The marks of a great minister

The Marks of A Great Minister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you understand that say AMEN.

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

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

So, let’s start with the ministers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now here is the application for the lay congregant.

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Paul was not motivated by that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

This is what being in the ministry is all about.

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Well, I’m glad you asked…

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

The Apostle Paul was a great minister because…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

Give the Lord a HAND of praise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is how he handled it.

He suffered bled and died a death for all of us; even though he never sinned, he became sin for us and took our sins upon himself and paid the price for your sins with his life.

John 3:16 said that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish but have ever lasting life.

That was God’s gift to us, because he loved us.

Now it’s up to us to embrace the gift and accept it?

That is how you get born again, that is how you appropriate the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

That is how you come into his family, by placing your faith and trust and life in him, by faith.

While all eyes are closed heads are bowed and Christians are praying, we want to give you an opportunity to do just that.

Click here to view the service and sermon on-line 

 

 

 

 

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What makes a strong fellowship ?

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

What makes a strong FELLOWSHIP ?

Romans 15:1-7 (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2  Let each of us please hisneighbor for hisgood, leading to edification.
3  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”
4  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
5  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,
6  that you may with one mind andone mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

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

We are continuing and building upon our previous studies through the letter or Epistle written to the church at Rome.

In our last two sermons from this letter, we looked at and spoke about some practical tools that would enable us to function and flow together in the exercise of our Christian liberty.

Now the purpose of those two sermons, was the help us understand how we as a local church of committed believers can learn to flow in harmony with each other, and to enjoy the blessings of being together as a part of God’s born-again family.

If you missed the teachings I strongly advise you to catch up on those on our you-tube channel, which you can find linked into our website at www.mysccf.com

Today the sermon is entitled “What Makes a Strong Fellowship”

For the past seven months, we’ve been running an advertising campaign on local cable television and on-line, in which we as a church organization have endeavored to communicate some of the special features of this fellowship and this church.

We are proud to be a part of Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship and I am not ashamed to say that.

We are not a perfect church by any means, but I along with most of you like to believe that we are a good church and a strong church for Jesus Christ.

And don’t get me wrong. We understand that there are many great churches in this valley, we don’t have a monopoly on the gospel and there are many places that you can visit today, where the word is being preached and souls are being led to Christ.

But we like to believe that we have something unique; Like there TV series CHEERS, We are a church, we are a fellowship of believers where everyone knows your name.

Now of course, that introduction was really just a set-up, just a thought starter if you please to get your attention and to get you thinking about the study that we are going to explore.

From Romans chapter 15, Paul presents a challenging teaching regarding what it actually means to be a GOOD fellowship.

If Paul were to be a guest here today, what would he say to us about this church?

Might he tell us plainly that being a strong fellowship really doesn’t have anything to do with how friendly the church is, or how nice the sanctuary is, OR even how wonderful the praise and worship teams may be.

Paul I believe would say that those things are great, but in order to be a REALLY STRONG FELLOWSHIP, the church and the members of the church must exhibit the marks of strength, as noted here in Paul’s teaching.

So that is what we are going do this morning, we are going to explore and learn about What makes a Strong Fellowship.

If you are ready to learn about that say AMEN,,

A strong church is a fellowship where……..

  1. Everyone who is strong “bears” the weaknesses of those who are weak.

Romans 15:1-3a (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
2  Let each of us please hisneighbor for hisgood, leading to edification.
3  For even Christ did not please Himself

Romans 15:2 (MSG)
2  Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

Romans 15:2 (NLT)
2  We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.

Galatians 6:2 (HCSB)
2  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 

A strong church is a fellowshipwhere those who are stronger bear the weaknessesof those who are still learning and progressing and growing in their faith walk.

Remember now the context in which Paul is giving this teaching.

Last week we were shared a teaching about how to manage your Christian liberty.

Paul was dealing with those in the early church who were considered “weaker” in their faith, because they still struggled with legalism.

And Paul cautioned those who had progressed beyond that point, that they were to be careful, when it came to exhibiting their liberty and instead of focusing on showing off and letting everyone know how free they were, by drinking or eating the kinds of food that made the weak person freak out, instead those who were stronger should restrain themselves so as not to cause another brother or sister to stumble.

We got into that deeply and talked about the factthat you could apply that principles to an entire series of behaviors that we as Christians have the freedom to engage in.

This covered the gambit of what we often find to be points of contention regarding what you drink, where you go socially, how you dress….you fill in the blank.

So, we then who are strong, the scripture would pick up and say; ought to bear in and share with and uplift those who are weak.

Not just looking at the person who is struggling and shouting out, you are grown, take care of your business Bro..

But bearing the weaknesses of others….let that sink in for a moment.

Thought:

To bear withmeans to carry a burden that is not yours.

To bear withmeans to come alongside the person and walk with AND be willing to and support them in the thing they may be struggling with, with a gentleness and care and concern.

Thought:

Now when I first did this study, my reaction was WOW, Lord you really know how to hit us where it hurts.

You see many times, as Christians we are good for watching a personstruggle.

Maybe we will give them “a word” by quoting a scripture or lecturing them about how to get their act together, but rarely will we step in and help.

But the word of God says, I’ve called you not just to pontificate but I’ve called you to help them do what is right, to build them up in the Lord by helping them as you share their load.

I’ve called those who are mature to have an attitude that does not simply look and notice weakness, but responds to it, by asking HOW CAN I HELP?

Thought:

That is what we ought to be doing for each other, bearing with and encouraging one another; that is the MARK OF A STRONG FELLOWSHIP.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone studies the scriptures.

Romans 15:4 (NKJV)
4  For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)
15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16 (MSG)
16  Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.

Here in this second point, we look to the passage and teaching of Paul and we embrace the straight-forwardness of the truth spoken here.

When we introduce Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship and we talk about the personality of the ministry, we proudly say we are a bible believing and a bible teaching church.

Paul raises the bar and he confronts us with the reality that we just may not be, that strong.

Here the scripture challenges us to embrace a higher standard, in that the marks of a strong fellowship are that EVERYONEstudies the scriptures.

Now clearly that is a very high standard; because you can have 100 people who are members of a given church and if only one doesn’t study and read the word of God on a regular basis, then you’ve missed it.

Now we as a church could react to this second point by saying “well no church is a strong fellowship” because you are never going to get everyone to study the scriptures.

We could do that, but we are not going to simply take the easy way out.

The honest way to react to this challenge is to embrace the standard AND to take it on…..personally.

In other words, YOU make the fellowship strong by personally studying and committing yourself to growing in HIS word.

You do it yourself.

You commit yourself to growing in and studying HIS word because YOU believe in your heart that every part of scripture is GOD-Breathed and useful.

Thought:

I’ve heard it said and it is an often repeated compliant in today’s modern church world, that many folks complain that a lot of the bible is not relevant.

Folks will say “I don’t feel that this means anything for me”

Truth of the matter is that when you really get into the word you’ll find that most of what is written in here a guide book to show YOU “how to NOT mess up your life”

All of the stories about Israel. All of the stories about David and Sampson, were put there for our learning and for our instruction, to expose our rebellion, to correct our mistakes and to train us HOW to live God’s way.

THIS BOOK was written FOR US, so that we might receive encouragement and comfort and guidance and peace.

At the end of the day a person must be convinced in their OWN heart, that I need this for myself. 

