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….

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The government and you

Practical lessons on Christianity:  The Government and You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So if you re ready to get going say AMEN.

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

  1. Being subject to governing authorities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

It doesn’t matter which party they represent.

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

But another thought occurred to me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Respecting that government is ordained by God.

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Now how to do you that? 

Well, it’s simple.

You flow in your God given liberty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Paying your taxes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN

CLOSE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your answer to that question…TRUTHFULLY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

Click here for the full service video

 

COMMUNION.

 

How to present an excellent testimony

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

How to present an excellent testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now if you are ready to roll say AMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my confession….what about YOU ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

PAYBACK helps us with our pride.

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

Problem is that PAYBACK is a TRAP.

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

You’ll loose sight of the importance of empathy.

You’ll move away from trusting God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If your enemies are thirsty, give them a drink.

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN.

Click here to view the entire service and sermon on line

 

 

 

 

A call to right thinking

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

                           A Call To Right Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

Now if you understand that say AMEN.

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

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

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

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

If you understand that say AMEN

So let’s get started with three simple points…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Two thoughts I want to share with you.

Thought # 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only God really knows.

So we need to understand and be careful.

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

Here’s the second thought:

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

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

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

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

Let me put it this way….

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

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

Think soberly and think about yourself in a balanced way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

All of our gifts have a common origin.

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

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

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

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

It is God who has distributed.

It is God who has allocated.

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

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

You can be the best singer, you can be the best administrator, you can be gifted in a way that makes you stand out, but no person has a full measure of anything, for God gifts us with just a measure.

Thought:

No person should ever get an inflated head about his or her level of anointing or giftedness; church folk should not worship and or be so impressed with a leader or elder or minister thinking that he or she is so anointed.

Every thing that God has enabled us to do, came as a result of HIS gifting, but NONE OF US HAVE IT ALL, we’ve only got a measure.

So think about your self in that context.

You process the reality of who you are, not in comparison, but according to the reality, that what ever you have and whatever you’ve been dealt, is a gift from God to you.

As Christians who are connected within the body of Christ, you and I are called 3rd and finally to….

  1. To think of ourselves only in terms of who we are           within the body.

Romans 12:4-5 (NLT)
4  Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function,
5  so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

1 Corinthians 12:12 (NLT)
12  The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:27 (MSG)
27  You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything.

In this third and final point the scripture calls for us to embrace a radical type of thinking that goes completely against the flesh and the modern mindset.

As believers we are called to consider ourselves as one part, of many parts, with a God given function that is vital and important only as it relates to and is connected to the whole.

You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are!

We as believers must never forget this.

Only as you accept your “part” as being “a part” does your “part” mean anything.

This my friend is RADICAL thinking, but adopting this mindset is possible only if you embrace the blessing of our unity and connectedness in Christ.

Whatever gifts or talents or abilities you have don’t really mean anything apart from the plan of God, to use those parts as parts and gifts as interconnected mechanisms within his body as a functioning living spiritual entity.

In other word your part isn’t really worth anything nor is it truly distinctive unless it is a part of the other parts.

Thought:

I know that we live in a society, which celebrates and promotes the notion of the individual as the highest form of being.

I know that in today’s word it’s about you making an impact and a name for yourself.

It’s a selfie-society.

YOU are the focus, forget about anyone else, it’s all about YOU it’s about making sure that YOU get your props and your recognition.

But in God’s church and in God’s kingdom it’s about being a part of the body and it is about the blessing of being connected and inter-dependent.

We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

I belong to you, you belong to me and we belong to God.

AMEN.

 

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A Call To Devotion

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

               Practical lessons on Christianity: A Call To Devotion

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God , which is your reasonable service.
2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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

We transition in our studies through the epistle written to the church at Rome, turning a page this morning not only in terms of coming into a new chapter, but transitioning also into a series of teachings that are very practical and instructional to the believer.

If you have not been here for the previous teachings I highly recommend that you go through the last 5 or 10 lessons which are archived on our website at mysccf.com because Paul really gave us some dynamite doctrinal teachings.

This entire letter up to this point for me has been such a blessing, because as we’ve learned together Paul has helped us to tackle some really huge subjects, such as justification, sanctification and predestination just to name a few.

Then of course there was the series of teachings that he shared on Israel and God’s glorious plans for the nation and for his chosen people.

I like the fact that as Paul transitions to this portion of the letter, he uses the term therefore. The new living translation simply says “so dear brothers” and the message translation says “so here is what you want to do”

Those thoughts though written differently, all point to the idea that, as we move into this area of teaching, that we as believers ought to take into account the weightiness of the blessings and teachings of the previous 11 chapters and having done that, we therefore should embrace and look forward to moving into what is being shared.

Today, we are going to talk about a call to devotion. A call to living and dedicating YOURSELF to God.

This call to devotion, to making a total commitment to God and living for him, is as stated in the “c” portion of Romans 12:1 “our reasonable service”

It is what God is worthy of, it is the best thing that we can do and it is reasonable that we respond to God by presenting our selves in this way, in light of what he has done for us.

So that is what we want to talk about this morning.

We want to learn and we want to be inspired to embrace the call to devotion, so if are ready to go forward….say AMEN

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen firstly in….

  1. His appeal to believers to be committed to God on the basis of the “mercies” of God.

Romans 12:1a (NKJV)
1a  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God

Romans 12:1a (Berean Study Bible)

1 Therefore I urge you brothers, on account of God’s mercy

Deuteronomy 14:2 (NKJV)
2  For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

Paul here begins this first point of exhortation with a call to commitment.

Say that word, commitment…

Now at first glance it may seem that the need for commitment and the call for the Christian to be committed to God, is an obvious one.

Yet Paul urges, yes he beseeches the believer to embrace and understand the centrality of this first point, because commitment is the lynch pin that pulls together and makes possible the fulfillment and the performance of the next three calls to action.

In other words you are not going to get anywhere or do anything for God, without commitment.

Paul here is speaking about what it takes, in order for a Christian to operate and function at a level, which is commensurate and appropriately reactive to the incredible realities and gifts of God, as expressed in the manifold mercies and blessing that Paul has previously outlined in the first eleven chapters of this letter.

He says “ I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God”.

I implore you, I urge you, I appeal to you on the basis of the overflowing mercies of God and the incredible message of what God has done for you, that you respond by making a commitment to being devoted to God.

Thought:

Commitment is where the rubber meets the road. It’s not intension, it’s not having a plan, its not desire, or even love, it all rises and or falls based on commitment.

I believe that Paul understood this; he understood that fleshly people struggle with commitment, which is why he begins his exhortation with the word, THEREFORE

He calls the believer to embrace a new level of commitment, not on the basis of our feelings.

Not on the basis of whether we are happy or not.

Not on the basis weather we feel our current needs and or desires are being met, but he exhorts and calls us to a level of devotion and commitment that is based on the reality of the “mercies”

Now truth be told, I believe that a failure to fully embrace and understand the realities of his mercies, is at the heart of what we struggle with today as Christians in this modern world.

The lack of an understanding and a lack of appreciation regarding the mercies of God is part of the problem.

The failure to properly value the massiveness of what God has done for us, through his manifold mercies.

We reduce God and our relationship with him, to a human feelings level, down to a set of childish wants and desires, which vary depending upon our happiness or the circumstances of our lives.

Thought:

When our commitment and or lack thereof, is pegged not to his manifold mercies, but rather to how we feel, commitment becomes not a responsibility, but rather an easily thrown off garment, that is situational and circumstantial.

Now I realize that what I just shared there a moment ago, was a mouthful, so let’s just take a moment to digest and ponder those thoughts together.

You see the mercies (and I love that Paul wrote this word as plural rather than singular) …the mercies of God and the incredible truth of what God has done for us through, Christ Jesus are far beyond anything that we can really understand.

