“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
1 Peter 2:11-25 ESV
Church has been different for many people lately. For some, church online has always been normal. For many, irregular attendance due to life’s chaotic circumstances were to be expected. For some, government regulations in other countries have always been a barrier to attending worship services. It is my prayer that we all look at a few aspects of church here from a biblical perspective.
A holy day was established at creation on the seventh day of rest and was enacted in God Himself. It was given to us in the ten commandments and then confirmed in the New Testament. It is not a day for ourselves but a day for His honor and glory. It is for us to worship Him not for our gain (although we do gain in it). It is a day to gather together and to set apart... A day to make our highest priority. Some people don’t understand and that’s alright. Some Christians set other examples but people are not our role models. We have the word of God to teach, rebuke, correct, and train us in righteousness. We are the Church and the Church is Gods, not ours. We are His people the sheep of His pasture. Church is Gods people leaving the world and coming to worship and grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior. Church is not our means of evangelism. Church is not a place to fill empty seats with unsaved souls. Exodus 30:30-33 ESV “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, 'This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. It shall not be poured on the body of an ordinary person, and you shall make no other like it in composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you. Whoever compounds any like it or whoever puts any of it on an outsider shall be cut off from his people.'"”
From the first ‘tent of meeting’ established by God to the first churches in the New Testement, our Lord called His people out of the world for the purpose of worship, sacrifice, and fellowship. We then go into the world proclaiming the gospel to the lost. We know, however. that in all congregations there will be some who visit or who regularly attend who have not been saved and we all are sensitive to them but we don’t change our worship according to the lost. Rather, we worship according to the Lord.
The closest thing we have to heaven on earth is Church. What a joy to praise our King together. Let’s remember our salvation and remember that we are only His church because He is in us. We return to our Lord in service and praise only by His grace. We must never neglect the God who saved us. Fight the sin which keeps you from giving Him all glory and honor and power forever and ever Amen.
“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”
Genesis 2:2-3 ESV
“And the Lord said to Moses, "You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'"”
Exodus 31:12-17 ESV
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”
Hebrews 10:24-26 ESV
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Colossians 3:14-16 ESV
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV
We all want heaven. If offered to us we’d likely accept it. In fact, many of us believe this offer has been made in some way or another and that we will in fact find our way there some day.
But what if, hypothetically, I gave you 2 choices...
"If anyone comes to me (Jesus) and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
What/ Who do you love and live for? Has there been a time when you put everything last in order to make Christ first? He says you might look salty for a while but you are good for nothing to Him if He isn’t everything to you. My dear dear dear friends don’t be fooled by a partial love for God! The world in one hand and Christ in another won’t bring you to glory. He is a jealous God. Christ laid down His life and you must do the same before He gives you a new one. Test yourself friend. Have you paid the cost? Is His Spirit in you? Are you salty according to the Bible? Will you be in heaven or will you be throne away? Heaven is an offer. Come.
THE GREATEST GIFT
“For, the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God Is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”
-Romans 6: 23
(1) “THE WAGES”
-A wage is what you earn for what you do.
-If you work a job you might earn money.
-If you drive too fast you earn a speeding ticket.
-It’s what you deserve for your actions…
(2) “OF SIN”
-Sin is all the wrong things you do.
-Sin is not doing the good you know you should.
〉”For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3: 23
-Sin isn’t only bad because of the people it hurts, it’s bad because of the holy God it offends.
-Holiness isn’t just perfection, it’s unlike anything we could imagine. To bring our sin into His presence would cause unimaginable fear. (Isaiah 6: 1-7) (Exodus 33: 17-23, 29-35) (2 Samuel 6: 1-7) (Revelation 5: 11-14)
〉“Against You (Lord), You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You may be justified in Your words and blameless in Your judgment.” Psalms 51:4
(3) “IS DEATH”
-The physical result of our sin is a physical death.
-We have corrupted our bodies and world with sickness and disease by rebelling in sinful desires instead of trusting in God’s beautiful design for His creation.
-The spiritual result of sin is spiritual death (hell).
-God’s righteous judgment against a life of sin and perpetual rebellion to Him is hell.
〉“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” Rom. 2:4-5
(So, what we earn for sin is hell)...
-Aren’t you glad there’s a “but”!
(5) “THE FREE GIFT OF GOD”
-Our holy God, good to enact justice on the sinner, is also full of mercy and grace. He provided a gift.
-Opposite of the wage we’ve earned, the gift is not earned or deserved, it is given by God.
-The gift is free but it was bought at the highest price. (His Son’s life)
-The gift is free but it‘s received at the highest cost. (Surrendering our life)
(6) “IS ETERNAL LIFE”
-Eternal life is for everyone: The righteous (redeemed) to heaven and the wicked (unredeemed) to hell.
〉“Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed His name. “They shall be mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves Him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.” Malachi 3: 16-18
-If you don’t long for the presence of the Lord now you would hate it in heaven.
-If you don’t love the presence of the Lord now, He won’t bring you into it for all eternity.
-God’s Holy Spirit can give you that desire... so there is still hope.
(7) “THROUGH CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD”
-Jesus Christ, both Son of God and Lord of all, creator of the universe and God in the flesh came to earth to live a perfect life, die, and raised to life again 3 days later.
-He satisfied the wrath of God the Father against sin.
-Jesus justified those whose sins He paid for as they are credited with His righteousness through faith in Him.
〉“...without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9: 22b
〉“He himself (Jesus) bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2: 24
〉“In Him (Jesus) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (sins), according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” Ephesians 1: 7
〉 “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Corinthians 5:15
〉“ For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 18
(So, how do we receive the gift of life through Jesus?)...