It’s got to become an “I” thing. 

I’ve got to make time in my schedule even though I am busy.

I’ve got to find an on-line study and commit to going through it even though I am tired from a long day at the office.

I can get an app on my phone and listen to that on my way to work instead of listening to 102 point something.

I’ve got to make it a priorityand put on the whole armor of God, that I may be able to withstandthe onslaught of the enemy’s daily attack upon my heart and my mind and my flesh.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone works and strives for harmony.

Romans 15:5-6 (NKJV)
5  Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus,
6  that you may with one mind andone mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 15:5 (NLT)
5  May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:6 (MSG)
6  Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!

Philippians 2:2 (NLT)
2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

A strong fellowship is a church where everyone strives for harmony.

In this 3rdpoint we use the word harmony because it so richly communicates the idea and picture that God has in mind, when it comes to HIS church.

Harmony, by the way, may not be a word that you are operationally familiar with, unless you are musically orientated.

The folks in the praise team know all about harmony and we talked about that last week.

When a set of singers is singing in harmony, they are not all singing the same note, but they are singing in a way that communicates a musical rapport, which results in a sound that produce a melodious experience that is unique and fragrant.

When I talk about harmony, I am talking people being of one heart and mind and ONE focus.

A strong fellowship is a church where despite the presence of differing styles and backgrounds and personalities every one of the members are striving for harmony.

And that takes work.

That takes DRIVE.

That takes having a commitment, to making every effort, to go for it with everything you have, so that the body of Christ will be a choir not in voices only, but in our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus.

It is a high and lofty standard for sure so we must aim for it; we must struggle, we must contend to be of one mind and one heart and one mouth, that we might glorify God.

And that takes work.

A strong church is a fellowship where….

  1. Everyone accepts one another and there is no discrimination.

Romans 15:7 (NKJV)

7  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Romans 15:7,11 (MSG)
7  So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it!
11  And again: People of all nations, celebrate God! All colors and races, give hearty praise!

Galatians 3:28 (MSG)
28  In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.

A strong fellowship is a church were all Christians are welcomed on the basis of our common relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.

In this 4thpoint the focus that we really want to explore together has to do with the church being the kind of church, that expresses an atmosphere of receptivity and acceptance.

A strong fellowship is a church where everyone actively acceptspeople and works hard at doing that, no matter what their differences may be.

In a truly strong fellowship, each person has to work at being receptive.

Being receptive is different than merely being tolerant.

It’s different than NOT BEING critical and just NOT saying anything.

Being receptive means to proactively reach out and to take a person to yourself and to treat that fellow believers as though each of them is your BFF.

It goes beyond just being known as a friendly church.

It includes reaching out and welcoming each other, without any kind of discrimination on the basis of race, color, class, religious background or level of spiritual maturity of lack there of; it is reaching out and embracing EVERYONE, just as Christ reached out to each of you.

That is the standard, that is the mark of a strong fellowship and when we find ourselves being drawn to reluctance, or timidity or even laziness, we must stir up the gift of God and the reality of the living Christ in our livesto motivate us to press forward.

Truth be told that it isn’t easy to be accepting of others, for sometimes when you reach out and extend yourself, you’ll be met with cold indifference, or downright rejection.

But you keep reaching out.

You keep on being proactive and treating everyone with that tender loving openness and embrace.

For the same Lord, who pursued you, when you gave him the cold shoulder, is the same Lord who kept on treating you like his most precious Son or Daughter, even when you rejected HIM, he still patiently kept his arms open wide.

A strong church is a fellowship where 5thand finally…..

  1. Everyone one is filled with hope.

Romans 15:13 (NKJV)
13  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

John 12:32 (KJV)
32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all menunto me.

A strong church is a church whose hope is in Christ and Christ alone.

When this church was first organized by Rev. Robert T. Charles the founding Pastor of this ministry, he coined that scripture from John 12:32 as the theme scripture that would guide and be the focus on this ministry, some 22 year ago.

There is a peace and confidence in knowing that our HOPE and trust is in Jesus Christ alone.

Paul in this teaching is actually presenting this portion of his letter as a prayer, for apart from God and the work of Jesus Christ HIS only begotten SON, the church without Christ is at best nothing more than a social club.

A strong church knows that it’s hope is built on NOTHING less, than Jesus blood and righteousness.

A strong church knows,that it is UPON the solid of Rock of Christ Jesus that we must stand, for all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus paid it all and all to him we owe.

A Strong church as a fellowship where everyone is FILLED with this truth and believes it with all their hearts.

This is what we have in common, my Santa Clarita Christian Fellowship Family; this common faith and HOPE and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary.

This is why we are in business; this is why we exist, this is why we come together in prayer praise and worship to share the truth of our great HOPE and FAITH in Christ.

AMEN.

CLOSE:

Today you may be here with us physically or connected electronically on-line on TV or via the podcast…

You may be outside of the family of God, but you don’t have to stay that way.

You can come into this blessed HOPE and into a relationship of peace with God through HIS Son and the power of the HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.

You can have peace with God the Father, by placing your faith in Jesus the Christ, who suffered, bled died and rose again to wash away your sins.

You can confess HIM with you mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead AND today, you can be saved and born again into his family.

WHILE ALL EYES ARE CLOSED AND HEADS ARE BOWED…

Click here to view the full service and sermon.

Managing our Christian Liberty P2

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor

Managing our Christian Liberty Part II

Romans 14:1-4 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
4  Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

1 Corinthians 10:23-24 (NLT)
23  You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial.
24  Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

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

We are continuing our on-going studies through the epistle written to the church at ROME, covering another set of very practical and relevant teachings which will greatly help us as Christians in terms of the operational realities of our day-to-day walk in life.

If you were here on the first Sunday of this month, you’ll recall that we delivered part 1 of this important teaching having to do with the concept of Christian liberty and how we as believers within the body of Christ and particularly within this fellowship, ought to exercise our Christian liberty in a way that honors God.

Christian liberty is at its essence, the freedom to live for Christand to present our selves in a way that speaks to the death of living for ourselves.

We are liberated because we have become slaves to righteousness, liberated in the freedom to serve our new Master, Jesus Christ the Lord.

But the truth is that Christian liberty and the ways we relate to it, are often a point of tension effecting the Christian church in general AND a point of tension that effects our day-to-day walk as believers.

Now that you are free, how do you exercise that freedom in a way that does not get you into trouble and benefits your fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ?

Now that you are free to listen to any kind of music you want, now that you are liberated from having to live by the strict teachings of the law, does this “freedom” present a new set of dangers for you AND how do you exercise those freedoms in ways that are responsible and beneficial to others within the body of Christ.

We are free indeed, but that freedom is not a license to lawlessness, nor does it give us the right to live in such a way as to violate the commandments of God.

So, in our last sermon we talked about some practical things.

We talked about the importance of accepting each other.

Just because you are free and you now you have embraced that freedom, it doesn’t give you or I the right to reject and criticize the weaker Brother or Sister who still needs the reassurance of rules and regulations to make themselves feel comfortable.

Those who are strong ought to bear with and support the weaker folks, rather than being critical or calling people legalist and Pharisees.

In order to honor God and to build up the fellowship, the first concern among believers in terms of exercising our liberty, is not simply the serving of ourselves, but rather we ought to embrace the reality that each of us will answer to the Lord.

