Matthew 28:16-20 The Trinity and the Great Commission

Trinity Sunday is the one Sunday in the church year when we do something just a little different. Instead of hearing about Jesus’ teachings, healings or miracles, we talk about one of the mist difficult Biblical concepts to explain let alone understand-the Trinity. In fact, one running joke among those of us who preach is that when Trinity Sunday comes every year, we take that Sunday off!

This year’s Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday is Matthew’s version of the Great Commission. The Great Commission has not changed since Jesus gave it to the disciples over 2,000 years ago. Christians today are also called on to go and make disciples, baptize and teach. We are to do this through Jesus’ power, for his sake, and with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we fail to obey the Great Commission, it is because we fail to believe Jesus when he said that he is always with us. Our purpose as believers is to continue reaffirming Christ’s commands and follow-up with explaining how to do what he said. By God’s grace we know that when we search the Scriptures we are given an insight into God’s will and wishes for our lives. God the Creator speaks directly to our hearts and shows us how important our salvation is for Him.

In giving the Great Commission, Jesus created the concept of the Trinity before it was developed in the early creeds. Jesus held the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together as three different persons by whom God encounters us in his love from all eternity and to all eternity. The three persons of the Trinity have the same substance but different expressions. Matthew says that we are to baptize “in the name of…,” thereby bringing people into a direct relationship with God as we know him: Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. They are the way God exists, or how the mystery of God expresses itself.

The Resurrection did not transform the disciples into heroes of the faith. They still had doubts even after they saw and heard Jesus. What did Jesus tell the disciples they needed to do to obey his instructions? He told them the basics that all believers need to be told:

  1. Salvation must be genuine.
  2. God’s word must be our priority.
  3. Prayer is vital.
  4. Surrender and consecration must become our goal.
  5. Stay filled and in step with the Holy Spirit.

All of this can be summed up as worshipping God, Biblical ministry and glorifying God. They flow from God’s purpose to show the world that he is our Saviour.

Jesus came up with five tasks for us to do for Him:

  1. Evangelize
  2. Disciple or train those who are evangelized.
  3. Minister or serve people demonstrating God’s love.
  4. Have fellowship together
  5. Worship together.

None of these functions are more important than the others. They are all equally important.

A good example of how we are to apply the Great Commission today occurred during the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Navy Chaplain Carey Cash, who is the great grandnephew of legendary singer Johnny Cash, asked the members of his regiment if they wanted to explore what it means to follow Christ. He led them in a 12-week Bible study, half of which took place before the invasion. He held classes and counselling sessions with Marines who grappled with Christ’s claims. As the eternal consequences of battle drew closer, their hearts softened, and just before the invasion took place, 60 Marines received Christ and were baptized. Several others were born again or baptized while in combat, and many more were baptized in their home churches when they returned to the United States.

At one point during the invasion, Cash’s regiment encountered a line of Iraqi tanks that American intelligence failed to notice. Their turrets were leveled at the Americans and their tanks were fully manned, but the guns were never fired and 3,000 Iraqi soldiers surrendered. The regiment was also protected during an ambush at the presidential palace in Baghdad, when rocket-propelled grenades would come right at them and then curve and go around them.

We are to baptize in the name of the triune God. Christ’s mission extends to the whole world, and baptism is part of that mission. Jesus is present everywhere thanks to the Holy Spirit, so his worldwide mission can be done easily. The mission involves helping new believers discover that God is a god of light, goodness, mercy, compassion, justice and reconciliation. This does not involve imposing our own cultural values and traditions.

We are called to unite others with the Divine. That unity is reflected in the unity that the Father, the Son of the Holy Spirit have. That unity is in the form of the Trinity, and it is about the nearness and involvement of God. God first entered humanity in human form. After his resurrection he continued to be with his followers in the form of energy and power for living the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a ceaseless flow of love that believers are caught up in.

When we are baptized, we receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is under the authority of Jesus, and Jesus is under the authority of God. The Trinity has its roots in Jesus’ teaching. The name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is an early sign of the Trinitarian Godhead. We need the gift of the Spirit, especially when life gets rough. We will be witnesses to Jesus by the integrity of our lives and the commitment to his ways. If we are faithful to what the Holy Spirit teaches, there will be suffering and challenges. We might be ignored, described as unrealistic or dismissed as idealists.

The Holy Spirit is always with us, so it will help us fulfill the Great Commission. It will allow us to go anywhere. It works supernaturally through us. We have nothing to fear because the authority of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit is greater than the authority of all the rulers of this world. In return, we are to obey God faithfully. Being baptized in the name of all three members of the Trinity indicates that our relationship involves all three faces of the Trinity. We have the belief that Christ reigns and will send the Holy Spirit to help us live the kind of lives that Christ wants us to live. We can’t speed up or slow down the pace that the Holy Spirit comes at because it is a gift that we constantly receive and constantly have to wait for.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a confession and not a definition. No one can define God. We can only confess our personal encounters with him. To confess Christ, the Holy Spirit and God apart from each other is impossible. The concept of the Trinity is a concept about the love of God. God loves us enough to be the Creator who created the whole universe and every creature. He created us and gave us life. God loves us enough to be the Redeemer who has saved us and the world from sin, sorrow and separation from him so that we might be joined with his love forever. God loves us enough to be the Spirit or Guiding God who is at work in us to inspire, strengthen, guide, advocate and illuminate us in our daily lives.

Jesus made the statement, “I am with you always to the end of the age.” He is with us because the Father sent him. He died for us in obedience to the Father’s will. He was raised from the dead by the Father. He spoke only what the Father told him to say. We have been born anew by the Spirit through baptism. Jesus is with us through the power of the Spirit, who will take what is his and declare it to us. By his Spirit we can bring the Gospel to everyone and use what the Father gave us for the well-being of others.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013)
  2. Pastor John Barnett, “Disciples: Follow Christ & Make Disciples.” Retrieved from www.dtbm.org
  3. Paul Estabrooks, “Are You Working or Functioning?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  4. The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, “Sermon for Trinity Sunday.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  5. The Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah,…Love” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  6. The Rev. Robina Marie Winbush, “It’s Not Over.” Retrieved from ww.day1.org
  7. The Very Rev. Dr. Samuel T. Lloyd, “The Nearness of God.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  8. Augsberger, M.S. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 24: Matthew (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  9. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible Software package
  10. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Is God in My Plans?” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  11. Cecil Murphy, “The Immanent, Present One.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Exegesis for Matthew 28:16-20. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  13. Mark Ellis, “Chaplain Led Revival in Marine Battalion, Saw Miraculous Protection in Battle.” Retrieved from http://blog.godreports.com
  14. Roland McGregor, “No Better Words.” Retrieved from RMcGregorAlbq@aol.com

Acts 2:1-21 Happy Birthday to the Church

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday dear Church

Happy Birthday to you!

On Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the birth of the church. On the day of Pentecost over 2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples, and through the Holy Spirit the church was born. It is a time when the church traditionally concentrates on the gift of the Holy Spirit and the ways in which it strengthens the church. It is a time to consider how the Spirit has created and sustained faith in our lives. It is a time to explore how the Spirit empowers our witness so that others might have faith.

The power of the Holy Spirit ignited the disciples. Peter was ignited and gave one of the most powerful sermons in history. It included both the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy and a strong rebuke/accusation. The effect was remarkable. The message pierced the hearts of the people, and as a result more than 3,000 people were baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. When these new converts returned home, they spread the message, and thus the church was born.

This would not have been possible without the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is not an impersonal force. It is a person. It possesses the mind of God, emotions and will—because it is God. It performs the actions of God. It has the attributes of God.

As a result of the Holy Spirit, the church opened its hearts to fellowship. It opened its hands to care for each and every member. Members opened their homes to each other, especially for worship. They devoted themselves to prayer. As a result of all of this, the church grew and found favour with other people-both inside and outside the church.