But if you just look at and embrace the realities of what was already shared with us, in these previous teachings; things like justification and things like the concept of being bought and paid for and ransomed.

I believe that these things, when fully imbibed, will transform a person’s thinking.

Think about what we read together a moment ago from Romans 8:1-2

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT)
1  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
2  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

You and I have been privileged to be set free by Christ himself.

We’ve been justified.

We have peace with God.

We’ve been chosen and he chose us WHILE we were yet sinners.

We’ve been predestined and called before the foundation of the world.

God chose us and called us to himself and he did so completely as an act of his great love and manifold mercies.

Therefore, in light of these realities and in light of his overflowing mercies, our response must be a commitment to totally devote our selves to him.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen secondly in….

  1. His challenge to believers to present their bodies to God.

Romans 12:1 (NKJV)
1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service

Romans 12:1b-c (MSG)
1b-c  Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV)
19  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
20  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NLT)
15  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.
16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”

In point number one, Paul essentially lays the foundation for the call to believers to express their commitment and devotion to God.

Here in point number two he puts forth that call as a challenge to express that commitment in a practical and real-time manner.

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

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

Paul would say my Brothers and Sisters I want you to do this, because it is logical; it is intelligent and it is the reasonable response to all that God has done and is doing for you.

Thought:

No doubt if you’ve been in and or around the church for a long time, you’ve heard this passage read and perhaps studied from it several times before.

To the congregants now gathered here today and to those who may be engaged with us on-line, I want to speak to regarding the reasonable-ness and the logic, of God’s desire concerning the child of God and his or her physical body.

Thought:

God wants your body…(tell your neighbor that)

This may be a surprising thought to some, who incorrectly assume that God is only interested in your Spirit.

But according to what I read, it is my understanding that God wants your body.

Thought:

Now of course this immediately raises a level of conflict between man and God and it will quickly challenge your commitment to him, because we very much want to be in charge of our own bodies.

We are physical beings.

We want to do what feels good to us.

We want to fulfill our own physical desires and wishes, yet God’s will is that we give up what is appealing to self and instead offer to God, the thing that we value above anything else.

I don’t care if you think it’s too fat or too skinny…..I don’t care if that body doesn’t fit the jeans that you’d like to wear, it may not be what you like, but the truth is that you LOVE IT.

And this is a problem when it comes to commitment, because God wants our number one physical possession.

He wants us.

He wants the thing that we kiss and pamper; he wants US to give it up to HIM.

Thought:

Now notice, what God says through Paul he said that we are to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice”.

Thought:

Have you ever thought about that much?

You see, this idea of a living sacrifice is much bigger and more daunting in the practical sense, than what happens to a traditional sacrifice.

Living Sacrifice….say that word.

A living sacrifice is more than a one-time commitment. 

It is a constant on going-daily, moment by moment continuous dedication to living for God, as a constant reality that occurs until the day you die.

A living sacrifice means giving up your own desires daily.

It means, giving up the right to think about your own wants and desires and to instead to put God’s will first.

A living sacrifice has to abandon his own ambition and to put those things aside in favor of God.

And truth be told, this kind of sacrifice takes a lot more than offering a lamb, or writing a check, as a one-time offering.

This kind of sacrifice is a huge transition, which affects your entire life, at every point, in every place and at every level.

It is only reasonable, given the reality of the “mercies” of God and all that he has bestowed upon you and me.

It is logical AND HE deserves it.

It’s reasonable. But it is also acceptable and pleasing to him.

Thought:

I found the “c” portion of Romans 12:1 to be interesting, because the idea of acceptability to God is very important.

In light of the manifold mercies of God, in light of his incredible grace and love and kindness, it is only reasonable that we offer our lives to him each day, but I love the fact that beyond being reasonable, such an offering is acceptable to God.

The word used in the passage means “well pleasing”.

It means extremely satisfying to God.

It means that God is happy when we conduct ourselves in a way that reflects our understanding that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.

It is pleasing to God when the child of God continually glorifies God, by making sure that every act, every deed, every thought, every engagement, every relationship, every word is pleasing to him, who bought us with a price.

It is well pleasing and acceptable.

So you and I my friends are called to embrace and walk in this reality in real-time, to dedicate ourselves to him, not just on Sunday morning, but each and every day no matter where this physical body may be, conducting ourselves day-by-day as a living breathing walking sanctuaries of the living God.

It’s reasonable. It is logical. It’s acceptable and pleasing to him.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen thirdly in….

  1. His command to the believer to reject the pressures of worldliness.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)
2a  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world

Romans 12:2a (NKJV)
2 a And do not be conformed to this world

Romans 12:2a-b (MSG)
2a-b  Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.

2 Corinthians 6:17a-c (NLT)
17a-c  Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, 

1 John 2:16 (MSG)
16  Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him.

This third point in my mind is related to the second, in that it speaks to matters of practicality and that which fights against God’s will and desire for the lives of his chosen ones.

In point number two we talked about the conflict between man and God, that will often challenge our commitment to him, because we want to be in charge of our own bodies.

That is the default. That is the natural selfish response of the flesh and we have to fight against that every day, by actively submitting ourselves and our bodies to him, daily.

There is also another challenge and that challenge comes from the pressures of the world.

Presenting our bodies, being committed and devoted to him as Christians is our reasonable service, but there are pressures in this world, which are real and constant and pervasive.

The new living translation simply says don’t copy. The New King James says and do not be conformed.

This word conformed, is taken from the word Schema with means to fashion.

In our Christian devotion to God, we are to resist the pressures of the world, to be fashioned and adjusted to it.

Now this is deep because it goes way beyond, hanging out at parties or going to clubs, or being involved in worldly entrainment and dressing like the world, it goes way beyond that.

But don’t think that those things are not problems by the way; and I have to say that just for some of you who thought that I was letting you off the hook for stuff that you do in Friday and Saturday night. I’m talking about something bigger right now but don’t think that I am excusing that kind of foolishness…

To be conformed to the world means becoming so well adjusted and comfortable in the modern culture “that you fit into it without even thinking”

It means that you can actually become worldly without even noticing it….and that is where the danger comes in.

The danger is not only in the obvious things like clubbing and partying.

The danger is in “Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important. This is the way of the world and it has nothing to do with the Father, in fact the way of the word just isolates you from him.

Thought:

You see my friends; the world around us is one big lie.

It is a masquerade. It is a circus, it’s a cover up it is a façade, it looks so powerful and all encompassing, but the world and all that it is…shall pass away.

The world very powerfully tells a person, that YES, you can have it your way, it’s all here for you.

The world very powerfully tells a person, that YES you can tie into what we are offering and it will be great and you’ll have fun.

We can get impressed with and consumed with the technology and the choices and the shopping and the entertainment and money and possessions.

We can become addicted and not even know that we are addicted to materials and the word’s unending ability to come up with more and more things that appeal to our appetites and needs.

We can become, even in the midst our very walk with God, so comfortable with our success and blessings, that we fit in to the world, without even thinking about it.

We want to be important. We want to feel accomplished. We want to be distinctive, we want more and more and more and we get seduced by the world’s ability to give MORE to us…..and the result is…a slow, but sure, but measurable distancing of ourselves from God.

The evidence is overwhelming and staggering.

The better the world gets at giving us the stuff we want and creating a desire for stuff we didn’t even know we want the less interested we are in God. The less interested we are in HIS word. The less interested we are in HIS church.

Folks fall away from God, because they just fell in love with the world and it’s stuff.

It wasn’t planed. It just crept up and crowded God out.

The solution of course is a painful yet proactively necessary step that we as Christians must take, when we come to recognize that ANYTHING is coming to a point of eclipsing our passion for God.

2nd Corinthians 6:16 said and I quote. “Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things.

Separate yourself, remove your selves, and detach yourself from those things that you have unwittingly become so comfortable with. 