That is what we talked about in our last sermon and if you missed that, please be sure and check it out on line at http://www.mysccf.com

AMEN.

Today we are going to talk more about how you as a Christian can exercise your liberty in a way that strengthens the fellowship and honors God.

As Christians we have a lot of freedom.

We are not living under the law, but as we read from the scriptures, not everything is good for you.

The main motivating factor in the exercise of our liberty is not merelycan I do or be involved in thisbut instead our thoughts should revolve around two questions.

And those questions should be A: will this reflect well on the nameof the Lordand “B” will this help, or hurt my brothers and or sisters in Christ.

So let’s look to the Lord’s word for direction on that question…

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

  1. By refusing to make choices (in your lifestyle and liberty) that cause another Brother or Sister to stumble.

Romans 14:13b (NLT)
13b  Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.

1 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV)
9  But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling blockto those who are weak.

Romans 14:14-15 (NKJV)
14  I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there isnothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it isun-clean.
15  Yet if your brother is grieved because of yourfood, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.

We begin this first point addressing what is a major issue of relevance in the church today and that is the issue and challenge of the exercising of our freedoms in a way that does not harm or injure others.

Paul here gives this teaching and he uses an issue that was happening in the early church, having to do with conflicting practices and beliefs and ideas that revolved around the issue of food.

You see there were believers within church at ROME, who came from various backgrounds.

Some who were Jewish and therefore had certain rules and regulations about what kinds of things you could eat.

Some were from pagan backgrounds who knew that they would sell meat at the market, which had been used in pagan worship services.

And then there were those who were opposed to the consumption of wine.

These issues were not core issues related to one’s salvation, but they were never-the-less causing problems within the early church.

For example, in the ancient church world, you might have newly converted believers who use to be members of the pagan templedown the street before they got saved.

Such persons would get savedand they would start attending the first Christian fellowship.

And during the week they would see members of the fellowship down at Albertsons “exercising their “liberty” by buying and eating meat that was offered to idols…

AND by the way they were free to do that; because a lamb chop is a lamb chop and an idol has no power anyway, but a good price is a good price.

Now remember and get this straight.

The newly converted believer, who use to be a member of the idol worshipping temple, would be invited for dinner at the house ofSister first Christian Fellowship who  bought that lamb chop on sale at AlbertsonsBUT the newly converted person because of her background as a former idol worshipper would be convicted within herself,because her faith had not yet grown to the point of being free from feeling like that.

This is an example of what Paul is addressing here.

This is what is being communicated as Paul lays out the answer to the question as to how we as Christians are to exercise our liberty” in a way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship.

The answer is that we are to refuse to make choices (in the exercise of our liberty) that cause another brother or sister to STUMBLE.

Thought:

The word stumble is an interesting word.

The King James Version uses the term STUMBLING BLOCK.

Words that come to mind when you hear the term stumbling block would include words like obstacle, snag, trap, hurdle or impediment.

We have been given LIBERTY, not in terms of operating in sinful things that God clearly teaches are against his word;

We are talking about things like, eating choices, what you wear, whether or not you choose to consume certain beverages.

AND the scriptural standard is this.

Rather than looking to please ourselves.

Rather than boasting in the freedom of our liberty.

Rather than defiantly declaring, I’m not going to change what I wear, or where I go or what I listen too because this is the wayI am, rather than living to please ourselves, we ought to be guarding against, doing anything that would cause a brother or sister in Christ, to stumble.

Thought:

Now I know that this is a heavy-duty teaching that challenges us greatly, but if we embraced this challenge as a demonstration of love, this would transform and impact everything we do.

You see, the issue of whether you eat or drink is pretty simple, because nothing is unclean in and of itself.

What you eat or drink goes ONE way and out the other.

I can go to that event or place or gathering as long as I don’t do anything while I am there, to expose my mind and or body to what is harmful to this temple of the Lord or his name and reputation because I am always representing HIM.

What I wear on my body and how I wear it, has nothing to do with the amount of love I have in my heart for the Lord, this shirt or this tie isn’t going to take anything off of my salvation.

No plant or animal or the eating thereof can change or take away from my forgiven status in Christ who died for ME and cleansed me from unrighteousness.

But if I love my brother.

If I love my Sister and I compare their value, with X…, there should be no contestin terms of what I do or chose because, my brother or sister is worth more to me than “X”

The beverage whatever it may be, is something which I can have and it is completely within my rights as a liberated child of God, but if the brother used to struggle alcohol and I love him, more than my need to display my freedom to have a glass of wine……then my brother…takes priority, so I’ll just order a soft drink.

This same concept applies to how we dress and present ourselves in the church.

Sister you could say YES God gave me a body that won’t quit and I thank God for it.

Lord knows I can make this dress work and all of the Sisters will be admiring me, but the brothers(I know they shouldn’t be looking) might stumble, because I know that men are visual and they are doing everything they can to keep their eyes on God and worship him, so I’ll tone it down, IN LOVE.

This same concept applies to our various social activities and other choices.

Brother so and so has a problem with his health, so I am not going to keep bringing in my peach cobbler, I’m not going to keep inviting him to the fish market for that fried catfish, I’ll bring in some celery and eat that even though I have the liberty and freedom to stuff my face…

You get my point.

God says, don’t destroy your brother over a piece of meat and make no mistake about this my friends for God will hold us accountable.

So before you chose to do ‘X” think about that.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

2. By giving no occasion to “let your good” be evil spoken of.

Romans 14:16-17 (NKJV)
16  Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil;
17  for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 (NKJV)
1  A good name isbetter than precious ointment, And the day of death than the day of one’s birth;

In point number one we talked about the reality of choosing and the options we have in terms of our social and lifestyle expressions.

Here in this second point we are going to build upon that conversation a bit, but we are going to focus on the importance and the responsibility of exercising your liberty in a way that protects the name of the Lord and builds up the fellowship of all believers.

Thought:

One of the challenges and dangers of Liberty is that it can be abused.

More than likely many of you know about the dangers of liberty by reason of your own personal experience.

I know of a young man who was 26 years old attending a work-related party, early in his professional career.

He had been saved for about three or four years. He knew Jesus as savior his life and this young man exercised his newly found liberty by getting hammered for the first and only time in his life.

He thought that he was free to do tequila shooters. The next thing he knew he was hugging a toilet bowl.

It sounds funny thinking about this visual now, but I can almost guarantee that more than just a few of my esteemed brothers and sisters may have had the same sort of foolish activities go on in your life under the cover of being free to exercise your liberty.

As believers we exercise our Christian liberty, by giving no occasion to let “your good Christian” name to be evil spoken of.

We are to exercise our liberty not only in a way that does not cause another brother or sister to stumble, but we must also restrain ourselves from operating in a way that gives others an occasion to criticize or bad mouth us because the name of Christ is on the line too.

You and I are free.

We’ve been liberated. The due bill has been paid. The work of salvation was finished on the cross and accepted by God who raised Jesus from the dead.

Our salvation isn’t based on following a list of do’s and don’ts, we have come into this undeserved position of grace and favor and acceptance with God.

And because of that, our main concern is to SERVE Christ and to exercise our liberty in a way that is acceptable and pleasing to HIM.

It’s the kingdom of God and not eating or drinking, or socializing or enjoying ourselves, that must be the burning focus and desire of our lives.

And to protect that sanctity of that, we must be careful to never conduct ourselves in a way that brings dishonor and doubt and confusion on the name of Christ.