The term “Spirit” describes wind or breath. The Pentecost wind is no wind of destruction. It blows where it will and fires up people with faith and spiritual power. The church did not come alive until after God breathed the Holy Spirit. The wind was an outward sign of what was happening within the disciples. The Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind on the first Pentecost, and it still comes like a rushing wind today. We can’t control the wind, and we can’t control the Holy Spirit no matter how hard we try. We try to control what it tells us to do or who it wants us to allow into our churches. Many Christians want just enough religion to be comfortable, to be respected, to feel good about themselves, but not so much that it shakes up their routines and changes their way of living. Many Christians want the benefits of the Holy Spirit without having to experience much of the Spirit.

Differences can enrich and enliven our worship experiences. Differences force us to reach across what divides us. Differences and diversity force us to rely on the Holy Spirit in order to remain faithful to the Gospel of Jesus in more creative and dynamic mission efforts. We are called on to share the Good News with others and welcome them to find love of each other and the love of God. If we do not share the Good News, it is wasted. The Holy Spirit calls on us to share our gifts and love with those who are different from us.

God gave the disciples supernatural ability to speak the languages of all those who had gathered in Jerusalem from around the known world at that time. The Spirit’s presence signified their baptism into the spiritual body of the church. This gift was the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit so the disciples could preach the Gospel to all the people.

God does the same thing today. He speaks through both chosen people and simple people like you and me. This message of being somebody again through God alone is communicated. Why? So that it might get through to everyone. As people who have received God’s grace we get to be a bridge of that good news to people we know and love.

Part of the Jewish liturgy involved reciting one of the great acts of God in their history. When the Holy Spirit came they all worshipped and rehearsed his wonderful works. Bystanders understood them because of the Jewish liturgy. When the Holy Spirit comes to fill a Christian, he/she speaks and acts in ways that weren’t possible before. Christians live supernaturally because the Spirit of God within them controls them.

For example, just a few days before Pentecost, Peter was too scared to admit he knew Jesus. Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, God changed him. In Acts 2:16-21, Peter quoted Joel 2:28-33, which was Joel’s prophecy of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the last days. On that first Pentecost, the Spirit came to people in a new, more powerful way that signalled the beginning of the new covenant age, which runs from the time of Christ’s death until he returns at some time in the future. These are the last days in that the coming of the Messiah, which was foretold in the Old Testament, have now occurred. His saving death and resurrection have been accomplished, and now the Holy Spirit has to build the church before Christ returns.

Acts 2:1-21 is the marching orders for the church. The coming of the Holy Spirit was an awe-inspiring moment that changed the world. It was a tipping point when history was changed. We have to go with the flow. It asks us to go beyond our comfort zone. God’s dream was one where all believers would gather together in unity and faith. Gold calls on us to love one another. That love changes us. It allows us to show grace to everyone.

Sometimes we wonder if what happened at Pentecost can happen today. We wonder if we can gain a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit and experience its transforming strength. We want to deal with our own feelings of spiritual inadequacy. God answers these questions and other questions people are really asking. People want something more than ordinary, dull religion. They want the power and intimacy of the Holy Spirit. It changes us. We were created for union and communication with the Holy Spirit. The greatest need for both society and the church today is for a contemporary Pentecost. We, like the disciples, must be ready for the miracle of the supernatural endowment of the Holy Spirit’s power.

The flames represented the purity and power with which the disciples would speak as they proclaimed what God had done. The fire of the Holy Spirit burns away anything that will keep us from being the people God wants us to be. It convinces us that God loves us unconditionally and that we can love others unconditionally. It gives us the ability to love others deeply. The Holy Spirit releases us so that we can praise others. That praise becomes very effective proclamation. It frees us from self-concern and to Spirit-consciousness. We are free to praise God and to receive what he will do.

When people hear a minister preach on a Biblical text with the power of the Holy Spirit, and the people have been prepared by the Holy Spirit, the result is conviction, faith and changed lives. In contrast to the baptism with the Spirit, which is the one-time act by which God places believers into His body, the filling is a repeated reality of Spirit-controlled behaviour that God commands believers to maintain. The work of the Holy Spirit in the church today is to dwell with believers so they will look like Christ and be empowered to continue his ministry here on earth.

How does the Holy Spirit work in the church today?

  1. He convicts us of our sin, shows us that none of us can live up to the righteousness of Jesus, and reveals to us the judgment that is coming to those who die without faith in Christ.
  2. He immerses us into the family of God.
  3. He encourages and comforts us when we are hurting or discouraged.
  4. We work with him to maintain unity among Christians.
  5. He brings peace in the midst of life’s storms.
  6. He pours out the power for victorious living.
  7. He helps us to study and understand the truths of the Bible.
  8. He intercedes for us when we can’t put our feelings into words.
  9. He gives us power for evangelism.
  10. He distributes spiritual gifts as he deems best throughout the Body of Christ.

A life in Christ is God’s will for his people. God’s plan can’t be stopped. Pentecost is a taste of what will happen in God’s kingdom when the Spirit is poured out on all people. The Holy Spirit will live in all believers.

The Holy Spirit is more than a tool to help us overcome life’s challenges, but much of what we are asked to do is far beyond what we are called to do. On our own, we are never enough. The outpouring of the Spirit is far greater than anyone expects. It will be poured out on all flesh and everyone who calls on the Lord will be saved. The Spirit will give us the strength we need to do God’s work in our world.

In return, we are called on to be wanders. We aren’t meant to be too settled, rooted or rigid. Our spiritual lives are meant to be a pilgrimage. The dangerous place is the place that gets too comfortable or stagnant. We are to be on the move, and our churches are meant to be on the move as well.

Pentecost is the day when we remember the eruption in which the Church came to birth. It is also the day when we remember the countless ways in which the Holy Spirit shapes the Church as an institution and ourselves as individuals. It is also the day when we are reminded that once we have received the Holy Spirit, we are required and enabled to take a stand for good and against evil in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. The Holy Spirit will teach us to love God and neighbour-and he will reward us by giving us a life worth living. That life won’t be easy or trouble-free, but it will be worth living and dying for-and that is the greatest birthday gift of all.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, Dr. David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
  3. George Hermanson, “All You Need Is Love.” Retrieved from www.holyscriptures.com
  4. David McGee, “Grace for Life.” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
  5. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983)
  6. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  7. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  8. Rev. Gregory Seltz, “That’s Just Who God Is.” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  9. Dr. Roger Barrier, “What is the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today?” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. The Rev. Dr. Charles Reeb, “Controlling the Wind.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  11. Pastor Dave Risendal, “The Holy Spirit Has Called Me.” Retrieved from donotreply@wordpress.com
  12. Jacob Myers, “Commentary on Acts 2:1-21.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1296
  13. Rick Morley, “Wanderlust-a Reflection on Pentecost.” Retrieved from http://www.rickmorley.com/archives
  14. Jeremiah, Dr. David: AD: The Bible Continues: The Revolution that Changed the World (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.; 2015, pgs. 39-56)

Ephesians 1:15-23 Jesus Opens Our Spiritual Eyes

Seth crept into the dark room. He switched on the lamp and waved his arms back and forth above the crib. Leah didn’t notice him. She was blind.

“Hi, baby,” he whispered. She turned her tiny head toward the sound of his voice. He patted her hand through the bars.

“What are you doing in here?” asked Mom, coming in from the hallway.

“I’m trying to make Leah see me,” he said.

Mom spread a quilt on the floor. “I’m not sure she’ll ever be able to see you, Seth, but she can hear your voice and feel your touch.”

Seth sighed. “Why did God give her eyes that don’t work?”

Mom lifted Leah out of her crib and laid her on the quilt beside Seth. “We don’t always understand the ways of the Lord, but they’re always good.”