“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture, to your group, to your social network that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.

That is the key and that brings us to our 4th and final point.

Paul’s exhortation to Christian devotion is seen 4th and finally in….

  1. His plea to the believer to embrace an inner transformation.

Romans 12:2b (NKJV)
2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind 

2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
5  casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 

2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)
18  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

Philippians 4:8 (MSG)
8  Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 

This 4th and final point is very much related to the previous points, but it comes together in the all-encompassing concept of embracing the reality of a renewed mind.

The world and everything in it is going to pass away.

The things that seem to be so appealing to the eyes and the flesh and the pride of life, are departing into time and space.

This statement in and of itself is a radical departure that can only be accepted as true, when your mind has been transformed.

Paul is exhorting us; Paul is calling us to a higher level whereby we begin to live and flow in a renewed mindset.

The passage here uses the word transformed.

It is our reasonable service; it is pleasing to God, when we as an act of worship and devotion adopt a transformed way of thinking.

Paul’s plea is for you and I to allow the work of the Holy Spirit of God to transform our MINDS.

To change the way we think.

To use our powerful God given tools of prayer and the word, to smash and destroy worldly ways of thinking and worldly philosophies.

To fill our minds with the word of God and to bring every thought, every into captivity.

It happens here with the mind.

It is with the MIND that we dedicate ourselves to HIS word.

It is with the mind that we can change the way we process our day-to-day lives, learning not to focus our gaze on the seen things, but rather to process this reality as nothing more than a passing vapor that will soon be gone.

It happens here with the mind.

It’s transformative thinking that we embrace by the power of the Holy Spirit, doing our best to fill our minds, with HIS world.

Doing our best to fill our minds not with fear or greed or desire for worldly things, but instead meditating on God’s word, which is true and noble.

Filling our minds with good thoughts about HIS praise and his goodness.

CLOSE

As a child of God, as a born again believer, as one who has been regenerated and remade in God’s image, Christ himself has given you the ability to flow in this reality.

The question is do you want to embrace it and make it yours?

Do you think that it is reasonable?

Do you think that God is deserving of you making a commitment to present yourself to him as one who is totally and completely devoted to God.

For me I can tell you that I am convinced than ever that he deserves it.

It is the least that I can do, considering the wonder of HIS manifold blessings and the greatness of his mercies.

What about you?

Child of God I beseech you my brothers and sisters, on the basis of HIS tremendous gifts, that you respond to him in a manner that is worthy and commensurate of HIM.

Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.

AMEN.

Click here to view the service and the sermon.

God’s Great Plan Revealed

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

                                    God’s Great Plan Revealed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God chose Abraham because Abraham believed God.

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

He gave them the sign of circumcision.

He gave them his laws.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

You and I were called the unloved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(SCREENS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m encouraged by this reality.

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

Thought:

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

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

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

That brings us to the third point…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. They will receive forgiveness of sins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

God was in a covenant relationship with Israel.

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

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

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

Close:

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

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

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

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

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

AMEN:

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

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

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

Are you here today?

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

Salvation, Recommit, Baptism, Membership.

Click here to view the entire service and sermon

A warning against spiritual pride and prejudice.

                                                                                                                                                              A Warning Against Spiritual Pride and Spiritual Prejudice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual pride and prejudice.

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

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

Spiritual arrogance and uppity-ness..

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

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

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

If you are ready to get going say AMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

I would never do that.

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

We should never harbor anti-Semitic thoughts.

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

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

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

Thought:

Every Gentile owes a debt to the Jewish people.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the word of God says

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

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

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

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

We must learn from Israel’s past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thought:

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

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

Thought:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God is able because he is God.

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

The Gospel might sound like foolishness to some folks today.

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

God can make it happen.

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

AMEN.

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

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

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

God is a HOLY God.

He’s a righteous judge.

He’s merciful and he is kind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been born again?

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

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

Salvation

Recommit

Baptism

New Memberships

DON’T FORGET COMMUNION

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Why some good Christian kids do bad things?

 

Youth Message: Why Do Some Good Kids Do Bad Things?

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper, Senior Pastor

(Based on notes from Harry Walls/ Alistair Begg)

Proverbs 7:6-10, 21-23

Proverbs 7:6-10, 21-23 (KJV)
6  For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,
7  And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,
8  Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
9  In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
10  And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.
21  With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
22  He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;
23  Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.

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

Marcus was a typical good kid from a Christian home.

He was one of three children raised by his loving parents in a blended family.

Marcus and his Sister Jenice had always been in and around the church.

They were part of the youth ministry.

Marcus served as a Junior Deacon and Jenice was on the praise team.

All the family was very blessed; both Son and Daughter had good grades and were well on their way to establishing successful college careers, when all of a sudden Marcus got involved in drugs and Jenice had to drop out of school because she got pregnant…..

Now of course this is only a fictional story. And these are fictional characters.     We don’t have any children named Marcus or Jenice, but we use this fictional story as representative of what happens sometimes in the lives of Christian families today.

Why do children, who know better, end up doing bad things?

This is the topic of the sermon this morning and it is a redo of a sermon I first brought to our youth back in 2003, some fifteen years ago.

When I first heard from Rev. Winston, that he would be unable to be here today, I scrambled a bit trying to think about what would be shared on this youth, SUNDAY.

And as I looked through my archives, I realized that this sermon, though written some 15 years ago was very much needed today and so I am here to share it with you.

The message today is entitled with this question; Why do good “Christian Kids” end up doing bad things.

Now I am going to tell you in advance, that this is a challenging sermon, but I want you to keep an open mind and I want you to think and listen, because those of us who are grown have already made some incredible mistakes and the last thing we want to do is to see you, messed up and bound up by some of the same things that messed us up.

So if you are ready to roll say AMEN

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things?

  1. Because they are often neglect God’s word.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (KJV)
1  My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.
2  Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
3  Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.

Why do good Christian kids often end up doing bad things and or making bad decisions in life?

Point number one says that this happens “Because Christian kids often neglect God’s world.

Notice if you would please the action words that are contained in the scripture we just read together. Particularly I want you to note where it says, keep my words, lay up my commandments, keep them with thee, bind and write.

Thought:

Very often when a young person who has been brought up in a Christian home; lapses into SIN you will find many times that the person has failed to retain in their hearts, what they have been taught and instructed, during their years in the church as a child. 

Such a person has been taught. They have attended bible study and youth training classes and that is great to have that in your life, but sometimes we find that there is something about being around church for all of your young life, that can actually make a young person….lazy and neglectful when it comes to the word of God.

In other words there is a danger of becoming too familiar with being around the word, because you become “so use to the word”, that you no longer work at nor take responsibility for retaining the word of God your minds.

Now how does that happen, well it happens when we become lazy and complacent.

Notice again the action terms that are broken out here in the passage.

It says keep my commandments and my law as “the apple of thine eye”

The new living translation says 2  Obey my commands and live! Guard my instructions as you guard your own eyes.

Tie them on your fingers says verse 3….

Get to know the commandments as well as you know your best friends, treat the word of God as the apple of your eye.

Thought:

When we were coming up as kids there was a little trick we use to do in order to remember something important and it involved tying a string around your finger…do you about that ?

What are you doing as a person who values God’s word, to retain what the word says and to keep that in your mind ?

How familiar are you with the word of GOD.

How often do you review the notes from the YOUTH bible study, or the notes from a SERMON.

Do you write his word down in your phone or i-pad

How often do you take the time to proactively do what is necessary in order to retain the word of God in your heart ?

Or are you happy to sit and fiddle on your phone, while someone else teaches us.

Young folks who have grown up in the church are comfortable because they’ve always been in church as long as they can remember; and that is dangerous because we can fool ourselves into thinking that just because we are around the word of God, that we know it.