Thought:

I can tell you personally that for me, this is something that resonates with me as a Christian and as a Pastor of the Lord’s church.

There are a whole lot of things that I can doand that I would love to do.

But I can’t do it.

If the engagement in or attendance to an activity whatever it may be, is going to put a wrinkle in my reputation and ultimately may cause or give occasion for someone to criticize the blessed position that the Lord has given me; if it’s a choice between defiantly boasting in my God given libertyand putting the office of the senior Pastor in a position where my behavior brings shame on the name of the Lord and my fellow believers……the choice is that I chose is to pass on the exercise of the area of liberty, even though I have the right to engage in or do this or that.

I am free but I have a bigger issue to think about.

Thought:

Now I am sure that most of you agree with that and YOU are happy to shake your head in agreement because I am talking to you as the Pastor.

But let’s go back 34 years earlier in the life of this young man, before he was a preacher or minister.

Let’s go back to that party in which I told you, that the young man was was huddled around that toilet puking his guts out.

People at that party knew that he was a Christian.

He was saved just like you, he had liberty just like you and yet he caused the name of the Lord to be blasphemed and spoken ill of, just like many of you do today, by the choices you make as you exercise your freedom.

One of the challenges and dangers of our Christian liberty is that it can be abused.

You as a child of God need to avoid doing things that can cause your name to be spoken evil of.

You need to be cognizant of the unsaved world in which you live, because the world is looking at you and what your life says about the Christ you represent.

Think about that girlfriend, think about that Bro.

Don’t let the good that you have been blessed with, be exercised in a way, that allows justifiable criticism.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship ?

3. By making choices which edify others and make for peace.

Romans 14:19-20 (NLT)
19  So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
20  Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, all foods are acceptable, but it is wrong to eat something if it makes another person stumble.

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

Romans 12:18 (MSG)
18  If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.

Ephesians 4:29 (NKJV)
29  Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Moving into this 3rdpoint, we can begin to see a pattern and a theme emerge, as the apostle Paul in his teaching, sort of restates and revisits and combines his various thoughts into more practical and relatable ideas.

In point numberone we talked about how a believer is to manage himself in terms of the exercise of liberty and to do so by choosing to avoid doing things that would cause another brother or sister to stumble.

In point numbertwo we talked about the responsibility we have in terms of managing your personal witness and how that can be impactful when it comes to affecting those within the saved and the unsaved world.

You don’t want to do things or give ammunition to those who would be critical and make no mistake about it, there are people watching for good and bad reasons.

This third point is in many ways duplicative of some of the thoughts we’ve just shared, but the focus here is on the issue and the need to make choices, within the context of exercising your liberty, that edify and work towards harmony.

Everyone say that word Harmony:

Thought:

Harmony of course is a term that is most associated with music, but in the context of a fellowship, it is a more powerful concept and one that we ought to embrace and place as a focal point, when it comes to the exercise of our liberty.

For example; if all of the praise and worship team sings the song exactly the same notes, it would correspond and be understood, but because they are all singing the same melody it would not be harmony.

There would be sameness, but what you would hear would not have the peaceful melodious tones that come from the ONE THREE and FIVE notes, that are produced when the three notes are combined to form harmony.

And when that harmony is heard, the combined product edifies, uplifts and improves the experience of the music for both for the singer and the listener.

In other words, a dynamic is released in which the entire group is elevated and built up in a way that would not be possible, without the intentional efforts of each person to sing their part.

So when it comes to exercising our personal liberty, the motivating factor should be our intentional effort to flow in the freedom that the Lord has given us, IN a WAY that bring peace and harmony within the church.

Let me say that again just in case you missed it; there is a dynamic that is released in which the entire group is elevated and built up in a way that would not be possible, without the intentional efforts of each person to sing their part.

So in the body of Christ, we want to bring harmony and we want to bring peace, as much as it is possible, so even though I might be free to sing “X” I’m going to intentionally restrain my lips and sing another note because I want to flow in harmony.

Even though I have the liberty to do “X” I don’t want to tear apart the work of God, over a big mac….

Even though there is nothing wrong with “X” my aim is not individual liberty, but rather our AIM is ONE, THREE, FIVE…harmony

And that applies to what you wear, what you do, how you live and what you SAY.

I’ll give you just a minute to let that sink in….

Thought:

The question is not weather “X” or “Y” is something you can do.

The question is does it produce harmony for the edifying of others, because if you know that the choice will become a stumbling block, then it is wrong for you to do it and it becomes SIN when you intentionally inflict harm to the body.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

4. By rejecting anything that causes self-condemnation and embracing what is approved by God, according to his word and your faith.

Romans 14:22 (NLT)
22  You may believe there’s nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who don’t feel guilty for doing something they have decided is right.

Romans 14:22 (NKJV)
22  Do you have faith? Have itto yourself before God. Happy ishe who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

Romans 14:23 (NLT)
23  But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.

Romans 14:5 (NLT)
5  In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable.

We close this 4thand final point on a very practical note having to do with the issue of conscience.

When I was coming up they used to say “let your conscience be your guide”

I did a little research on that phrase and discovered that the line was in the movie about Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket was the one who said that, not the bible.

Now we share that with you, because many people actually believe that your human mind and your feelingscan be the deciding factor in determining what is wrong and right.

So, let’s straighten that up quick.

The word conscience comes from two Latin words, CON which means “with”and science which means to know.

The word conscience means to KNOW within ourselves, but the word as it applies to us as Christians, does not mean letting your personal feelings or thoughts guide your actions.

What must guide and direct and determine, the choices we make are those things that we knowhave been approved of GodAND we are convinced and have faith in the area of liberty, as documented and confirmed in HIS word.

So, in a practical sense, you are blessed when you don’t feel guilty for eating something, or drinking something or making some choice in terms of what you wear or where you go, because you’ve read God’s word and you have sought God’s direction and now you have faith based on prayerful consideration and HIS wordthat such and such is OK for you.

You have the liberty and the freedom to go ahead and enjoy a Big Mac fries and with cheese and a hot apple pie…

Give thanks as you chow down….. But if you have doubts about ‘X” or “Y” or Z”….you are sinning if you go ahead and do it.

For you are not following your convictions as confirmed in God’s word.

If you do anything you believe is not right, it’s wrong for you.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

By functioning in love and acting in faith.

AMEN.

All eyes closed and heads bowed for the time of invitation.

You may be here today and have found this sermon to be interesting because it dealt with issues pertaining to how Christians get along with and love each other.

One of the things that I shared in the earlier part of the sermon revolved around the surety of our saved position in Christ Jesus.

Nothing we ear or wear, or eat can break the power of what Jesus did on the cross when he died for the sins of mankind and secured salvation for those who place their faith in him as Lord.

Jesus suffered bled and died for our sins and God raised him from the dead.

We trust by faith in that reality.

We believe in HIS completed work on the cross as the sure guarantee of right standing.

We rest in the truth and security of this, not based on our work, but based on faith in God’s own Son and what he did for us.

That is how we have become Christians.

That is how you get born again.

That is how and why we are the family of God.

And that is why each of us can rest in the reality that if anyone of us were to die tonight, we’d open up our eyes in the kingdom of God, because we’ve place our life and faith Jesus Christ.

What about you.

Are you here today, listening to the teaching about Jesus and the church, but in reality you are outside looking in.