“Blind eyes aren’t good,” said Seth.

“The Bible tells a story about a man born blind like Leah,” said Mom. “People questioned Jesus about that man’s eyes, too.” Leah gripped Seth’s finger as Mom continued. “Jesus said the man was born blind so the world could see the great love and awesome power of God.” Mom stroked Leah’s cheek. “Then Jesus healed the man and he was no longer blind.”

“Is Jesus going to heal Leah?” asked Seth.

“I pray for that every day,” said Mom. “He answers when it’s time. As we wait, we can teach Leah to hear God’s voice. Then He will give her special eyes to see Him with her heart.”

“I don’t need eyes in my heart because my other eyes can see, right, Mom?”

“Everyone has heart-eyes,” said Mom. “We are all blind like Leah until we listen to God’s voice and obey Him.”

“My Sunday school teacher says the Bible is God’s voice,” said Seth.

“She’s right,” said Mom.

Seth jumped up and bolted from the room. He returned with his Bible and plopped onto the quilt. “She will like the rainbow story,” he said.  Leah turned her face toward Seth as he read God’s Word.

In Ephesians 1:15-23, Paul prays for his friends to be illuminated here and now. He prays that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation as they get to know God. He prays that the eyes of their hearts will be enlightened.  

This passage is a glorious portrayal of the exalted Christ. The church is a continuing incarnation of Christ. Whatever Christ could do, the church must do. The church must be Christ’s hands and feet. The church must be a true representation of heaven, but at the same time the church must not claim to be equal to Him. The church is full of sin and will be under judgment. God’s plan for the world is in the church’s hands.

Prayer that flows out of a deep sense of gratitude is forceful. Our praying should be rooted in thankfulness. Thankful people are happier people because they invite loyalty and generosity. They also know how to love others. They make the world a better place. Everyone has things to be thankful for and everyone has things to be angry about. Our challenge is to focus on the things that we can be thankful for.

Paul has worked to express the wonder of believers’ spiritual endowments. Now he prays that they may be able to embrace these truths with their hearts. In order to do this, we need wisdom. When we ask God for it, He will give it to us, and then we have to practice it. In time, we will live by God’s wisdom and not the world’s wisdom.

Paul does not pray that the Ephesian believers will receive some new revelation from God but that they will understand the revelation God has already given them, especially concerning the spiritual riches that are theirs in Christ. The Holy Spirit will provide revelation. Knowing this is ours, the Spirit of Christ becomes a living presence in us. Believers must truly know Christ, not just obtain knowledge about Him. Understanding can also be translated as ‘heart,” which includes the intellect, emotions and will. The heart is the channel through which God imparts the truth about His Son. Such understanding is unavailable to the natural (nonspiritual) person.

As the revelation of the Holy Spirit grows in us, our knowledge of God expands and matures. Specifically, we learn about three distinct attributes:

  1. The hope to which God calls us, especially the hope of life after death.
  2. The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
  3. The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe.

God was not satisfied with possessing suns and stars; He wanted children and saints. This is God’s inheritance, not humanity’s; believers are His inheritance. There is a big difference between having God’s blessings and enjoying them. We move from the former to the latter by learning what those blessings are and then laying hold of them by faith.

In verse 19, Paul uses four different Greek words to describe God’s power; they can be translated as dynamic, energetic, mighty and strong. Thus power belongs to every believer who will use it.  God’s mighty power is anchored in heaven itself, since the Lord not only raised Jesus from the dead but took Him bodily into heaven and seated Him at His right hand-a place of authority.

Christ has conquered all things in this age and in the one to come, including the enemies of all people: Satan, sin and the grave. Personally knowing this victorious Christ enables believers to face the trying circumstances, unusual sorrows, and terrible persecutions of life. Because of Christ’s great power, no sinner is beyond rescue, and no saint beyond recovery.

God’s great power is given to everyone when they accept Christ as their Saviour. When we believe in Christ, He works a miracle in us. We are purified and empowered by God Himself. As our faith grows, we will change. Sin won’t have any more power over our lives.

Paul also mentions the riches of God, the riches of Christ, the riches of grace, the riches of mercy and the riches of glory. We hear that there is no way to measure the riches of God’s grace. We hear that there is no way that we can understand or intellectually absorb God’s grace. Paul has experienced and seen the riches of God’s grace and the lavishness of His generosity. Paul is overwhelmed by it, as should we as Christians. Creation reflects the luxuriousness of God, the lavishness of God and the excessive generosity of God.

We can easily miss the gift of what’s right in front of us, especially the beauty that’s part of our everyday lives. We can easily miss the beautiful ways God works in and around us daily. Believers in Jesus can ask God’s Spirit to open our spiritual eyes so we can understand how He is at work.

We don’t know everything. We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow or next year. We need power, strength and wisdom. When we pray, we connect with not only the world’s most powerful being but the smartest being. God knows everything. All we have to do is listen and be quiet.

Godly wisdom gives us perspective, vision and a purpose for living. If we have godly wisdom, we will have balance in our lives. We will also walk by faith on the familiar roads of life and the unfamiliar ones. When we face difficult circumstances, we should focus on the blessings that God has given us instead of focusing on our problems. When we think of God’s blessings, we will have an attitude of gratitude.

If our reputations and perfection are more important than the states of our hearts and souls, we are on a slippery slope. If we constantly compare ourselves to others while focusing on what we don’t have, the devil has his way in our lives. Only Jesus will satisfy our deepest longings and desires. We must keep our eyes on the goodness, beauty, majesty and sufficiency of Christ. He is everything we will ever need.

When we go through difficult times, the eyes of our hearts will be opened. Walking through troubled waters is one way that God has of shifting our vision. When our hearts break, there is an avenue for God’s compassion to enter. We will look at others through the eyes of our hearts and not through the eyes of quick judgment, harsh conclusions or self-interest.

God wants us to have the eyes of our hearts enlightened in order to know the hope to which He has called us. Next, He wants us to know there is an inheritance of spiritual riches for each of us in Jesus. Finally, God wants us to tap into the power that is available to all of us. Satan also has power, but the only way he can use it is when we fail to operate under the power God has given us. When we function under the power of God, Satan can’t use his power.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1639)
  2. “Leah’s Eyes.” Retrieved from keys@lists.keysforkids.org
  3. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 156-164)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
  7. Bobby Schuller, “The Lust of the Eyes.” Retrieved from hourofpower@hourofpower.org
  8. Pastor David McGee, “Stop Talking and Listen.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Amy Boucher Pye, “Just the Office.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org
  10. Bobby Schuller, “Thankful, Happier People.” Retrieved from hourofpower@hourofpower.org
  11. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Asking for Wisdom.” retrieved from mydevotional@leadingtheway.org
  12. Steve Arterburn, “The Eyes of Your Heart.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  13. Os Hillman, “Three Things.” Retrieved from tgif@marketplaceleaders.org
  14. Dr. Tony Evans, “All Things Under Christ.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  15. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “The Value of God’s Wisdom.” Retrieved form mydevotional@ltw.org
  16. “So That You May Know the Hope.” Retrieved from http://paintedprayerbook.com/2014/11/19/so-that-you-may-know-the-hope/
  17. “Books of the Bible-Ephesians.” Retrieved from www.sermonsfromseattle.com/books_ephesians_lavish.htm

Luke 24:44-53 Spiritual Light from the Light of the World

Spiritual Light from the Light of the World

(Text: Luke 24:44-53)

A few years ago, I preached and led worship at a church in a community near where I live. During the children’s talk I mentioned that Jesus told his disciples that he would be returning to the Father, but that they would receive the Holy Spirit. I compared the Holy Spirit to the batteries in a flashlight.