I am here to tell you that you are s a sitting duck for the devil, because you are living under the illusion that you know the word of God, based on a casual experience with it, or even worse, based on the relationship that you mother or father has with the word.

Thought

In 2003 (which is before many of our young folks were even born) there was a study that indicated that over 80% of Christian children leave the faith when they grow up.

Because when they get to college or meet any person or join a frat or encounter a professor that can challenge their faith with a good argument or a put down….off to sin they go, because the word wasn’t deeply engrained in them, it was only surface.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things….reason number 2….

  1. They fail to learn lessons from life (“it” won’t happen to them)

Proverbs 7:6-7 (KJV)
6  For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,
7  And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,

The New living translation said and I quote “I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense.

Here we see a picture of a young man who fails to see what is happening around him and he is ignorantly missing the lessons in life.

It is not that he lacks intelligence but rather he is just like many people today young and old alike, who walk through life, not observing what is happening around them, not taking life seriously, allowing themselves to be blown in whatever direction the wind goes.

As adults, we know people like that.

As young people you have friends like that; folks that are living in a fantasy world; they don’t connect life with reality; they are just floating along in a cloud oblivious to what is going on around them.

Now when we look at this young man in the story, I want you to understand that this young fellows wasn’t stupid, or mentally challenged; he may have like many of you had a good GPA, but the problem was that he simply lacked understanding and experience in life.

Thought:

Now this may be a surprising thought to some folks here today, but for others, this is something that that you personally know and have already learned…You see you can be SMART and be a Christian and still lack basic knowledge and common sense.

There is no lack of intelligence among most of the young people, but for some reason there is often a disconnect when it comes to learning lessons from the lives and mistakes of others.

Have you as a Christian learned anything from what you seen happening to folks in the world as a result of the choices they have made?

Has the reality of life had any real impact on you in such a way, that you are not merely floating through life; but rather you are intelligently making decisions about how you are going to avoid doing the same dumb thing that someone else has done ?

If you float through life la-de-da, without paying attention to what is going on around you, you can be saved, you can love the LORD, and you can born again and a nice Christian girl and YET find yourself, in a situation you didn’t expect to get into.

My friends, I want you to know that there are lessons to be learned all around us each and every day.

This young man was void of understanding, just floating through life, not learning, not understanding and not processing reality.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things ?

  1. Because they fail to make wise choices in advance of the situations that life presents them.

Proverbs 7:8-9 (NLT)
8  He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.
9  It was at twilight, in the evening, as deep darkness fell.

Notice if you would please the words, strolling down the path near her house.

The king James version says
8  Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,

Those words in-and-of-them-selves are power packed, because they speak to the lack of boundaries.

You see when you don’t have standards and boundaries in your life; which have been set up and committed to ahead of time; you are ripe for a fall.

This young man in the story was walking along near the corner where this sleazy woman lived…..

More than likely HE did not wake up that morning and decide that he would take a walk down danger lane.

More than likely he did not wake up that morning and plan to be near the house of this woman; instead the issue is that he did not decide in advance, that he was going to avoid being around HER HOUSE.

In this life, you have got to have STANDARDS.

You’ve got to have BOUNDARIES that are totally non-negotiable which say YES I can go here or NO, this is NOT for me..

Good Christian kids end up doing bad things and getting into trouble because they don’t understand the purpose of boundaries.

We think that boundaries cramp our style, but boundaries are all about protection.

When you go out into the world, having not decided in advance; that there are certain things that are not going to be a part of your life, you are in danger of falling into SIN.

If you are going to avoid doing stupid things in your life, YOU must set limits and personally enforce those limits on yourself, because your parents cannot always be there to watch you.

That means for example; that if you want to avoid getting into trouble, that you decide in advance, that you won’t have a girl up in your bed room.

That means for example that you have to decide in advance that you won’t be alone in the house with a boy, or alone with him in a car.

That means for example that if go on a date; you decide and are firm in your mind that his hands can’t touch certain areas, nor can her hands, touch certain area if you are a boy.

Good Christian young people like you, fall into horrible trouble, when they fail to set limits on where they can go and what they should do.

This young man didn’t set limits for himself; he opened himself to the opportunity and the opportunity made the decision for him.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things ?

4     Because they live life on the edge; they allow themselves to be in the wrong places at the wrong times. 

Proverbs 7:8-9 (KJV)
8  Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
9  In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:

Here in this picture; here in the scripture, here in the word of God we see the young man, void of understanding, hanging around the wrong place, exposing himself to, the wrong influences, late in the evening….

Now the first thought that comes to mind is this…What was he doing there and why was he there, late at night?

We know the answer; that is he was being a kid, playing with something; dabbling with something forbidden, because it was dangerous and exciting…….

This is one of the MAIN reasons WHY good kids end up doing bad things…

Thought:

It’s been many, many, many years since I was in college, but I can pretty much tell you that the way that the game was played and how it was played is pretty much the same as it was yesterday…

You see I had some buddies who were “hounds”, they liked to get a hold of the good girls who were fresh out of Catholic school or the Christian girls who had just gotten out from under their parents thumb….and there is a very good reason for that.

You see Christian youth often have a perverse fascination with the idea and appeal of playing with that which is dangerous, for example the BAD BOY or the BAD girl, or the BAD friend is attractive to them; Good girls like that, and they are attracted to these types because they do it out of silliness, out of immaturity or out of rebellion.

Back in 2003 when I wrote this sermon, they use to have something called MYSPACE.

And at the time I lamented about the mess that I’d seen on the MYSPACE pages of believing Christian young folks who were a part of this church.

Now MYSPACE is out of business, but now you’ve got FACEBOOK and I’ve got to tell you, that the mess that is on the pages of young folks in this church is even worse.

I’ve seen some of your pages, and quite frankly, I have been embarrassed beyond belief.

I’ve seen pictures of folks hanging out with a drink in their hands and their skirts up to their backsides.

I’ve seen our young folks down at the mall, walking with that gang walk, with the pants hanging down.

I understand what is going on.

We are often just like little children who for some strange reason like to play with matches; but the problem is that matches will burn you

We play with fire, we go for the bad girl or the bad boy, we like to do what is dangerous because of a desire to live life on the edge and to get a thrill from playing with the forbidden.

And when we end up getting burned, we are quick to come up for prayer and thank God for his willingness and merciful attitude, but how much better it would be for us, if we simply stayed away from the edge.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things ?

  1. Because they are deceived by the “cover “of darkness.

Proverbs 7:9 (KJV)
9  In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:

John 3:19 (KJV)
19  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Here in the story we see this truth reflected in the timing of this young man’s trip down to the woman’s house. He wasn’t doing this in the day, but instead he waited for the cover of night.

Young Christians, especially thinking now of those who go off to college and are away from the eyes of their parents or others who know them, often get into trouble because they foolishly believe that no one will see what they are doing, under the cover of darkness.

This is not just a problem with young folks by the way, there are some old folks, who are fooling around in the dark too.

The scripture tells us that our SINS will find us out.

It is an illusion to believe that we can get away with things, because no one “sees us” this young man went down there at night…

Thought:

Darkness and the idea that we can get away with things, often lands a young Christian in trouble.

Sooner or later what you are involved in get’s exposed, it is a deadly trap and an illusion to believe that it is safe to do it, because no one can see.

Nine months later the evidence is going to be seen; the lie will be exposed.

Darkness is a trap, it is not a cover and the sooner the Christian learns about the truthfulness of this reality, the better off you’ll be.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things ?

  1. Because of a failure to guard against and respect the appeal and power of SIN.

Proverbs 7:10,13,15-16 (KJV)
10  And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.
13  So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,
15  Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.
16  I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.

Here in this 6th point, we see the picture of sin personified in the aggressiveness of this woman, who comes out of her house to find herself a victim.

Good kids end up doing bad things because they don’t understand the unrelenting nature of sin’s desire to have and control the child of God.