You don’t have to be my friend. You don’ t have to be an observer, but you can become part of God’s family of forgiven and cleansed Christians today.

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

Click here to see the full sermon and service on line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to manage your Christian Liberty Pt1

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

Managing our Christian Liberty (Part I)

 Romans 14:1-4 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.
4  Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord’s help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval.

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

As we are coming to the final chapters of this extended study through the epistle written to the church at ROME, I want to thank the Lord again for what he has taught us and allowed us to share together, for in this study we’ve covered some truly breathtaking topics.

Paul has revealed the great mysteries of Christ and the wonder of justification through faith; he has taught us about the great plan of God concerning the nation of Israel and he has shared practical insights and directives as to how we as believers are to operate and handle ourselves within the context of human relationships AND our day-to-day walk in this world.

In this teaching today Paul address a very relevant and timely topic that is very much applicable to the modern church.

And the topic has to do with confusion and the conflicting ideas regarding Christian liberty.

Christian liberty is a topic you may or may not have heard of, but it is a point of conflict and confusion within many churches today.

Christian liberty is a concept that is related to the reality that we as born again believers, have been liberated from the slavery of Sin, in order to be bondservants of Christ.

Christian liberty deals with the wonderful news, that we have been freed from the condemning wrath of God and the curse of the law.

Christian liberty however is not cheap liberty, which provides a license for sin and lawlessness.

Christian liberty is at its essence, the freedom to live for Christand to present our selves in a way that speaks to our freedom from SIN and our connection to God.

  • We are liberated because we have become slaves to righteousness.
  • We are liberated in the freedom to serve our new Master, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now this of course sounds wonderful and there is a natural AMEN just waiting to be declared.

But the truth is that Christian liberty and the ways we relate to it, are often a point of tension effecting the Christian church in general AND a point of tension that effects our day-to-day walk as believers.

Now that you are free, how do you exercise that freedom?

Now that you have been liberated from legalism does that freedom in fact present a new set of dangers for you?

What kinds of activities are acceptable in the life of a Christian?

What is OK or not ok, in terms of what we as believers can engage in socially, or relationally?

Is it ok to consume alcoholic beverages?

Is it ok for a Christian to spend money gambling in Las Vegas or to buy lottery tickets?

What kinds of TV shows and or movies should a child of God be watching?

What about worldly music?

What kinds of songs should we listen to now that you are free from the rules and regulations?

If I were to call you up here to the pulpit and ask you to plug in your phone, would there be things on that phone that embarrass you.

Now don’t run for the exit or start deleting anything, because that isn’t where we are headed.

I’m simply raising these questions, because these are the kinds of questions and thoughts and conversations and points of difference that are part of the whole modern concept of Christian liberty.

Now today we are NOT going to be addressing any of those BIG questions, I just used those items to get you listening. 

In this sermon, we are going to be talking about HOW to exercise your Christian liberty within the context of our relationship to each other as believers within the fellowship.

This church in particular is unique because we come from different backgrounds and traditions.

I grew up in the Pentecostal church. Many of us come from a traditional Baptist background, some here were from the Catholic Church and some had virtually no prior Christian experience.

And due to our differences, we often have different ideas about our Christianity and what religion actually means.

And of course differences can often mean tension…

How can we manage ourselves in a way that strengthens the fellowship and allows each of us, regardless of where we may be at in terms of our maturity, or background or personal history to be a close body of connected believers?

From Romans 14:1-15 there are least 9 guideless that we can discuss together, but for the purpose of this two-part sermon, today we will look at 4, as we begin our study on the topic of managing our Christian Liberty.

So if you are ready to get going say AMEN.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

  1. By accepting and receiving those who are “weak”

Romans 14:1-2 (NLT)
1  Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.
2  For instance, one person believes it’s all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:1 (MSG)
1  Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

Romans 15:1 (NKJV)
1  We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Romans 15:7 (KJV)
7  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

In the opening of the sermon, I told you that among believers there are often differences between sincere and committed Christians, who have conflicting beliefs and philosophies regarding what kinds of things are acceptable or not acceptable for a Christian.

Paul here addresses what often happens in a body of mixed believers and he talks about the reality of arguments.

ARGUMENT…SAY THAT WORD.

In Romans 14:2 he uses an example of a difference that would have been quite common in the early church, where there were both Jews and Gentilesas part of a blended congregation.

The Jews in the church were use to a set of strict laws and guidelines, which dictated the kinds of foods you could or could not eat.

And some Gentiles who were also part of that blended church came from backgrounds, where there were certain ideas about the superiority and religiosity of being a vegetarian.

And then there were people within the church who had matured to the point in their faith, where they understood, that what you ate or drank really didn’t mean anything and so they exercised and flowed in the liberty and freedom of that.

They all loved Jesus. They were all born again, they were all committed to Christ, but there was a difference in opinion, which led to points of tension.

Thought:

Now when you have people who are in a church relationship with each other, there are bound to be conflicts.

Paul addresses this reality, by directing his comments those who are “mature” to take responsibility, not for simply pleasing themselves and celebrating their liberty,but rather he asks them to take the mature position of being accepting of what he calls “weak” people.

In other words not everyone in the church is at the same level in terms in his or her faith and maturity.

They are all equally saved BUT they have their own history to deal with, so treat them gently.

Now notice that what Paul is sharing here is not a put down or a rejection of these brothers and sisters, when he uses the term “weaker”

He speaks to those who are mature in their faith and he tells them how to exercise their liberty in a way that honors God,by respecting and accepting those brothers and sisters, who may still feel the need to relate to God on the basis of what they don’t do or don’t eat.

To accept them rather than rejecting them by being critical and dismissive of those who are “weaker” in their faith.

This is how we bare with one another.

This is how we are called to function and flow within the context of our liberty and to do so in a way that honors God.

He says, don’t argue, don’t criticize, don’t reject a person as a legalist, but instead receive him or her with open arms, just as God receives them.

Thought:

Now this might not seem like a big issue, but ask yourself if you’ve ever put someone down, or called the person a legalist or rejected fellowshipping or inviting the person to hang with you because they seem super religious.

Have you ever argued or rejected a fellow believer about something as simple as what a person eats or drinks.

These kinds of issues, divide believers because they cause dissention, when the word of God teaches us that we should respond by accepting others who may have a slightly different view.

One person feels that it’s ok to press your hair, another person doesn’t.

One woman wears make up, another woman does not and won’t feel comfortable doing that.

One person feels free to enjoy a hamburger with cheese; another person won’t eat that because it mixes milk and beef.

It seems trivial, but these are the kinds of things that divide Christians and cause problems and tensions in a church.

Thought.

Now it is important here that we pivot for just a moment and make sure that we don’t miss-read this.

What Paul is teaching us about here is the concept and need among Christians who are at different levels in their faith, to be accepting of each other.

Paul is not talking about embracing and accepting things, which are a clear violation of God’s direct commandment and HIS word.

And it is imperative that we understand and are very clear about this, because today there is great pressure on the church to embrace any kind of lifestyle and any kind of marriage and any kind of self directed doctrinal and or theological position…..and it is happening in churches today, who are bending over backwards to accommodate everything….

We are not to argue over non-salvivic issues of choice and style, but that does not mean that the church can be accepting of out right SIN and filth.