Light is amazing. Without it, we would not be able to read and discover the world around us. Just like we need physical light to see the world around us, we need spiritual light to see and understand God. Jesus is that spiritual light, and we see in Luke 24:44-53 how he shined a spiritual light on the disciples before his ascension. He helped the disciples to see that shining a light on sin helps those who have lost their way to see him, and he helps us to see the same thing today. He also shined a light on the Old Testament prophecies about his death and resurrection. Luke reminds us that Jesus came to satisfy all of the prophecies made about him in the Old Testament.

The disciples heard the Lord preach many times. They watched him perform miracles for at least three years. They saw him crucified and now they stood in his resurrected presence, but until the Lord opened their minds to understand the Scriptures they did not truly understand everything.  Spiritual understanding comes through the Holy Spirit, or it doesn’t come at all. True understanding of the Scriptures is a gift from God. It allows us to understand how all of the parts of God’s plan of salvation fit together. Part of that plan includes Jesus’ death and resurrection. The disciples and other followers, including modern-day followers, would gain further understanding through the work of the Holy Spirit. In return, they would be able to fulfill their commission as Jesus’ witnesses.

In order for the Holy Spirit to come and continue Christ’s work, Jesus had to leave and return to the Father. Jesus in human form could only be in one place at a time, but the Holy Spirit can be everywhere all of the time. When Jesus blessed the disciples before his ascension, he probably showed gratitude to those who chose to walk with him. If we walk with him today, we will hear the Holy Spirit use similar words.

The Holy Spirit reminds us of how much Christ loves us and the sacrifice he made so that we could regain fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit guides and strengthens us. It steers us away from danger and toward truth. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, we are healed, changed, freed and sent on missions because God lives in us. It opens our minds to receive God’s truth. It enables us to withstand all of life’s challenges. Without it, we will be defeated by the world.  

Even after the disciples believed that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, they did not become effective witnesses until the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit came and filled them with his power and authority. Knowledge and conviction aren’t enough. The Christian mission depends on the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit for its success.

The disciples learned that it takes time and prayer to find one’s mission. Mission is based on taking time to assess the needs and what our strengths are. God wants us to have a heart for him and a vision for the world. He wants us to know, obey and share him. God entrusts us to live and teach the Gospel in spite of our faults and failures.

Luke makes it clear that the message of Christ must include a focus on repentance and remission of sins. One without the other is incomplete. Jesus shone the light on the need to repent. The same light allows us to take in the Scriptures and feast on the Word. In return, we are to preach repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ name to all nations.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1436)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  3. Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Holy Spirit: An Absolute.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  4. “Use Even Me.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  5. “Where Thou Art.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  6. Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pp. 356-357)
  7. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  8. Dr. Charles Stanley, “The Power of the Holy Spirit.”  Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. “This Little Light of Mine.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. “A Total Life Change.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. “What is Written.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Jill Carattini, “A Sign of Relief.” Retrieved from www.sliceofinifity.org
  13. Aaron Coyle-Carr, “He Ascended with Scars.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  14. Baptist Bible Hour, “Evangelism.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  15. George Hermanson, “Discernment.” Retrieved from www.georgehermanson.com
  16. Dr. Charles Stanley, “A Heart for God-A Vision for the World.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
  17. “The Heart of Worship.” Retrieved from today@thisistoday.net
  18. Exegesis for Luke 24:44-53. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  19. Craig Condon, “The Light of the Holy Spirit.” Children’s Talk delivered during the weekly Worship Service at Bridgewater United Church, Bridgewater, NS on Sun., May 1, 2016. Sermon available from the author’s personal library or online at http://sermonsfrommyheart.blogspot.ca/2016/04/john-1423-29-light-of-holy-spirit.html

John 17:6-19 Parting Words

What would you say to someone if you knew that you were seeing them for the last time? If you were dying, what would be the last words you would say to your family and friends? If you’ve ever thought about the answers to these questions, then you can appreciate what was going through Jesus’ mind in the Gospel reading from John 17:6-19.

This reading is part of Jesus’ farewell speech to his disciples. He is preparing them for his death, resurrection and ascension. He knows that his disciples will be rejected by the world as he was. In this passage he hands over his mission to his disciples and all believers who come after them. The disciples have spent the last three years in training. Now it is time for them to pass the final test and go into the world.

Jesus’ farewell address can also be our farewell address to the world. When we die to self, we die to our old earthly way of life. We are disconnected from the world and connected to God when we live our lives in God’s mercy and kindness. If we have accepted that mercy and in return we show mercy and kindness to everyone we meet, then we are connected and present to God.

Jesus’s request was an expansive one. It was made on behalf of the disciples, but his thoughts travelled throughout history to today. His heart of love is bursting with the same message. Jesus prays that those who follow him will be protected to the end. Since Jesus is the one doing the praying, his request will be granted. He also prays that all believers will be united. That unity should be the norm, but unfortunately today it is the exception. There are still differences within and between denominations. For example, within the worldwide Anglican Communion, there are divisions that have been caused by issues such as the ordination of women clergy and same-sex marriages. Within the Anglican Church of Canada, we have seen several parishes leave because of the same issues. The only way Jesus’ prayer for unity can be achieved is through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Trinity.

The world Jesus lived in emphasized group identity or unity. People thought in terms of groups. We are to be a united group that does God’s work in our world. We are to be united in our homes, our relationships and our church bodies. We are a group that is set aside for a special use.

In spite of the lack of unity, we as believers are not to withdraw from the world. We are to stay in the world and be a positive influence. We must open our hearts to the real needs of our neighbours. We do this by putting aside our differences and working together to spread the Good News of the Gospel.

Jesus’ true followers know his name and keep his words. They are vulnerable in this particular other worldliness, especially since the world hates followers of Jesus. The world is captive to a spirit that is alien to God’s spirit. It is governed by a sense of scarcity instead of abundance, fear instead of courage, and selfishness instead of sacrificial love. It is easy to be obsessed with what is in the world. Jesus encouraged his followers not to embrace the world’s values. We must remember that even though we are in the world, we are not of the world. Christians need only to remember that Jesus has promised to keep them separate from the world. Jesus does not run away in the face of danger. He offers an alternative spirit and reality. We have different desires, goals and a different God than people who live in the world. Our God helps us to be different by continually sanctifying us with the truth.

We are called on to go out into a world which has declared that God is dead and has not risen, because God never was dead. We are to share the good news that there is a God and that he lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ. We must be careful not to water down this message by turning it into a model for social work. We must hold on to the truth that our actions are a sign and witness to God’s love for the world and the future promise for all people. We are to heed the words of the hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

My gracious Master and my God,

assist me to proclaim,

to spread through all the earth abroad,

the honours of your name

We are in the world not to condemn it, but to love it. How do we do this without condemning the world or judging it? The answer can be found in the words of the late Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche communities. He said, “To love someone is not first of all to do things for them, but to reveal to them their true beauty, to say to them through our attitude, ‘You are beautiful. You are important. I trust you. You can trust yourself.’”

Even though Jesus has left us physically, he is still with us in spirit-the Holy Spirit. We are not to dwell in feelings of despair or abandonment, because Jesus is always with us and we belong to him. Our belonging to him is an important part of the essential nature and purpose of God and Jesus. Because we belong to Jesus, we are holy and we are kept holy in the truth of God’s word. Because we are one with God, we will be rejected by the world. We don’t need to worry, because Jesus will protect us.

If we have an unfounded fear that causes us to withdraw from the world, we will fail to bring light into the world, and the dark world will remain devoid of the living church. This fear can be overcome by bearing our souls to our Lord and Maker, and being silent so we can hear his response. If we are transformed by God’s Spirit and have a strong spiritual core, we will shine a bright, holy light in the midst of darkness.

We are sanctified so that Christ can send us into the world to share the Gospel. Believers are to be united in the common belief of the truth of God’s Word. This unity in Christ is accomplished through God’s Word. It keeps us from evil. Our presence in the world blesses the world and protects fellow believers from evil. When we receive God’s Word and accept it, we glorify God.