SIN is just like this woman in the story; it comes out seeking you.

It comes out wrapped up in a beautiful package.

It comes out wrapped up in a fine looking you man, who has all the smooth words.

This is what the woman was talking about when she told the young man, I’ve been looking for you baby.. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt……it’s all for you, here it is,,,

This is HOW sin works. This is something we need to keep in mind, every day we walk out the door, we need to understand that SIN’s desire is to have us; that SIN it is there waiting.

You don’t have to go looking for it; it will come looking for you.

And don’t believe for a moment that the offer won’t look good or even feel good, for the devil will design something that specifically appeals to your personal appetites, that is the reason WHY we must keep our guard up, at all times.

Why do good Christian kids end up doing bad things?

  1. Because they fail to see beyond the here and now.

Proverbs 7:21-23 (NKJV)
21  With her enticing speech she caused him to yield, With her flattering lips she seduced him.
22  Immediately he went after her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks,
23  Till an arrow struck his liver. As a bird hastens to the snare, He did not know it would cost his life.

Young people who know the LORD and were raised in good Christian homes, end up doing bad things, because of the appeal……..of the COME ON.

Notice if you would please that in the example sighted above, there is an offer of some kind of immediate gratification that hides within it a life destroying danger.

In most cases, no one who makes a stupid decision does so, because they want to get pregnant, or end up in jail, or catch VD, or get expelled from school.

They do so because in a split moment, they evaluate the appeal of the come on; let’s try it just a little, you’ll feel cool, let me do it just a little bit, just take a hit, just bite the apple one time, it will make you wise……but behind the come on, there is a death TRAP waiting to take you into the PIT of HELL.

NO ox would go to the slaughter house, if the person who was going to butcher him up said, he come on pal, let’s go in here and I’m going to slice you up into steaks….

No OX would go strait to the slaughter house if he knew what was coming, no instead they hold out a carrot, or they send some other kind of come on and the OX can’t see beyond the opportunity to get his teeth into the carrot and by then it is too late. 

If you could go and ask someone who messed up big time and now has to live with the consequences; if they were thinking beyond the next few minutes of pleasure, or the thrill of the event before they did what they did, they would tell you, that long term thoughts never crossed their mind.

They would tell you that they acted and made their decision in the moment, without a thought to what would happen five years later

Ask the young lady who gave away her flower to some pimply faced, no account drop out who lived at home with his mamma, ask her if she thought about the impact that such a person would have on her life, before she did it……see what she says.

If you asked the young man who had to give us his opportunity to go to college because he impregnated his 16 year old girl friend, if he was thinking beyond the next three minutes when he made that decision that changed his entire life.

If you ask them where they thinking, the answer would be no.

Disaster strikes good Christian kids and it destroys the dreams and hopes of their parents, and it is happening in churches and homes and families across this nation.

CLOSE:

To young and old alike, my word to you today is that we have to make the right choices NOW.

You have to be totally serious about doing the things that are needed to protect yourself.

And we have to be committed to the Lordship of Christ like never before.

All eyes closed and heads bowed.

Click here to view the entire service and sermon

 

 

How to connect with God

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

Romans 10:8-11 (NKJV)
8  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

 Romans 10:8-11 (NLT)
8  In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach:
9  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
11  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

May the Lord add a blessing to the reading and the hearing of His Holy Word.

If you were with us in our last sermon from the epistle written to the church at Rome, you may recall that we shared a sermon in which we addressed the issue     of failing to connect with God

I shared with you a personal story about how Sister Cecile and I missed a flight when we were very young. We showed up a Logan, International Airport with the intention of going on a trip but we missed the flight because we didn’t understand that an 11am departure meant that you had to be there at 9:30am.

We missed it; we failed to connect because we were ignorant of how things worked.

In that teaching Paul took us through a diagnostic analysis of how the nation of Israel actually missed connecting with the God of their fathers.

It was both interesting and upsetting to learn that a group of people, actually ended up missing God, because they failed to understand and were blinded to the truth of who God is and how he operates.

In their human efforts at connecting with God through the keeping of their laws, they failed to grasp the fact that man in his own efforts, no matter how sincere, can never work his way up to God.

They had zeal and a desire to connect with him, but they were untutored, they were unlearned, they were ignorant says Paul of God’s way of making a person righteous.

Ultimately their efforts and their commitment to those efforts caused them to reject the Messiah, Jesus Christ God’s own Son.

If you were not here for that sermon, I very much want to encourage you to take the time to request the notes by e-mailing me at Pastorjharp@gmail.com, or going on our you-tube channel to watch the sermon.

Today we are going to talk about how to connect with God and we are coming from one of the most well known passages in the bible.

Now this passage is really the crème de la crème of salvivic scriptures.

It is a clear and no none-sense answer to the question of what it takes for a person to be saved.

In fact I would urge each and every one of you to take copious notes and to keep these notes in your bible, because these doctrinal truths, will keep you grounded AND they will help you to share the gospel with anyone who asks you, what it takes to become a born again child of God.

So let’s walk through these 4 points

How do you connect with God (How does a person become accepted by God/saved/born again)?

  1. A person must believe that Jesus Christ came down from heaven to save men from their sins.

Romans 10:8 (NKJV)
8  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):

Psalm 14:1-3 (NKJV)
2  The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3  They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Romans 6:23a (NKJV)
23  For the wages of sin is death,

John 3:17 (NKJV)
17  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 6:38a-b (NLT)
38a-b  For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me

Matthew 26:28 (NKJV)
28  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

In this first point of the sermon, we want to look at and answer the question that is posed today within the context of the title of this teaching and we also want to examine the comparison between what we learned in the first part of this sermon in which took a look at how Israel actually missed connecting with God.

Now in the Jewish approach to reaching and or connecting with God, the focus was upon man’s efforts as evidenced in the zealousness of the nation of Israel, as it pertained to the LAW.

Remember now, we learned a few weeks ago that there were over 613 commandments and or directives that were on the books.

The concept that one could qualify; the notion that one could obtain the acceptance of God by reason of effort, was rooted in the notion that if you were really serious and really focused and really intense and committed to the law, that you could literally scale the heights of heaven and be accepted by God as a result of your own works.

Paul in his teachings knocks that notion out of the water, and he says that the way to connect with God and the way to become acceptable to him, was literally and I quote “in their mouths and in their hearts”

All that they needed to do was to hear and believe the core message of the gospel, which declared that Jesus came down from heaven, to save men from their sins.

That is what Paul meant when he said and I quote ““The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):

In order to be saved, in order to connect with God and become acceptable to him, the first thing that a person has to do is to believe what is being preached or shared with you, concerning who Jesus is and the purpose of his coming.

You as a listener have got to believe that what you hear IS TRUE.

Israel for the most part could not accept this, no matter how hard Paul preached, they rejected the gospel and responded to it by trying to kill Paul.

Everything that they had in their customs such as the sacrifices and atonement, was pointing to Jesus and the need of man, to have a SAVIOR who would be the sacrificial lamb who paid for their sins, it was all pointing to Jesus but they missed it.

Thought:

People today can miss the simplicity of the gospel, by failing to believe the good news about why Jesus came.

You see gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ must be responded to not with doubt, or skepticism, but by faith.

You don’t have to know the bible.

You don’t have to agree with everything in the bible, you don’t have to be able to access the Greek and Hebrew text to be sure that King James got every word correct, all you need to do is to embrace the simple message of the why Jesus came and what he did for you.

You must believe that man is a sinner, who always falls short in terms of measuring up to the righteous standards of God. When God looked down from heaven, he sees that there is NONE righteous no not one.

You must believe that man is a sinner, who has earned a wage for HIS sins, which is death. This is why every man, women, boy or girl is born with a death sentence on their lives.