If God says thou shall not commit adultery, if God says keep your pants on, if God’ word says don’t steal…that is not an issue of style, that is a commandment.

The writer is dealing with issues which are related to where each of us is at in our faith and he is telling those who are more mature, to take responsibility for bearing with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves as we exercise and flow in the freedoms we enjoy.

That is all that this scripture is talking about….PERIOD.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so secondly……

  1. By rejecting the human tendency to compare and criticize.

Romans 14:3 (NLT)
3  Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don’t. And those who don’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them.

Romans 14:3 (MSG)
3  But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table.

Romans 14:4 (KJV)

4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV)
6  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete ituntil the day of Jesus Christ;

In this 2ndpoint the word of cautionis given to two types of believers who are capable of operating and or acting in critical ways.

The one who feels “enlightened” as he or she flows in his freedom from rules and regulations looks down his nose at the “religious person”

The religious person who feels that it is necessary to have these operational guidelines and rules, looks down on the person who eats this or does that and says “she isn’t saved” because she wears that. 

Both are operating in a way that is selfish and doesn’t benefit the liberty to which we are called.

Here in this second point, Paul lovingly yet strongly confronts and cautions and warns the believer about an issue, which is problematic in today’s world and today’s church.

Thought:

One of the things that I really like about the modern ministry of being a preacher of God’s word, is the sharing of information and experiences and resources that happen within the body of Christ, which is made possible through the blessings of the internet.

Pastors often write about their experiences and share them with others and in many of those writings we find that a big factor that tears apart many churches is the problem of comparing and criticizing.

Here in the scripture we are told very simply not to look down on each other.

Not to measure, not to evaluate and not to despise one another, because the Lord will hold those who do this……. accountable.

God, says…..who do you think you  are ?

Romans 14:4

4  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?

God says that we have no right, nor do we have any business criticizing and evaluating HIS servants.

At the end of the day God is the only one who knows us and understand us at whatever level we may be at.

At the end of the day God is the one who will hold us up, he is the one who has begun a good work in us and he is the one who is able to make us stand.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so thirdly…

  1. By being personally persuaded of what you allow or do not allow in your own life.

Romans 14:5 (NLT)
5  In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convincedthat whichever day you choose is acceptable. 

Romans 14:6 (NLT)
6  Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 

Romans 14:5 (MSG)
5  Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.  

Romans 14:22-23 (KJV)

22  Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.

23  And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

1stCorinthians 6:12 (KVJ)

12  All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

This third point was an interesting one and I wrestled with it, because it deals with the issue of conscience.

I initially was concerned and a bit reticent, to dive into this because the thought could easily be misconstrued or interpreted as being one in which the believer is encouraged to allow his or her personal thoughts and interpretation of God’s word, to be the governing factorwhich determines and dictates the operational aspects of one’s walk and faith life.

We addressed this a bit earlier but it is such an important point that it bears being repeated and emphasized.

Today in the modern church we have many believers in the name of liberty, making their own religion and making their own doctrines and living in ways that are contrary to the commandmentsof God and they feel ok living that way, because they don’t feel that it is wrong.

Let’s make that 100% clear…that is NOT what the scripture is teaching us.

This teaching is dealing with certain concerns and thoughts about religious “questions”

Apparently Paul was dealing with a hotly debated issue that was being argued within the early church and again this is understandable when you consider that the early church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.

Some believers were focused on observing special days, just as in today’s church there are divisions and denominational differences regarding various non-salvivic issues related to what day a person goes to church.

We have church groups that are organized around the Jewish Sabbath and a belief and or focus upon worshiping on Saturday.

We have hotly debated arguments and conflicts regarding what a person can wear to church.

I grew up in a church were women did NOT wear pants.

Women and men could NOT wear Jewelry.

No makeup. No open toe shoes for women.

No exposed arms in your sleeveless dress.

And you had better NOT come into the church without stockings!

Some churches are exactly the opposite. The Pastor wears a Hawaiian shirt and shorts in the pulpit, all of these issues and the exercise of freedom and liberty can cause big problems among believing saints who each LOVE Jesus…

Paul in this 3rdpoint is writing to us to addressing the deeper issue of conscience and personal conviction.

And here is what he says…hold on to your seats and don’t miss this.

Paul teaches us here in this principle, that when it comes to exercising our liberty that the key thought is operate in a way that does not violate your conscience,understanding that it is God who evaluates and determines the condition and workings of your heart.

Thought:

We exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God by operating on the basis of allowing things to which we are fully persuaded within ourselves, as revealed and confirmed by God and his word.

Let me repeat that again, so that you don’t miss that,

We exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God by operating on the basis of allowing things to which we are fully persuaded within ourselves, as revealed and confirmed by God and his word.

And based on where we come from, or what our experience is, or the level to which we have learned to operate in faith, each of us will process this reality differently.

So rather than being critical of each other, or looking to each other for validation, we must be fully persuaded in our own heart and mind, as confirmed within God’s word.

Now again, make sure you don’t miss it

Paul is not teaching us that we flow in our Liberty by making up our own life rules.

Far from it my friends, for God demands without exception that his directives and commandments that are written plainly in HIS WORD be followed.

But when it comes to these non-salvivic questions you must be governed by what you have a clear conscience about.

You must not to violate your consciences.

From a practical standpoint, that means that you must not allow other people, even if they are church membersto pressure you into exercising your liberty in the way that you don’t feel comfortable with.

In their irresponsible exercise of “liberty” they may invite you or tease you or pressure you to go, but if you feel that is it wrong for you; then it is wrong.

My Mother cannot wear pants, and she will NOT wear pants because it makes her feel guilty and for her it would be a sin.

We must not be critical and we must be accepting of others because you don’t know that person’s background and you don’t what they struggle with and why.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so 4th and finally…..

  1. By focusing on our personal accountability to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)
7  For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves.
8  If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord

Romans 14:8-9 (MSG)
8  It’s Godwe are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other.
9  That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other

We come to the close of this first portion of the study, knowing that we will pick up PART II and continue if the Lord allows us to do that.

This 4thand final point is so simple and powerful that it is easy to miss.

How do we exercise our Christian liberty in way that honors God and strengthens the fellowship?

We do so by remembering and being convicted of the reality, that we as individual people are PERSONALLY answerable to God.

In other words, instead of being wrapped up in argument and fears and worries that we often convince ourselves are of such importance, we must shift and fix our focus to the one to whom we belong.

Thought:

The scriptures says in Romans vs 14:8 and quote “whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Everything about us all the way from life to death is all in God’s hands and it is to HIM that we are answerable to……AND not each other.

That should be the driving force in your life, to live for the master and to hear the words that we should long for with all of our hearts…..”well done thou good and faithful servant”

You didn’t live to please yourself.

You bore the burdens of your other brothers and sisters.

You extended the same loving grace to others, as I extended to you.

Well done, well done my child.

This should be our hearts desire, to please him and honor him in all that we do.

AMEN

CLOSE:

Today we taught from God’s word about the various factors and issues that affect our relationship with other Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

God loves us so much that he gives us these teachings so that day-by-day we might become that spiritual body of believers that he desires.

  • His love motivated him to give us his word.
  • His love motivated him to teach us through the lives of his people.’
  • His love is wonderful and incredible on so many levels.

I wonder if there is anyone under the sound of my voice, who does not personally know the wonder and power and awesomeness of God’s love for your self?