Jesus sanctified himself for believers by presenting himself as a perfect sacrifice. He was the perfect sacrifice for us as well. He has the same concerns for us today that he did for his disciples. He sends us out into the world today in the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal his love and salvation wherever we go. We are to do this in spite of the challenges posed by our modern culture.

The disciples belonged to God the Father, and so do we. The origin of discipleship was in God’s heart. The operation of discipleship is through Jesus. The obligation of discipleship is obedience to the written word of God. The way a person regards the Bible is the way he/she regards Christ, the living Word.

Sanctification means that we must submit to God’s will for our lives. Submission to God is a key part of Jesus’ priestly prayer. It does not mean a loss of freedom. It means freedom from the bondage of sin and our own desires. It involves separating ourselves from evil influences and following the morals Jesus has given us. This sanctification is necessary because although Jesus defeated the devil on the cross, Satan is still loose in the world and conducting his campaign. We can’t be a disciple of Jesus without submitting to him in every area of our lives. Submission to Jesus is a life of liberty like we have never known before. Submission to God does not mean that we lose our identities. It is a sweet surrender to God. It gives us a purpose. When we die to our earthly lives, we live for Christ. Happiness depends on happenings in our lives, but joy depends on Jesus. Submission leads to happiness and joy. It mends our wounded souls.

When we submit to God’s will, he does not expect perfection from us in return. As long as we try our best to determine what God wants us to do in our lives, he will love us. Even though we live in a chaotic world where it’s hard for us to make sense of what’s going on and where there are too many things competing for our attention, we must remember that God’s love and our own call to love have to take priority. As long as we remember these two things, we will be living in the world but we will be part of what God wants for this world.

 Bibliography

  1. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
  2. Frederikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol.27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Dr. David Jeremiah, “Not of the World.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  5. Jeremiah, Dr. David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  6. Michael Milton, “Four Myths about Submission in the Christian Life.” Retrieved from www.preaching.com
  7. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 7th Sunday of Easter (B).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  8. Pastor McGee, “Set Apart.” Retrieved from www.crossthebridge.com
  9. Christine Caine, “Not of this World.” Retrieved from Biblegateway@e.biblegateway.com
  10. James Boyce, “Commentary on John 17:6-19.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1292
  11. David Lose, “The Other Lord’s Prayer.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/craft.aspx?post=1492
  12. Peter Lockhart, “Sent Into the World.” Retrieved from http://revplockhart.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/sent-into-world.html
  13. The Rev. Thomas Brackett, “The Prayer That Won’t Let Me Go.” Retrieved from www.day1.org/3821_the_prayer_that_wont_let_me_go.print
  14. Dr. James Howell, “In but Not of the World.” Retrieved from http://www.day1.org/1256-in_but_not_of_the_world.print
  15. Fr. John Boll, O.P., “Volume 2: Ascension May 17, 2015”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org

Acts 1:6-14 Waiting for the Power

What’s one of the hardest things you have ever had to do? For most of us, the answer is waiting, especially if we are sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. Frustration soon sets in. The disciples felt the same way, especially when Jesus told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power He said would be coming to them. This was especially frustrating for Peter, who preferred to be doing something instead of waiting. Waiting is so frustrating because it means someone else or something else is in charge, not us. Being out of control and subject to the control of others reminds us of our finiteness and vulnerability.

The disciples wondered what type of power would be coming. Many people believed Jesus was going to bring a literal kingdom on earth. The disciples believed that this power would enable them to drive out the Romans and establish a Jewish kingdom. The disciples were not about to act on their own. They had the wisdom to wait and pray for guidance and leadership.

Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question took their focus off their timetables and put it on to what they needed to do to spread the Gospel to the world. Along with focusing on when Christ will return, believers should also concentrate on witnessing to a dying world. Jesus will fulfill all the Old Testament promises in the future. When God fulfills His promises, He always exceeds our expectations.

Jesus told the disciples how the gospel would spread. The Holy Spirit gave the early Christians power so that their accomplishments were supernatural. The Great Commission appears in all four gospels as well as in Acts 1:6-14. Jesus promised that the disciples would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This power would enable the disciples to do great things and be great witnesses for Jesus.

Jesus promised to send a guide and comforter. He sends the same guide and comforter to everyone-the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the same power it gives to everyone-the power of speaking, preaching the gospel, enduring life’s trials, etc. This power will be given to people who can accept Jesus’ authority over timing. God does things in his own time and in his own way. His concept of time is different from ours.

God wants to bless us with the power of the Holy Spirit. This starts with prayer and reconciled relationships with ourselves and the people in our lives. The process begins again and again throughout all our lives. When we receive this power, we can change lives and change the world.

When Alfred Nobel discovered an explosive element that was stronger than anything the world had known at the time, he asked a friend and Greek scholar for a word that conveyed the meaning of explosive power. The Greek word was dunamis, and Nobel named his invention “dynamite.” Dunamis is the same word that Jesus used when He told His disciples that they would receive dynamite power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.

When we get the power, we have a choice. God has chosen us to be His light of hope in a world that has been darkened by sin. We must choose to use that power by surrendering our lives to Him. We should not be like the Scottish lady at the turn of the 19th century. She lived alone in a house on the west coast of Scotland. She was traditional and frugal. Her neighbours were shocked when she announced her plans to have electricity installed in her home.

Within a few weeks, the power lines were up and she had electric power, but the company noticed that she was not using the power. A company representative decided to visit her and find out why she wasn’t using any power.

He explained to her, “Your meter shows you’ve had power for three months, but you have scarcely used it.” She replied, “Oh, you see, I don’t use very much of it. Every evening when the sun sets, I turn the electric lamps on long enough to see that I can light my candle, and then I turn it off again!”

If we choose to live life in our own power, we will only accomplish normal things. If we choose to live life in God’s power, following His leading, our lives will be marked by the activity of God which can’t be explained by our own abilities.

God calls us to be His ambassadors in this world. He wants us to introduce Christ’s love and grace to people. We can only do this with the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s so easy to be mesmerized by the amazing power and miracles of God that we can become mere observers instead of active participants in what He wants us to do. God wants us to act, just like the angels told the disciples to act.

Christ’s work of salvation rests primarily on four pillars of truth: His birth, His crucifixion, His Resurrection and His ascension. The ascension was the exclamation point. It completely and finally demonstrated that His atonement had forever solved the problem that sin created. As believers, we are to be witnesses to His saving work, and like the original disciples, we are called by Jesus to spread the Good News to a world that desperately needs to hear His message.

Jesus did not want the disciples to be confused or discouraged by His ascension, so He sent the two angels to comfort them and order them to “get moving.” With the declaration in verse 11, the angels confirmed that the second person of the Trinity was then, and forever would be, God and Man. Just as He left, so would He return-in His glorified body. This is part of every Christian’s hope! Christ was the first fruit of the resurrection, meaning that when all things are made new, His followers will be made like Him.

When the disciples returned to Jerusalem, they were constantly grappling with the shock and emotions of what they had just seen and heard. They were embarking on a new chapter in history. So, what did they do? They prayed and drew strength from God as they went forward in faith to serve Him. The great preacher Harry Ironside once said that, “When God is going to do some great thing, He moves the hearts of people to pray. He stirs them up to pray in view of that which He is about to do.” The disciples needed that time of preparation, prayer and self-examination so they would be ready for the power to change the world.

The patience of the disciples was rewarded when, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit arrived and touched them. The Holy Spirit gave them the power to accomplish many things, including the ability to preach to the members of the crowd in their own languages.

The events in Acts 1:6-14 are all part of God’s plan for redeeming the world. We are a part of His plan. We don’t know when the kingdom will come, but we do know that we are called to spread the Good News. We can do this by being in contact with people and infusing them with the Gospel. When we do, the power of the Holy Spirit in us will be released.