You must believe that God so loved the world and he loved man so much that he sent his SON Jesus to pay the wages of sin. He sent Jesus to die on a cross as a sacrificial lamb who would take upon himself, the sins of all man.

That is the reason why Jesus came to the earth, to shed his blood for many, as a payment for US, so that our sins might be remitted.

To be saved, to be born again, to be accepted by God, You have to respond in faith to the gospel (good news)

Thought:

Now for some here today who are sitting in the sanctuary and perhaps for some who are tied in to the video stream, this is where you get stuck.

It’s too simple and you won’t accept it. It doesn’t sound appealing or you won’t believe because you want to argue and keep on searching on line.

You won’t accept the gospel because in order to do that, you’ve got to admit that you are a filthy sinner, just like the rest of us.

In fact you didn’t even react, because as soon as you heard the word sinner, you shut your heart and mind down.

You want to be stroked. You want your ego lubricated. You want to be sold, you want to be pampered and I understand why the flesh needs that, but I am here to tell you this morning that the good news is about Jesus redeeming you from YOUR sins.

It is not about him getting you a job, or making you feel good about yourself.

The message of the gospel it is about the unmitigated act of love and mercy, where God himself, sent HIS sinless SON, to die on a cross and the ugliness of that event, which was caused by each one of us.

The good news is that in spite of that reality, WHILE WE WERE yet sinners; Jesus came down from heaven to do something incredible for the benefit of those who could not appreciate it, nor in any way deserved it.

If you want to be saved, if you want to connect with God you must believe that Jesus came down from heaven to save men from their sins.

How do you connect with God (How does a person become accepted by God/Saved/Born again)?

  1. Declare (confess) your spoken acknowledgement that you truly believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Romans 10:8-9a (NKJV)
8  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach):
9a  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus

John 6:38 (NLT)
38  For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

John 6:33 (NKJV)
33  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 16:30 (NLT)
30  Now we understand that you know everything, and there’s no need to question you. From this we believe that you came from God.”

John 1:1-2 (NKJV)
1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2  He was in the beginning with God.

I really enjoyed preparing for this sermon that we are sharing today, because I have found that some of the most interesting and enlightening things we learn together, often come from scriptures that we are already familiar with.

This passage from Romans Chapter 10:9 specifically looking at the “a” portion is a perfect example of that.

Now from time to time I’ve heard Pastor Winston refer to this particular web-site called got-answers.org and I was directed there by a Google search.

When I asked the question as to what exactly what was meant by that portion where it says that a person must confess that Jesus is Lord, I found some interesting information.

Now in the scripture we see the use of the word confess.

I’ve added the word declare, based on what I learned from my research.

I did that because the word DECLARE helps to communicate the necessity of acknowledging him verbally and doing do in a way that makes it clear that you understand and believe in Jesus as GOD.

I also looked at and did some research on the word LORD.

In the bible the word Lord isn’t used only in reference to Jesus.

The term Lord can apply to ordinary human being.

If you own property and your rent your property to others you are a Landlord.

If you are a member of the House of Commons in England, you might have the title of Lord.

But when it comes to declaring and acknowledging Jesus as Lord, it means more that just giving him a title of respect.

When you declare that Jesus is LORD you are acknowledging to others and declaring to others that you understand and embrace the deity of Christ and that you acknowledge Jesus as God.

Jesus isn’t just another prophet.

Jesus isn’t just or another religious leader, like Muhammad or Buddha.

Jesus is the bread of God who came down from heaven.

Jesus is the WORD of God, who was with God and is God, and was from the beginning.

I don’t know how it works. I don’t fully understand the complexity of the Godhead.

I only know and believe with all of my heart and I am willing to confess and declare it to anyone, that Jesus is God and God’s own Son who came down from heaven and that he is LORD, Master, creator and sustainer of the universe and that he came DOWN from heaven to do HIS Father’s will.

Thought:

This my friends is non-negotiable.

You can’t soft peddle his LORDSHIP when it comes to salvation.

You can’t be saved by any one else other than Almighty God.

If you are still struggling with seeing and believing that Jesus is GOD, my friend, I am here to tell you, that you are not ready.

You can’t come to him as a fan of Jesus.

You can’t come to him as an admirer.

Jesus cannot be just another great historic figure that you have decided to become acquainted with.

Jesus won’t fit on your shelf right next to the other mere men, whom you look to for advice or direction or suggestions.

Jesus must be God and LORD of your life.

Thought:

This by the way is why a lot of folks lack passion and love and fire when it comes to Jesus

It’s the reason why there is a lack of Joy. It’s the reason why, you cannot be thrilled and in love with Jesus, because he is NOT your LORD.

It’s not that lack of preaching, it ‘s not programs, it’s not doctrines; it’s that Jesus doesn’t occupy that place of deity in your life; he’s an action figure that we’ve placed on the shelf, along with our other self-help books and advice.

When Jesus is embraced and taken into your heart as LORD and GOD, it overwhelms you.

  • He fills you.
  • He thrills you.
  • He turns you upside down

Thought:

Paul was an example of that; he was a person who was overcome, with the awesomeness of having Jesus as GOD in his life.

It’s not just saying the words, “ Jesus is LORD”, but it is believing in your heart, that Jesus is GOD and then you speak, you declare, you confess out of your mouth, what is in your heart.

Thought:

Have you done that my friends? Have you gotten to the place, where Jesus is the LORD who has completely taken you over.

Does your heart still skip a beat, when folks start calling his name?

Do you get dizzy, when you think about Jesus?

Do you know him as LORD and God…..or are you just an admiring a fan

How do you connect with God (How does a person become accepted by God/saved/born again)?

  1. Believe in your heart, that Jesus died to pay for the sins of mankind, that he was buried and that God raised him (Jesus) from the dead.

Romans 10:9a-b (NKJV)
9a-b  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead

Isaiah 53:5a-c (NKJV)
5a-c  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,

Romans 4:25 (NLT)
25  He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.

1 Corinthians 15:4 (NLT)
4  He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 

Hebrews 10:4-5 (NKJV)
4  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
5  Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.

A person connects with God; a person becomes born again, by believing in what God did for them, through the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ HIS Son.

That is how a person gets saved.

Earlier in point number one we spoke about the reality of man’s sinfulness and the actions needed in terms of the salvivic process, whereby the issue of sin and the payment for the wages of sin, were dealt with through the process of payment and remittance, by reason of a blood sacrifice.

Someone had to pay the price for our sins and Jesus did it.

Thought:

The nation of Israel was familiar with this principle.

In their laws and customs, there was an established formula of dealing with the issue of sin.

When a sin was committed or when a person offended God, they would offer the bodies and blood of bulls and goats and doves, as a payment for their sins.

Now problem with that was, that these offerings never did the job; because they would find themselves coming back year after year, time after time, offering that which clearly could not completely nor once and for all, take away the stain of their sins.

A person connects with God, by hearing the gospel message and by believing that Jesus was born into this world, that he lived on the earth as a man and that he went to the cross and was crucified “as the sinless lamb” of God, who gave his life as a sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.

In other words, a person must believe that Jesus was crucified.

A person must believe that Jesus died, not that he fainted. Not that his disciplines hid him away for a few days, until he recovered.

A person must believe, that Jesus died AND that GOD raised him from the dead and in that raising HE signaled an acceptance of what Jesus did on the cross as a PAYMENT IN FULL.

And once you have that settled into your heart, it becomes a reality that transforms your heart and mind completely.

That is why you see folks shouting. That is why you see them getting happy at the funeral of a loved one who has died in Christ.

Folks act like that because they have placed their FAITH and trust not in a new or interesting idea, but rather they have placed their FAITH in the power of almighty God, as evidenced in the reality of the risen Lord. 

This is another area, where we must stand and believe in a non-negotiable reality.