I’m not asking if you know that God loves you in the generic sense of the word.

I’m asking if you have come into contact with his love, by reason of a personal experience with the life saving power of God, through Jesus Christ HIS son.

I’m asking if you’ve been born again.

I’m asking if you have the joy of knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you have a right standing with God, because you’ve come to know the power of God’s love as expressed in John 3:16 for yourself.

John 3:16 said “for God so loved the world that HE gave his only begotten SON, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish, but have ever lasting life”

Do you know the reality of that scripture for your self, because you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Lord?

If the answer is no, I’m going to give you an opportunity to change that right now.

While all heads are bowed and eyes are closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time Has Come !

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

                                        The Time Has Come

Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)
11  And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.
12  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
13  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts

Romans 13:13-14 (MSG)
13  We can’t afford to waste a minute, we must not squander these precious daylight hours in frivolity and indulgence, in sleeping around and dissipation, in bickering and grabbing everything in sight.
14  Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!

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

We’ve now completed the mini-series within the overall studies that we’ve been doing together from the epistle written to the church at ROME.

In our last sermon, we spoke about how to relate to and love your fellow citizen or neighbor in a practical sense and in doing so, we saw how we can make a difference in the lives of others by making the world a better place.

We love our neighbor and we make the world a better place by, respecting their marriages, by respecting their property, and by valuing human life.

In that lesson we learned that much of what plagues our hate filled society today, stems from problems that flow out of our selfish ways; we don’t need new laws and government restrictions, we just need to learn to love others in the same way that we love ourselves and that would solve many problems.

Today we are going to talk about the believer and his relationship to TIME.

Time of course is extremely important to all of us. Time is one of our most valued possessions and it is a driver of many decisions and choices we make.

We process many things on the basis of TIME.

I’ll go here if I have time. I can be a part of that if I have the time, or OK let me consider that offer, how much time is it going to take?

For me turning 60 marked a serious change in the way I perceive time.

I know that God can bless me with 60 more years if he decides to do that, but I also know that He can decide at any moment, that my time is up.

Given that reality, I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to wasting my time.

I want every day to count.

I don’t want to mess with stuff that ends up wasting time, but I am also grateful that I have time to waste…. because the alternative is not to have any earthly time.

Now don’t anxious and don’t get depressed because the sermon isn’t about dying; the sermon is about your TIME and what the bible says to you as a believer about getting your head on right as it regards the issue of TIME.

This is a word of exhortation, and word of encouragement and a challenge to every believer to recognize the importance of using your time wisely.

Now if you are ready to hear what the bible says about that say AMEN.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Wake up and “know” the times.

Romans 13:11a-b(NKJV)
11a-b  And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep;

2 Timothy 3:1-5a-b (MSG)
1  Don’t be naive. There are difficult times ahead.
2  As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse,
3  dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical,
4  treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.
5  They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals.

Matthew 24:38-39a-b (NKJV)
38  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39  and did not know until the flood came and took them all away,

Revelation 1:7 (NKJV)
7  Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

In the opening of the sermon, I said that it is important that you and I as believers start to recognize and use our time wisely.

Here in the passage Paul speaks of knowing and waking up.

The word knowing used here means to be aware and to not miss things.

The exhortation to wake up is an imperative directive, that we as children of God are not be slothful and or lazy, when it comes to knowing, observing and understanding the times.

You and I are living in perilous times and we should not be naïve and we should be mindful of that fact difficult times are coming.

Thought:

Too many folks in the church today, are not paying attention to what is going in and around their lives.

We are too disconnected, we are pre-occupied, and we are over booked and over committed to the wrong things.

Time is rushing by and before you know it, the little tikes are in Jr. high, the teens are going off to college and ten years has gone by in your relationship with Christ, yet the child of God is often in the same place Spiritually as you where when you first came to Christ.

Still not committed to growing in the word.

Still not committed to regular bible study, still not committed to sharing the gospel with others, still not serving Christ whole heartedly, still not using the gifts that God has given you.

30 years can go by just like that, YET we feel no pressure to change or to make adjustments, because we don’t understand the reality and the dangers of the times we are living in.

Listen to the words of 2nd Timothy chapter 3:1 and let them sink in for a moment.

It said “people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God.

We as Christians are in a deep stupid sleep, happy and blind to the fact that there is trouble on the horizon.

If we truly believed, that the end was closer today than it ever was, would we be wasting time and tools and energy on the stuff we seem to think is so important to us now?

If we truly believed that the end was near, would we be playing around with our kids and letting them take their own time to find God, or would we be on them with all the pressure we could muster, knowing that if they were not ready they would be lost.

If we truly believed that the end was near, would we keep ignoring the unsaved and lost of this world?

The church right along with the unsaved world is going about it’s daily routine eating and drinking and giving in marriage, not realizing or refusing to see the signs, until the end comes like a flood.

We must wake up understand and know the TIME in which we live and we must change……..not tomorrow……. but right now.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Recognize that the day of our salvation is near.

Romans 13:11c (NKJV)
11c for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.

Luke 21:28 (NKJV)
28  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Luke 21:29-31 (MSG)
29  He told them a story. “Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter.
30  When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner.
31  The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God’s kingdom is about here.

In point number one we touched upon this briefly, but I want to dive more deeply into this and to do so from another angle.

Here the words of Paul focus upon the reality of our salvation.

Say that word Salvation.

You and I as born again Children of God, have come into a relationship with God, because we recognized our need for salvation and placed our faith in Christ.

When we accepted Christ as Lord of our lives, we placed our faith and trust in him and the work that he accomplished for us, by reason of his death, burial and resurrection.

When Jesus hung there on the cross he suffered the pain of death, as a payment for our sins and now we by faith are able to obtain the forgiveness of our sins, because Christ Jesus, secured salvation for us.

Thought:

Now that word salvation is important because it speaks to a present reality that we can rest in, BUT it also speaks to a future reality that is still yet to be fully consummated.

You see, even though I am living in this present world and struggling in this present world, Jesus has “saved “me from the penalty of my sins.

But I also understand, that I have not yet come into the fullness of all that he has planned for me.

You and I are saved for sure, but when we get new bodies in heaven we will be free from the problems and limitations of life here in these tents of flesh.

We will be saved and perfected eternally.

I’ve heard some preachers put it this way by saying you GOT saved, you are being saved and you will be perfected in that salvation, when Jesus takes you to live with him in eternity.

  • This is what the child of God should look forward to.
  • This is what the child of God should be anticipating
  • AND we must understand that the day of our complete redemption is nearer than it was 10 years ago.

So Start getting your house in order.

Start preparing for the return of your redeemer.

Start cleaning your house up and getting yourself ready for inspection.

Because the day of your ultimate salvation is a lot closer than it was when you first got saved.

Thought:

Now you can take that as a word of encouragement to celebrate, or you can take that as a warning.

For me, I hear this as a little bit of both.

I’ve been saved for just about 38 years now and I am also older.

I’m cognizant of the reality of TIME.

I know the day in which I realize the full manifestation of HIS saving power in my life, is closer than it was when I got saved in 1980, but I am also mindful, that the time in which I will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, is closer right now than it’s ever been.

When I stand before him and when you stand before him, the words we want to hear are “well done thou good and faithful servant”

So what do I need to change?

What do you need to change?

What do I need to clean up, what do I need to do to position myself for the day when I will meet my redeemer?