It’s our duty to tell others what we experienced when we met Jesus, and it is a duty that we should perform joyfully. For us the focus of our mission is at home in life’s most intimate relationships. It’s where people really know us. It has a focus at work and in the community where the consistency of our life and witness can be observed. How can we keep the gift of salvation quiet and not share it with others?

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1486-1487)
  2. Jeremiah, David: A.D.: The Revolution that Changed the World (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers; 2015; pp. 40-44)
  3. Jeremiah, David: Acts: The Church in Action, Vol. 1 (San Diego, CA: Turning Point for God;2006,2015; pp. 13-36
  4. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  5. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pp. 36-48)
  6. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  7. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  8. “Devoted to Prayer.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmaillcom
  9. “Power to Proclaim.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmaillcom
  10. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Our Calling.” Retrieved from www.leadingtheway.org
  11. Pastor Greg Laurie, “The Explosive Power of Pentecost.” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  12. Pastor Ken Klaus, “An Unstoppable Message.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  13. T.M. Moore, “Kingdom Power.” Retrieved from www.colsoncenter.org
  14. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, The Ascension of the Lord (A).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  15. Richard Neill Donovan, “Exegesis for Acts 1:6-14.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  16. Pastor Ed Young, “The Joy of Witnessing.” Retrieved from www.edyoung.com
  17. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “The Joy of Witnessing.” Retrieved from www.leadingtheway.org
  18. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Acts (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers Inc.; 2016; pp. 20-26)

Acts 1:6-14, John 17:1-11 Unity

Several years ago, when I was working for a local lumber mill, the company had a contest where the employees were encouraged to come up with a slogan that portrayed the company’s mission. The slogan was to be used on all of the company’s promotional material. The winning entry was “Together We’re Better”, and it reflected the employees’ desire to work together to produce top-quality products.

Christianity can use the same motto, because together as Christians we can go a long way to fulfilling God’s call in our world. In order to do this, we need the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8, Jesus told the disciples that they would receive God’s power through the Holy Spirit, and in John 17:1-11, Jesus prayed to the Father to send his power to all of Christianity through the Holy Spirit. Our definition of power is different from God’s definition of power. God’s definition of power is the ability to carry out a purpose-in this case, his work in the world. By coming together, we have even greater power.

The prayer that Jesus prayed in John 17:1-11 is known as the High Priestly prayer because Jesus offers prayers for himself, his apostles and followers-just like the High Priest offered prayers for people in the temple. Something else that Jesus prayed was for unity. After his Ascension, the disciples were united in prayer. Unity exists through prayer. Jesus prayed for unity, and the disciples prayed together to draw upon the only source of power that they had before they received the Holy Spirit-prayer. Christ’s unity still exists today, as can be seen through local ministerial associations and food banks. In both cases, men and women from different denominations come together to do God’s work in the community. Just think of how powerful our churches would be today if each and every one of us would pray constantly, devotedly, and with one mind!

We are also united through our common belief in eternal life. Eternal life is not reserved until we die; rather, it is something we can share now through Jesus. We receive eternal life the moment we have faith in Jesus and begin to have a relationship with him. We don’t just receive the gift of eternal life. We also have the privilege of having a vibrant, growing relationship with the Creator of all that exists. We receive this gift every week when we gather together to hear Jesus give glory to God by revealing God’s compassion, forgiveness, love and healing to us.

Jesus also prays for everyone who does his work in the world. He prays for us because he knows that the world will reject our message. The unity Jesus prays for will protect us from the grand predator-Satan. Our unity protects us-not some doctrinal purity or statements, not theology or worship. When Jesus prays for glory, he is asking for God’s presence to be felt throughout the world through our words, thoughts and deeds. Our purpose on earth is to glorify God. We must never give up in the face of persecution, because Jesus never gave up, even when he was on the cross. When he said “It is finished!” he was giving a strong affirmation that the work God gave him to do during his time on earth was now finished.

True life is all about knowing God and knowing Jesus. It is centered on our relationship with God, and that relationship comes through knowing Jesus. When Jesus prays for us, he is after something deep in us and in the heart of God.

Jesus did not pray that all believers would agree. The source of our unity is not in human structures or denominations such as Anglican, United, Baptist, Roman Catholic, etc. It is in Jesus Christ. Our unity gives us strength in difficult times, for there really is strength in numbers. It reminds me of some of the words in the song “United We Stand”. It was recorded in the late 1960s by a group called the Brotherhood of Man. The words I am thinking of are:

For united we stand

Divided we fall

And if our backs should ever be against the wall

We’ll be together, together, you and I

In order for our unity to be successful, we have to learn to work together in the things we are to do. When we pray together and work together, it increases our capacity to do God’s work in our world.

Jesus’ High Priestly prayer proclaims our hope and certainty. Jesus and God have glorified each other. Jesus has come from the Father. We are embedded in Christ as Christ is embedded in the Father. We belong to God and are on our way to unity with him and with each other. Unfortunately in our world, divisions can and do happen, often with negative consequences. God gives himself to the godless so that he can receive them into divine communion through atonement, and we should do the same. We are to be one with each other just like Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are one with each other.

When we divide people into categories of race, religion, sexual orientation or where they live, problems can occur. One only has to think of the Holocaust or genocides like those that took place in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and other places to see that this is true. It is also true in our own back yard. For example, one day, in the village where my family lived, my father was in the post office picking up the mail when a lady came in and started talking to him. At one point she asked him which church he attended (which was not one of the two churches in this particular village). After he answered her question, she said, “Well!! That’s what I was afraid of!” She turned around and stormed out of the post office!

When we come together as one body, our prayers and deeds are a very potent force to be reckoned with. We speak to God when we pray, and in return he touches, embraces, shapes and changes us through the gifts he gives us. We are to use these gifts wisely and for the benefit of the world. Sometimes we have to ask for help, but when we work together, we glorify God with integrity, with devotion, and through service and the words we speak.

As children of God, we are united in one faith in a living God who has revealed himself to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are united in faith in Christ whose word fills us with faith. We are also united in faith in the Holy Spirit whose presence guides us through life. Although we are one in faith, we have to put that faith into action, especially by being one in service. It is in serving that our faith becomes real. When we serve one another, we serve Christ. He is the inspiration in our lives. He is the living example of faith in action. He is the Lord, the Master of our lives and the heartbeat of our faith-and that faith becomes real when we go forth as one in service.

For most people, life is about getting the most stuff, and that expresses the consumer mentality that our society has today. Unfortunately, this emphasis is empty, because no matter how much we have or what we buy, there’s someone out there with more stuff and better stuff. If we live for stuff and prestige, our life is hollow, empty and meaningless. It is like the story of the burglar who was arrested and brought before a judge for trial. He was found guilty, and before he was to be sentenced, the judge asked him if he had anything to say in his defence. The burglar said, “Well, Your Honour, it’s like this. The more a man has, the more a man wants”. The judge replied, “Is that so? Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to sentence you to 15 years in prison. How many more would you like?”

A couple of weeks ago, our rector delivered a speech at our Diocesan Synod after delegates debated and voted on a resolution asking the bishop of the Diocese to grant permission for a blessing of same-sex couples who have had civil marriages. While it is not my intention to enter into the debate on the issue of same-sex marriages or blessings, some of his remarks are appropriate in light of my sermon today, and so I would like to close with some of the words from his speech. He said:

We are a church in which divergent/opposing theologies are able to exist and stimulate each other when we focus on our relationship with Jesus Christ. Changes in the practices and theologies of our church do not necessarily mean that what has been important to us must be abandoned. We have a place for ideas and concerns that are different and we are able to hold the biblical and Christian ideal and the reality of a broken and damaged world in a dynamic tension from which all sides should be able to witness to the love and saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is at the core of our Christian Faith and our Anglican tradition.

