have a fancy saddle made of expensive leather, more than likely it’s just a blanket or a burlap bag

You wouldn’t be threatened by someone riding on a donkey’s colt.

You wouldn’t be impressed with the physicality of such an animal, in the same way that you might be impressed by someone who was sitting on top of a pure-bred racehorse or stallion.

In fact very likely you would ignore such a person. And that is the response that some folks had when it came to Jesus, personally…

There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

But when he began to preach and teach, folks would listen.

When he began explain the scriptures, he taught in a way that was different than the scribes and Pharisees, because he taught them as ONE having authority.

And as he taught and as he ministered and healed and fed He began to reveal the Father’s love and grace.

And that drew people to him because he honored and glorified God.

His purpose and his plan was not to draw attention to himself for himself, but rather his purpose and his plan and his mission in coming to the earth, was to reveal the love and grace of the Father to us.

When Jesus healed, when Jesus spoke when Jesus ministered to people, his every action was designed to show us the Father.

That is why in answer to the inquiry of Phillip Jesus would respond by saying “

“So long time am I with you, and thou hast not known me, Philip? he who hath seen me hath seen the Father”

Jesus became Flesh so that we could see and understand something about the one who sent him.

And ultimately God the Father’s great love and grace, would be demonstrated to us in the giving of his only begotten SON, who one week after his entry into the city of Jerusalem, would hang on a cross between two thieves, giving his own life and in that ultimate act of love, the love of the Father for us would be displayed.

Thought:

I believe that there may be someone under the sound of my voice, who is either sitting here with us, or connected to us electronically, who has never heard this explained to you.

Maybe you’ve never understood what is meant when God said that he loved the world so much that he gave.

God’s love for us isn’t about a feeling or an emotion; it’s about taking an action to for you love.

Jesus came to this world, to let us know that God the Father loved us so much, that he would do anything to save us, even giving us his SON, to pay for our sins through the giving of HIS life as a ransom, on the cross at Calvary.

If this is not a reality that you know for yourself, I want to encourage you to make the decision to embrace it.

If this is not a reality to which can rest in knowing that Jesus is Lord and master of your life, I want to encourage you to open your heart to him today.

And when you do that, not only will Jesus save you and wash away the stain of sin from your life, but also he will bring you into a personal relationship with God.

Why did Jesus come to the earth?…4th and finally

  1. He came to bring us safely home to God his father

Matthew 21:10-11 (NKJV)
10  And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”
11  So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.

1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)
18  Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

John 10:14-16 (NKJV)
14  I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.
15  As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
16  And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Matthew 1:21(NKJV)
21  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

CLOSE:

Everything that happened that day, as Jesus entered into the city was planned and done in deliberate fashion and in preparation for a celebration that Jesus already knew would take place.

He knew, that there would be a man who would release the donkeys to his disciples.

He knew that the people would herald and welcome his entry, even though they didn’t understand it.

He knew that the city would be moved, with great excitement, because Jesus “that prophet from Nazareth was coming to town.

But he also knew that they did not know where he was going and what would happen to HIM, on that Friday to come just a few days later.

That prophet from Nazareth of Galilee was the savior of the world who had come from the Father with the mission of taking US safely home to God.

But in order to do that, the sin issue that separated us from God had to be dealt with once and for all.

Romans 6:23 tells a sobering truth and here it is…., it said that the wages of SIN is death.

Jesus gave his life on the cross, to settle this issue by paying the wages for our sin with his life and shed His blood on the cross at Calvary.

Jesus died to pay for your sins, but you have to embrace this reality and make it apply to yourself, by placing your faith in him and surrendering to him as Lord of your life.

The question that I pose to you today is this….. what are YOU going to do, now that YOU know the truth about why Jesus came?

Are you going to simply look and say WOW, that’s the prophet Jesus, let’s go and check him out and see the big show.

Are you going to be one of the crowds who applauds his message and says how well it was presented but then does nothing to embrace it?

Are you going to be one of those folks who say, that is interesting, let me think about it is and I’ll get back to you next week.

Or are you the person who is going to recognize his mission and his plan and his purpose and ask him into your life as Lord.

Do you hear his voice?

Do you hear the savior calling you?

Do you recognize the voice of the good shepherded who calls you on this day, into his beloved family.

Do you feel the Spirit of God moving upon your heart?

If you hear HIM, if you feel HIM bidding you to come then, this is the greatest day of your life.

For when God calls you and your respond to HIS Son in faith, that is the day you can be born again.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed…

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