Every day we need to be thinking about that.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time 3rdly to…..

  1. Cast off the works of darkness.

Romans 13:12a-c (NKJV)
12a-c  The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness

John 3:19-20 (NKJV)
19  And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

Ephesians 4:22-23 (NKJV)
22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,
23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

With each point that we are introduced to here in Paul’s teaching, there comes a more pressing challenge, to us as believers.

In point number one we were encouraged to wake up and know the times.

In point number two we were told to recognize that our salvation is near and in point number three we are told to make an operational application of what we’ve learned in the first two points.

Thought:

There is a dark side to the issue to sleepiness; to the sloth, to the laziness and to the naïveté, that was mentioned in 2nd Timothy chapter 3:1

The problem and the challenge of sleepiness when it comes to the modern church, is seen in the reality of how comfortable we have become with and how engaged many Christians are with, the works of darkness and the things of the flesh.

Paul writes to the church. He writes to believers and he says to THEM, that it time to cast off the works of darkness.

Thought:

Now I understand that the words being used here are tough.

I understand that it would have been easier to digest if Paul didn’t use terms like “THE WORKS of DARKNESS”

In the modern church so we use terms like “areas of struggle” to describe the sin issues and the things that are happening in our lives, which we do “under cover”

Paul here doesn’t sugar coat this, because he wants the believer to wake up and be honest about this realty and to understand the truth about this issue, as it relates to TIME.

  • It’s time, to cast off the hidden relationships that many in the church are engaged in.
  • It’s time to cast off the things that we are doing late at night, down in LA, or over Vegas where we can hide under the cover of darkness.

Things that Christians are doing, which we are ashamed of; things tucked away our secret closets.

Skeletons, which if exposed and brought to the light, would cause us great embarrassment.

Today the call and the challenge is not for us to ask for prayer, or to say “ the Lord knows I am still a work in progress” but rather the call is for US to make a decision to cast if off.

To disown it and to terminate it, with extreme prejudice, because we recognize that we can no longer permit, our love affair with the world and the things of the flesh.

That brings us to the 4th point, for as we commit ourselves to cast off, we must commit our selves to putting on.

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to……

  1. Get serious about living right.

Romans 13:12c-13 (NKJV)
12 and let us put on the armor of light.
13  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.

1 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)
7  Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV)
11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)
16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

We cast off the works of darkness and then we put on the armor of light.

This 4th point is a continuation of the previous, but it is also given in order to help the reader to compare and contrast.

In light of the times that we live in and the dangers that we face AND the soon coming return of our redeemer, you are I as believers in Jesus Christ, must recognize and embrace the need to get serious about living RIGHT.

In the previous point, we spoke to and addressed the dark side of sleepiness.

When a saved person has become lazy and sleepy in their Christian walk, they easily fall prey to the entanglements of the flesh.

 A person begins to put on, inappropriate relationships.

A person begins to put on revelry and drunkenness and other inappropriate clothing as described in Romans chapter 13: verses 12-13

In sleepiness we see all manner of fleshly sins, being evidenced in the lives of Church folks.

But Paul calls us to wake up and to recognize the times and to respond by clothing ourselves in light.

And so he says “and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly”

Thought:

Now I reworded this and presented the thought in our modern way of speaking which simply says, it’s time to get serious about LIVING RIGHT.

Living right mean making a proactive decision to put on the right stuff daily.

That means that we must personally “put on” righteous living.

That means that we must work each and every day to get the leaven out of our lives.

In 1st Corinthians, chapter 5:7 we read the words of Paul as he declared that we should purge out the old leaven.

Leaven here in the bible represents Sin.

In preparation for the Passover, the children of Israel were instructed to search their homes to make sure that they removed every piece of leaven from their homes.

This is what you and I need to do.

We need to searching and making sure, that we don’t allow sin to find a place of comfort in our lives.

Living right, means getting up each and every day and putting on the whole armor of God

Living right mean checking in with God to see how he feels and what his word says.

Living RIGHT means going to God with every decision and every detail of our lives; it means leaning on him and relying on him in all of our ways and letting HIM direct our paths.

That brings us to our 5th and closing point…

Every believing child of God should remember that is it’s time to..

  1. Put on Christ and embrace the full package.

Romans 13:14 (NKJV)
14  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

Philippians 3:8 (NLT)
8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

Philippians 3:10 (NKJV)
10  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 

John 17:21a-c (MSG)
21  The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, So they might be one heart and mind with us.

The time has come and the time is here and the time is NOW for every child of God to decide that enough…. is enough.

It’s time to get radical, it is time to say NO, I don’t just want to be a fan, but I want to be ONE with him and I want the entire package, I want EVERYTHING….

This is where Paul had come to in his life and walk with Christ Jesus.

Everything else is HIS life was considered RUBBISH.

Thought:

This is where we should be today.

The call of Christ is to toss aside all of these distractions and to embrace with anticipation, the glory of our soon coming king and the revelation of his appearance in the sky.

Our hearts desire should be to become ONE with HIM.

One heart.

One mind.

He in us……. and we in him ……..and US in God together.

Is this what you want my Christian friend?

Do you want to be conformed to HIS image and do you want to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings?

If that is truly your goal, then we must crucify the flesh daily.

If that is truly your goal we must no longer make provision to fulfill the lust thereof.

If that is truly your goal then you must discard everything and count it as garbage, that we may gain oneness with Christ.

AMEN.

Close:

Altar Call.

Today, we’ve heard and examined some teachings from the Apostle Paul, a man who had been transformed by a saving relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord.

Every SAVED person sitting here under the sound of my voice, has similarly come into the reality of such an experience.

We all came to know the forgiveness of Sins

We all came to know the power of his grace.

We all came to know the beauty of that oneness with God the Father, through Jesus Christ.

The question that I pose to you today, is DO YOU KNOW THIS REALITY FOR YOURSELF?

If you don’t know Jesus as Lord of your life and you want to place your faith and trust in him and to come into his blessed family, we are going to give you an opportunity to do that right now.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

Click here to view the entire service

 

 

How To Make The World A Better Place

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Now if you understand that say AMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 13:8 God’s word ®Translation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

Thought:

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

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

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

And when indebtedness happens between governments it starts wars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 13:9a-b (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

  1. Valuing human life.

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

  1. Committing our selves to verbal integrity and truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLOSE:

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

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

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

That is where LOVE starts

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

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

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

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

It all starts with Jesus

That is the key to being transformed.

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

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

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

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

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed….

Click here to view the entire service and sermon

 

 

 

 

 

The government and you

Practical lessons on Christianity:  The Government and You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So if you re ready to get going say AMEN.

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

  1. Being subject to governing authorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

It doesn’t matter which party they represent.

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

But another thought occurred to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Respecting that government is ordained by God.

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Now how to do you that? 

Well, it’s simple.

You flow in your God given liberty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Paying your taxes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

CLOSE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your answer to that question…TRUTHFULLY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

Click here for the full service video

 

COMMUNION.

 

How to present an excellent testimony

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

How to present an excellent testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now if you are ready to roll say AMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my confession….what about YOU ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

PAYBACK helps us with our pride.

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

Problem is that PAYBACK is a TRAP.

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

You’ll loose sight of the importance of empathy.

You’ll move away from trusting God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your enemies are thirsty, give them a drink.

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

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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.

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