We can’t convert the world from its emphasis on self to a life in Christ unless we are united in purpose-unless we love one another. When we ignore the will of God in order to have our own way, the result is discord and disunity. Unity begins with us. We have to be proactive. We have to pull together. We have to keep going. We may never achieve 100 % unity, but if we work toward it, we will be going in the right direction. If we stand together, we can withstand the fiercest elements the world throws at us.

Bibliography

  1. Exegesis for Acts 1:6-14. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  2. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions: 7th Sunday of Easter (A)” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  3. Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
  4. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package
  5. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package
  6. Notes from Peter Anthony’s Bible Study on the Gospel of John, Fall 2010-Winter 2011
  7. Jim Collins, “Success Scripture of the Wee”. Retrieved from www.beyondpositivethinking.org
  8. Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Perseverance”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  9. Lead Like Jesus Online Devotional. Retrieved from www.messagingstudio.com
  10. T.M. Moore, “Work Matters”. Retrieved from www.breakpoint.com
  11. Dr. Reginald Smith, “Jesus Prays for You!” Retrieved from www.thisistoday.net
  12. The Rev. Dr. Barbara K. Lundblad, “Still Praying After All These Years”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  13. The Rev. Larry Hill, “We Are One”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
  14. Billy Graham, “Did Jesus Give Up Hope on the Cross?” Retrieved from www.arcamax.com
  15. Dan Clendenin, “Everyone Has a Name”. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
  16. Scott Boder-Saye, “Long Division”. Retrieved from www.religiononline.org
  17. Lee Griess, “One in Faith and One in Service”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  18. Richard E. Gribble, CSC, “Reevaluating Our Mission for Christ”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  19. Dr. J. Howard Olds, “Resurrected Glory”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  20. Mark Ellingsen, “The Majesty of God’s Love”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  21. Kendall McCabe and Michael L. Sherer, “The Seventh Sunday of Easter”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  22. The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn, “Blast From the Past”. Retrieved from www.esermons.com
  23. Exegesis for John 17:1-11. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  24. The Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn, “So That We May Be One in Christ”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  25. Dr. Keith Wagner, “In a Different World”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
  26. Rev. Donald Lawton, “A Call to Move On”. Speech delivered at the 143rd Synod of the Anglican Diocese of NS and PEI on Friday, May 27, 2011
  27. Roland McGregor, “Easter 7, 6/5/11”. Retrieved from mcgregorpage@intenex.net

Acts 17:22-31 How to Reach and Teach the Unchurched

Have you ever wondered how you can reach and teach people who don’t know Christ? If so, you can learn from the example Paul used in the passage from Acts 17:22-31.

Paul approached the subject of his message from the viewpoint of the Greeks. He did not use flattery. He complimented them on their pursuit of spiritual knowledge.  He used something familiar to the Greeks to introduce them to something that they weren’t familiar with. The Greeks accepted all gods, but in case they forgot any gods, they built an altar to an unknown god. The Greeks were searching for knowledge. They didn’t have to look any further than Jesus. If we are looking for knowledge, all we have to do is look for Jesus. Paul proceeded to tell them about the one god they overlooked in their pursuit of spiritual knowledge.

Paul understood the character of his audience and tailored his message to them. He acknowledged their gods and then proceeded to teach them about the god they knew as “the unknown god.” In doing so, he gently tried to convince them that their worship of multiple gods was foolish. He spoke of God as the Creator of a world who could control every event and could not be confined to temples. The Creator does not need to depend on us for happiness. The Creator created life, and so we depend on Him.

Paul developed his theme carefully. He emphasized four points:

  1. As the Creator, God can’t be contained.
  2. As the Originator, God has no needs.
  3. As the Sovereign of the universe, He has a purpose. He is accessible to everyone.
  4. As the source of life, God does not depend on us. We, on the other hand, depend on Him.

Paul applied his message to the needs of the Greeks. God wants people to repent so He can grant them unmerited favour.

After laying the groundwork, Paul moved on to the main point of his message. Jesus has been revealed. His authority was validated when he rose from the dead. Paul introduced the concept of resurrection into the Greeks’ concept of the universe. The Greeks considered the concept of resurrection to be absurd. Paul brings Christ into the picture by pointing out that the Resurrection proves Jesus as God’s Man who will one day judge the world in righteousness.

Standing amid countless idols created by humans, Paul made the point that humanity does not create God. In fact, the Greeks’ own poets had recognized that God created humans, not vice versa.

Everyone can learn about God, and Paul provided the Greeks with the same opportunity. He encouraged the Greeks to search the Scriptures and find the proofs of his existence. They were invited to learn about God’s perfection and His laws. God is near to us because the proofs of his existence and power are all around us.

God’s purpose is for us to seek the Lord, in the hope we will search for Him and find Him. When we look for God, we are looking for a God who is already known to us. He invites us to search for Him, and He promises to reward our search.

How should we defend our faith when people ask us to explain the hope that is in us? We can follow the example Paul used with the Greeks. We can start by acknowledging points of common interest. At the same time, we must hold our ground in matters that strike at the nerve of Christian faith. This is an uneasy, unresolved tension that witnesses to Christ learn to live with.

The gospel sounds different every place it is told, because it is connected linguistically, culturally and personally to humanity. That’s why Paul chose the approach he used when he preached to the Greeks. Paul explained that Jesus fit within basic Greek religious ideas, but Jesus also confounded them by being something new and unfamiliar.

Paul met the Greeks on their own time and at their own place. He set a good example for us as Christians to follow. Instead of expecting people to come to church and learn about God, we can teach them about God by meeting them where they are-at work, at home, in school, in clubs or in groups and so on. We must be involved in our world. In a society where technology and communications change rapidly, we must search for new ways to relate to people (including non-Christians) and preach the Good News.

How can we do this? Well, for example, we can:

  1. Spend time understanding the people who live in this world of new media and communications.
  2. Follow the Twitter feeds and Facebook posts of those who are not Christians. They pay attention to the same social issues and problems that Jesus encountered though His ministry.

For example, James and his wife were at church one Sunday when they noticed a new couple sitting not far from them. After the service, they walked up and greeted them. The new couple asked where they lived, so James described his neighbourhood and talked about how nice it was.

The same question was asked to the new couple, who lamented about where they were living. They said that in the few weeks since they moved in, not one of their neighbours had stopped to say hello.

The two couples parted, got into their cars and drove home. As James and his wife were pulling into their driveway, they were shocked to see the new couple…pulling in the driveway just next to theirs.

Bibliography

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1517-1518)
  2. Swindoll, Charles. R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on Acts (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers; 2016, pp. 348-350)
  3. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  4. Ogilvie, L.J. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 28: Acts (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983, pp. 252-255)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. C. Clifton Black, “Commentary on Acts 17:22-31.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  7. Matt Skinner, “Commentary on Acts 17:22-31.” Retrieved from www.workingpreacher.org
  8. Daniel Clendenin, Ph.D., “From Synagogues and Sanctuaries to Bars and Boardrooms: The Apostle Paul at the Aeropagus.” Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net
  9. The Rev. Hardy Kim, “Proclaiming Christ in the New Aeropagus.” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  10. Dr. Randy Hyde, “Seeker Unsensitive.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  11. “How to be a Light Where God Has You.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  12. Richard Neil Donovan, “Exegesis for Acts 17:22-31.” Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com

John 14:15-21 Our One True Comforter

Hello boys and girls!

Do any of you have a special toy or stuffed animal or blanket? Why are they special?

Boys and girls, all of us have something special that comforts us. For you, it’s a special toy or a favourite stuffed animal or blanket. For many of us adults, it’s something like a doughnut and cup of coffee from our favourite coffee shop! J

The one thing that all of us as believers have is the Holy Spirit. It guides and comforts us, especially when we are sad or having problems. Even the disciples had the Holy Spirit, and they were with Jesus since the start of his ministry. Let me tell you the story.