Jesus died and he rose again, and he GOT up with all power in his hands.

This is where the rubber meets the road baby, this is where faith in Jesus makes all the difference between what other folks says about their faith.

This is what I am hanging my faith on. This is what you must believe and know as a reality in your heart.

That Jesus died and he stayed in that grave for three days. They beat him, they killed him, but he got up, with all power in his hands…. 

How do you connect with God (How does a person become accepted by God/saved by/born again)?…4th and finally you ..

  1. Place your faith and trust in him Jesus as the one who has secured a right standing of acceptance with the Father.

Romans 10:10-11 (NLT)
10  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with

God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
11  As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.”

John 7:37 (NKJV)
37  On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink

1 Peter 3:18 (NKJV)
18  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,

Romans 5:1 (NLT)
1  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

CLOSE:

In the beginning of the sermon, I told you that it was important that we have an opportunity to compare and contrast the response of Israel to the gospel and to look at that as a model for how a person can miss God.

Israel missed it on several levels. Firstly they missed understanding that the key to a right standing with God was not by works but by faith.

Israel also missed the message because of their pride and their prejudice.

They missed the messiah, just like people today can miss HIM because of pride, or arrogance or just being rebellious.

The scripture says “ that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11  For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame

To be accepted by God you have to, humble yourself, you have to accept the truth about who you are as a sinner and you have to embrace the gospel and believe in Jesus as Lord with all of your heart.

You have to abandon the notion that you ever can save yourself and instead you must place your faith AND trust in Jesus, believing, counting on, putting your firm confidence in God’s love as expressed in the life of and in the work of JESUS the

SON of righteousness who has secured for you a RIGHT STANDING of acceptance with the Father, NOT because of YOU, but because of HIM.

And when you do that, you can rest and have complete confidence that you will never be left hanging and never be put to shame

That is HOW you connect with God that is how you get born again, that is how you become saved and accepted, NOT through works but through faith.

AMEN.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed….

Click here to view the service and sermon

How to miss connecting with God

Sermon by Rev. Julius A. Harper                  

How to miss connecting with God

Romans 10:1-4 (KJV)
1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

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

We are delivering a sermon today, that will in some places sound familiar to some of the doctrines and truths that were shared in our sermon last week which was entitled who are the children of God.

As we go through this letter, I get the impression that Paul teaches us sometimes by repeating and or bridging certain concepts and molding them together, so that we will often find ourselves, being reminded of points and or of thoughts we’ve learned about earlier, which in fact work together, very much like what happens when you are dealing with mathematics.

You learn addition and subtraction, but then those principles are molded into and Algebra and calculus, so when you hear things that you’ve learned about before, just embrace them as being part of what is required to help you as you move into more detailed teachings….if you follow what I am saying here say AMEN.

Today as we continue our studies through the epistle written to the church at ROME, we enter into this 10th chapter starting with part 1 of a two-part sermon, having to do with the issue of missing or failing to connect with God.

When my wife and I were very young, I remember the first time that we missed an airplane.

Our intention was to connect and get that flight, but being new to air travel we were ignorant of the rules and realities of the airline business.

We didn’t understand that an 11am departure meant a 9am arrival and so because we were ignorant of how the airlines operated we missed connecting with the airline.

Paul here in this teaching uses the nation of Israel to help us understand the realities and truths concerning God and how he operates.  

Paul shows us in these first verses of chapter 10 how it is possible to actually miss connecting with God and his righteousness.

Paul as we learned earlier was very concerned for the salvation of the nation of Israel.

In fact he was so concerned that at one point Paul states that he would be willing to be accursed and cut off from Christ, if it would save his Hebrew brethren.

Now as he begins this portion of the letter, he paints for us a very powerful and tragic example of how the nation of Israel actually missed connecting with the very God that they loved.

And for us there are some cautionary notes in looking at the example of Israel, which can speak directly to us.

So that is what we want to focus on today in this 4-point sermon entitled, HOW TO MISS CONNECTING WITIH GOD.

Israel shows us how a nation (or a person) can miss connecting with God by…..

  1. Having an enthusiastic desire and effort without correct knowledge.

Romans 10:1-2 b-c (KJV)
1  Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Romans 10:2 (NLT)
2  I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal.
Romans 10:2 (Weymouth New Testament)
For I bear witness that they possess an enthusiasm for God, but it is an unenlightened enthusiasm.

John 16:2b-c (NKJV)
2  yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

In this first point of the sermon, I’d like to talk about how a person can have a sincere effort and desire for God, yet miss connecting with him.

Paul in his writing is giving us a bird’s eye view of one who would be personally and intimately be familiar with the Nation of Israel’s enthusiasm and desire to please and to connect with Almighty God.

Before Paul was converted he himself was a Pharisee, he was a Jew of Jews, he know about the law, he knew about the passion that the Jewish people had for God.

These were the oracle people who had a great deal of knowledge about God.

They had the law of God, they had the prophets, they had personal history with God and they had committed themselves to applying a level of attention to the matters of God, which were totally heads and shoulders above other nations.

They were Zealous for God.

They had a burning passion, they had an enthusiastic and YES even fanatical level of interest in God, but Paul says that they were lacking because their knowledge was misdirected and incomplete.

And because their knowledge was incomplete, as fired up as they may have been, it was not enough to enable them to connect with God.

Thought:

This is something that brings three thoughts to mind and these thoughts may challenge you and the may even make us uncomfortable.

Here is the First thought.

Being zealous for God and having a strong desire to connect with God, without actually knowing the one true God, will not get you anywhere.

This is a word that applies specifically to those who rely on their religion, whatever that religion may be.

Thought:

I have members of my own family who are very devout and sincere in their Mohammad-dean beliefs.

I believe that those who follow the Prophet and the Koran are incredibly sincere and zealous for God at level, which puts to shame, the devotion and fervor of most western Christians.

These folks are serious. I remembered the first time I encountered that particular branch of the family.

My own cousin cannot shake my hand because she isn’t allowed to touch any man but her husband.

These folks pray like no ones business. Their prayer regimen is based on FIVE prayers a day; pre-dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and night, where ever you find these folks from Mecca to Michigan; you’ll find them on their faces with their mats laid out every single day, if you go to the mosque; no one is sleep while the I-man is giving his sermon.

Yet their zeal, because it is a misdirected zeal will never connect them to the one true God.

Admirable as they may be, it is zeal without correct knowledge.

Second thought:

There are many folks who are trying to connect with God, through a pursuit of knowledge and they are doing so by studying and checking out all kinds of religions.

This of course is a phenomenon that is active across our nation and it is rampant in our information over-loaded society.

People are sincerely looking for him and are doing so, by reason of their own personal quest for knowledge.

And so you have people with all kind of messed up and mixed up concepts and beliefs.

You have people who search and constantly ask questions.

You have people who read the latest books and pursue the latest fad and philosophy, pursing God with zeal and intensity that puts a lot of believers to shame.

These people are serious.

And while it sounds good to say that all paths lead to God and that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere, when you end up standing before God on that great day, you’ll find that you were sincerely wrong.

Third thought:

You can be religious and have a zeal for the things of your religious organization and still miss God.

You can study books, you can listen to all kinds of teachings, you can enroll in a college or special university and be the most ardent dedicated student.

But if that organization is relying on anything other than salvation through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Chris all of your ZEAL, all of your memorization of the special books of revelation, will mean absolutely NOTHING.

For in-spite of the doors that you knocked on doors and the tracks you handed out, in spite of the fact that you were up bright and early on Saturday morning; on that day when you stand before Almighty God, Jesus himself will say I don’t know you, depart from me you who work iniquity, I never knew you and you certainly didn’t know me.

Look at Israel; hear what God is saying to us.

Hear what God is saying in his word to you.

Israel shows us how a nation (or a person) can miss connecting with God by…..

  1. Failing to understand (being ignorant) of God’s righteousness.

 

Romans 10:2-3a (KJV)
2  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3a  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness..

Isaiah 51:1-2a (NLT)
1  “Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance— all who seek the LORD! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined.
2a  Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation.

Romans 1:17 (NIV)
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed–a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Romans 4:3 (NKJV)
3  For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Now we touched on this thought just a little bit last week, but here the thought that we want to focus upon today is the issue of ignorance.

Ignorance is a word that many people find insulting, but it really isn’t meant to insult, but rather it describes a state of being.

It means untutored, untaught, unlettered or uneducated, lacking not intelligence, or sincerity, or desire, or good intention, but rather lacking in an area of knowledge or understanding.

Paul said that Israel was ignorant of God’s righteousness, because they did not understand that this righteous God, embraced and accepted people (Abraham and Sarah being examples) who would be seen and accepted as righteous, not because of what they did, but because of what they believed.

We read from Isaiah chapter 51 verses 1-2a and let me just quote that again; it’s there on the screen and you can read it too

Isaiah 51:1-2a (NLT)
1  “Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance— all who seek the LORD! Consider the rock from which you were cut, the quarry from which you were mined.

2a  Yes, think about Abraham, your ancestor, and Sarah, who gave birth to your nation…

In other words, the prophet Isaiah is telling the people of Israel to recognize the patterns and examples set by Abraham and Sarah.

The scripture declared in Romans 4:3 that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Now according to the Apostle Paul, this is where Israel missed it.

They were untutored, untaught, unlettered, ignorant of the fact that the righteousness that God gave was a free gift given in response to a man’s faith and trust in God.

Israel had the law, but they didn’t trust and have a loving faith in the God of that law.

Israel provides and example of how a nation (or a person) can miss connecting with God by…..

  1. Trying to establish your own way of reaching God.

 

Romans 10:3a-b (KJV)
3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness,

Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)
6  But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Amos 5:21-22 (NLT)
21  “I hate all your show and pretense— the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
22  I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.

Romans 9:31-32a-c (NLT)
31  But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded.
32  Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him.

Very likely most if not all of you here today are familiar with the TEN commandments.

Now we know that God gave Moses a set of TEN commandments that were written in stone and then there were many rules and regulations that were built up, over the years.

My research indicated that there are over 600 laws in the Talmud, which is the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and traditions.

248 of those laws are positive commandments and 365 of the laws and directives are negatives, or do not do X or Y commands.

Over time the Jewish system of laws ballooned to become a massive system, in which they attempted to establish their own righteousness, through rules and regulations and festivals and activates.

In other words it was a man made ball of wax.

God looked at all that STUFF and he rejected it, because he realized that no where in all that man made stuff, was the kind of righteousness that he desired.

No where among all that MAN stuff was thing that he wanted and that was faith and trust in HIM.

He God hated the pretense.

He hated the hypocrisy, he hated the legal approach of doing things, while inwardly the heart was wrong, it turned his stomach, it repelled him, so much so, that he said that their attempts at approaching him with their own righteousness, offended him and looked degusting.

It was so distasteful that he likened it to a used menstrual cloth.

Thought

To me, this thought troubles my mind tremendously because; there is a part my flesh that struggles with religiosity.

And if you are honest about it, you’ll admit that this may be a problem in your life too.

You see the flesh likes rules and regulations and things that you can do because they provide feedback to your ego and sense of self.

As Christians we must be careful to avoid developing and or coming to rely on a set of RULES that we lean on to make us feel that we are right with God.

Now I am not saying what some bone headed person is thinking right now in their mind, I’m not saying cut loose and go PARTY…

I’m saying that we have to avoid religiosity.

We have to be careful to avoid coming to have faith in the things that we do or do not do, as evidence of our relationship with God and our right standing with him.

And we can fall into that trap very easily, because working off of a rule book is a lot easier than trusting God.

Working off a set of rules is a lot easier than leaning, searching, seeking and listening to him and HIS Spirit.

If we are not careful we can just like Israel, focus on building our own route to God, rather than flowing in the never-ending reality, that we are completely incapable of doing anything, to bring our selves up to God on our own.

Each and every day we must embrace and flow in the reality that we are the recipients of God’s unmerited grace, who loved us, called us and justified us because of faith and faith alone, in the work of his beloved SON.

Thought:

To the unsaved, to those who may be here today, or connected electronically let me also speak to you here in this point before we move to the 4th and final.

There are some of you here today; some sitting here and some who are watching by Internet or got this message from a DVD or a shared file that someone gave you.

I speak to you also my friend because you too may be in danger of missing the one true God, because you are trying to go about it in your own way.

I say that because from time to time, I meet a lot of people who are from a human perspective, quite nice and good people.

These are folks, who do not commit heinous crimes. They are law abiding people who love their families, pay their taxes, treat people fairly, give to charity; people who by most HUMAN measurements, would be the kind of folks that God would accept.

You might be one of those good people.

You’ve done all the right things, but I am sorry to tell you, that your best efforts, although laudable, will always fall short; for God knows everything about every single person and when he looks down from heaven upon the children of men, what he finds is that there is NONE righteous, NO NOT ONE.

No one can measure up to God’s righteousness as a result of his or her efforts that is not how God works.

If you believe that God will accept you because of your good works.

If you believe that you are a “good” person and that you’ll qualify for heaven based on your goodness, you are flowing in IGNORANCE and you’ll miss him and end up in a devil’s hell right along side of the worse no account bum you could think of.

I am not trying to insult you, I am simply describing your state of being and I am letting you know that it won’t work and you’ll end up missing God, even if you are the best person that you can try to be.

Israel provides and example of how a nation (or a person) can miss connecting with God 4th and finally by…..

  1. Refusing to submit to (accept) God’s way and instead clinging to your own way. 

Romans 10:3-4 (KJV)
3  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.
4  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
 

John 1:11-12 (NLT)
11  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.
12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

Philippians 3:9 (NKJV)
9  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;

The tragic mistake of Israel was and is, that they had everything at their fingertips, but they missed the coming of God’s anointed one, because they were determined to do things their own way.

Pre-Close:

In the opening of the sermon, I told you a story about the time that my wife and I missed our first airplane when we were young…

It was a bad feeling, because we failed.

We didn’t understand how the airlines worked. Even though our bags were packed and we were excited to go, we missed it.

You might be one of the folks who are doing your own thing; maybe you’ve developed a cornucopia of ideas and thoughts that form your own personal religion.

Maybe you are a proud person and understandably so.

In your mind God would accept you because you are a lot better than Johnny the wino or Julie the sleaze at the office.

You can be sincere and still be sincerely wrong and miss him.

CLOSE:

Today we’ve shared some things about how God works.

You’ve been shown an example of how to miss connecting with God.

I’ve laid our all of the details so none of us have an excuse when it comes to the issue of salvation and your response to the gift of God through Jesus Christ.

Right now we Gentiles have the blessing of being able to understand and accept the beauty and simplicity of the Gospel.

And if you haven’t heard it, here is it. All people are lost in sin.

We can never reach the level of perfect required by God.

We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we may try.

But God loved the world so much, that he gave his only SON Jesus to die and pay the penalty for our sin.

Through faith in God’s only Son Jesus, who suffered bled and died on the cross and who rose from the grave, you as a person who is not perfect and who is guilty of sin and worthy of death, can instead be accepted as righteous and washed from your sins, by the blood of Jesus Christ.

If you openly declare with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and you believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

For it is by believing in you’re heart, that you are made right with God and by openly declaring your faith in him that you are saved.

Having heard the gospel we are without excuse.

My friend if you are unsaved I am here today to tell you that we don’t have to miss God.

But rather we can all come to a saving knowledge of him through Christ…AMEN.

While all eyes are closed and heads are bowed.

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