The disciples were sad because Jesus was going to leave them. He was their friend and teacher. He told them not to be sad, because he was going to send them another helper who would remind them of everything he did, said and taught. That helper’s name was the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would help the disciples grow the church by helping them to do God’s work in the world.

Boys and girls, we can also have the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is believe in Jesus and confess him as our Saviour. If we do, he will send us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will help us to do God’s work in our world. That work can be anything from caring for the sick, helping around the house, or telling other people about Jesus. Are you ready to help Jesus?

Let us bow our heads for a moment of prayer. Dear God, thank you for your love. Thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for us. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. Help us to teach, guide and comfort others, just like you teach, guide and comfort us. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN. ��6�

John 14:15-21 Jesus’ Final Instructions, Part 2

What would qualify a person as a “real Christian?” What daily practices would they have to observe? What would they have to know? These questions and others like them would be interesting topics for an information session or a class for new believers. There is one basic thing that each and every Christian must have to be a real Christian. It is the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-21 is another part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples. Jesus has just told the disciples that he is going to be crucified. Now he is telling them that he will not leave them alone because he will send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will guide them and remind them of everything Jesus said, taught and did. In that sense, Jesus will be with them forever.

The disciples saw the risen Christ and knew the truth about Jesus and his relationship to them. They would live because Jesus lived. In other words, Jesus would live on because of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit would live in the disciples just like the Holy Spirit lives in all believers. Because the Holy Spirit lives in all believers, they will show their love for Jesus by keeping all of his commandments. By keeping his commandments and doing Jesus’ work in our world, the Holy Spirit and Jesus live in all believers.

The Holy Spirit’s role in our lives is the same role the Holy Spirit had in the lives of the disciples. He is a helper, teacher, guide and encourager. He continues to do Jesus’ work. He gives us gifts that are based on the character of Christ. In return, we are to work in the Spirit and obey God.

John 14:15-21 marks a change in the relationship between believers and the world. Until this point, Jesus has defined the world to include all of humanity that is opposed to him because of sin. Now, there arises a difference between the world and those who believe in Jesus. Both groups are opposed to each other.

Those who believe in Jesus and his death and resurrection are inseparable from Jesus, especially through the Holy Spirit. We will see Jesus in heaven, but in the meantime we have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit allows believers to see Jesus even though he is no longer with us. Since we “see” Jesus, it stands to reason that he can “see” us. Therefore, he can see whether or not we are obeying him. As we continue to obey him, our spiritual sight gets stronger.

The Holy Spirit came into the world just like Jesus came into the world, the only difference being that the Holy Spirit could not come until Jesus completed his work of salvation. Just like Jesus is under the authority of God, the Holy Spirit is under the authority of Jesus. Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are the same person, but they are also three different people at the same time. They are like the three sides of a triangle, hence the term “Trinity.”

The Holy Spirit will always stand beside God’s people. The Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Spirit of truth” because truth is part of the nature of the Holy Spirit’s mission. The Holy Spirit testifies to God’s truth and brings people to the truth through conviction that leads to repentance and faith.

When the Holy Spirit is present, Jesus is present. When Jesus is present, God is present. John 14:15-21 helps us to understand the Christian life and God’s will for our lives. It allows us to see things as Christ sees them. The Trinity teaches us to love unconditionally and respect boundaries and roles. John’s Gospel sees love as the key to following Jesus.

At this point in our church year we are getting ready for Pentecost. During these weeks between Easter and Pentecost we have been describing what it means to be a Christian and a church. Jesus’ resurrection has changed us into a people who are living beyond the power of death. The Scripture readings we have heard since Easter Sunday are full of references to the Holy Spirit and the work the Holy Spirit will do among believers. In John 14:12, Jesus said that the disciples would do greater works than he did. That is because Jesus in his human body could only be in one place at one time, whereas the Holy Spirit can dwell within all believers, wherever they are, all the time. To do this, Jesus said in verses 14 to 16 that the disciples would need prayer, obedience and the Holy Spirit. The greater works referred to are the proclamation of the fact of deliverance and the hope and promise of salvation.

God wants to reveal himself to us and he reveals himself to us through Jesus, but only if our hearts belong to Jesus. That’s why Jesus revealed himself to only a select few people after his resurrection. He knew that there were a lot of people who refused to believe that he rose from the dead. In other words, their hearts did not belong to Jesus.

Loving Jesus means wanting him because he is desirable. It means admiring him because he is infinitely admirable. It means treasuring him because he is very valuable. It means enjoying him because he is enjoyable. It means being satisfied with all that he is because he is infinitely satisfying. It is the response of the reawakened human soul to all that is true and good and beautiful and embodied in Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is just like Jesus, so following the Holy Spirit is no different from following Jesus. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit’s leadership is invisible instead of physical. The Holy Spirit is the exact image of both Jesus and God.

No one can produce the love we need to do God’s work except the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will help us obey Jesus’ instructions because it gives us revelation from God’s word. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, he changes us and his love flows from us. This lifestyle of obedience will increase our trust in God. We will be able to commit to obeying God, and our study of the Scriptures will be consistent.

The Holy Spirit can transform us once we understand it. It will help us to model the type of Christian behaviour that we want to teach other people. If our behaviour is unbelievable, we will deceive ourselves in the long run. When the Holy Spirit changes us, we will be able to withstand all of life’s problems. We will have peace in our hearts. We will have hope when we are hurting. This will only be possible when Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the centre of our hearts and thoughts.

No man-made idols will be able to withstand the truth of God’s love if we open our hearts and invite the Holy Spirit to live in us. Money will not make us happy, because the Holy Spirit teaches that happiness can’t be bought. Power and control are not important because the Holy Spirit teaches us that truth, kindness and love are more important.

When the Holy Spirit is in us, it shows that we love Jesus. We must always ask ourselves what the condition of our love for God is. How do we respond to God’s love for us by loving others? We often think of God’s love as being unconditional, but this passage from John’s Gospel concludes with two conditions for receiving God’s love-keeping Jesus’ commandments and loving Jesus. These two conditions are so interdependent that Jesus binds them together as if they were one. When we love Jesus, we will obey his commandments and we will not find them burdensome. On the contrary, we will obey them joyfully, because the Holy Spirit inspires us to go into the world and share God’s love, even if the world can’t or won’t accept this message. The world doesn’t know the Holy Spirit of truth and love yet, but if we allow God’s truth and love to speak through us, the world will know this life-changing, life-saving message.

Bibliography

  1. Exegesis for John 14:15-21. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
  2. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  3. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2010)
  4. Frederikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985)
  5. White, J.E. in Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1998)
  6. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible Software package.
  7. Rick Renner, “Jesus’ Last Lesson for the Disciples”. Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Dr. Charles Stanley, “A Lifestyle of Obedience.” Retrieved from www.intouch,org
  9. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Our Constant Companion.” Retrieved from www.intouch.org
  10. Dick Inness, “Show Me-Don’t Tell Me.” Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
  11. Jim Cymbala, “The Power to Love.” Retrieved from www.billygraham.org
  12. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Taking God’s Hand.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  13. John Piper, “If Anyone Loves Me He Will Keep My Word.” Retrieved from www.desiringgod.org
  14. Dr. Ed Young, “Do You Love Me?” ”. Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  15. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, Sixth Sunday of Easter (A).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
  16. Lectionary Homiletics, Vol. XXV, No. 3 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary; April/May 2014)
  17. Johnathan Shively, “Evangelectionary for Sunday, May 25, 2014.” Retrieved from www.evangelismconnections.com
  18. The Rev. Jason Cox, “Paul: Appealing or Appalling?” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitialnetwork.com