〉 “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. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10
〉“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. I (Jesus) have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness.” John 12: 25 & 46
〉”For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8: 13-14
〉“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1: 21
〉“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,” Acts 3: 19-20
〉"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.“ John 3: 16
(So, what is our response to this gift?)...
*** Repent: Turn from a love of self and a trusting in the things of this world to a love and trust in Christ alone. Ask God for forgiveness and turn from all sin for which Christ died. Surrender your whole life completely to Jesus in words, actions, and the truth of your heart. He is worthy and your new life will never be the same, eternally secure, in the hands of the One who created you, loves you, redeemed you, and holds you forever. ***
You could be a middle class white man addicted to alcohol and food. You could be a black man addicted to drugs and women. You could be a rich Asian woman addicted to prescription pills and ‘likes’ on social media. You could be a teenage kid addicted to perfect grades and perfect hair. You could be a newlywed wife who longs only for her husband and nothing else. You could be a dad who’s cell phone might as well be glued to his hands and eyes. Addictions are idols. And often addictions are disguised as good things. We see the homeless druggie so differently than the rich Wall Street banker who’s nearly abandoned everything and everyone for money, career success, and notoriety. But they are exactly the same. They’ve created an idol where God should be. God’s first commandment is, “You must have no other gods before Me.” ...and that’s exactly what idols are, they’re gods.
I had countless gods. Of course I’d never call them that because I’d always believed in Jesus, aways trusted Him as savior for my sins, but I never gave Him Lordship over my life... And if I had died I’d hear the same thing Jesus said in Matthew 7:23. That many people will expect to get into heaven but He will say to them, “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.” It’s true that I felt guilty for bad things I did but it was usually because it hurt me or people I loved (which really, ultimately, came back to hurting me). I wasn’t grieving over the pain I caused Christ when I sinned. I’d turn to Him for help and escape as relief. But I wasn’t submitting my life to Him, I was asking him to add on to mine. The Lord wasn’t my God, He was one of my gods. It wasn’t until my salvation that I layed down my love of this world and began to really love the sacrifice of self in exchange for the gain of Christ. Now, He who began this work in me at salvation has continued it and will complete it. He is alive in me and will not bring false witness to His name. So, I can surly trust I am in good hands, the hands of my redeemer.
I pray for you: Turn from your sins. Throw away your idols. Christ is sufficient and all together worthy.
Salvation happens when God turns our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. His Spirit changes our desires, freeing us from the bondage of sin and enslaving us to the bondage of righteousness. We repent of our sin and turn to Christ in faith as we begin to hate the sin we once enjoyed and long after the things of God which we once neglected. He will prove His work of justification by His work of sanctification through or new life as we confess and live out Christ as our Lord.
Should we be desiring salvation for the sake of our heavenly home?
Should we believe in Jesus for what He gives us or believe in Jesus for the sake of His worth?
We were walking over to to invite some neighbors to church and I asked my kids, “Why do you think we want to invite people to church?”
They responded with something like, “To tell them about Jesus.”
I began to ask, “Why do we want them to know about Jesus?”
I thought this teaching moment leading to “saving souls” and “getting people to heaven” would settle fine in my heart but it didn’t. In that moment I instantly changed my trajectory. Instead I said God was worthy. He was worthy of more praise and more glory and more people to call His own... People who see His holiness and bow in awe of His majesty. More people for Him not Him for more people.
Come, all, fall on your knees, He is to be glorified. Come all who hear the glorious gospel and join in the choir of angels. Don’t you see His majesty? Praise His holy name. I don’t only want heaven for the sinner; I want multitudes of praises added in the heavens for all eternity for our King.
Christians, let’s not merely be soul winners, let’s proclaim the gospel for His glory. He is worthy.
I grew up believing in Christ’s death on the cross for my sins. My parents weren’t Christians but they sent me to a school which inundated me with preaching from the Bible and I loved it. I prayed for salvation in second grade with my favorite teacher but I knew in my heart I had already believed for years. Every week of my life I pleaded with my mom and dad that they also would accept Him, believe in Him, and receive the free gift of eternal life in heaven instead of their inevitable eternity in hell. As an adult I went on to work in the very same Christian school which taught me about Jesus. A couple years later, at a new nanny job, I almost got fired for preaching to and praying with the kids in my care. I went on a short-term mission trip to Sierra Leone to dig a well and share the gospel. I started a ministry to ladies having abortions. Faithfully week after week I showed up to guide these women and their family’s to Christ centered help in hopes that they might receive Christ as their savior. I knew Jesus was the only way to heaven and I knew He would forgive anything... All because I believed He was constantly forgiving me.
You see I was steeped in sin. I needed sin just to get through the day. My eternity was saved through Christ (so I thought) but my life was upheld through sin. The preacher told us if we claim Christ how could we not have read the very book which we based our life on? “Good idea,” I thought, and I read the Bible cover to cover. The preacher would emphasize church attendance... “Good idea,” I thought, and I faithfully showed up. The preacher would give a challenge to pray more. “Good idea,” I thought, and I prayed and prayed until I soon forgot to. “Read this or that devotional every morning,” the preacher would say and so I did until I got too busy. I wanted to live for Christ because I believed He had the best for me and yet I was unwilling to give up my idols for Him.
I lived a lie... A lie I didn’t know I was living. It was all trash. Every moment I believed in God I idolized the world. I never put God first. Everything was me, me, me. I needed my horrendous sins because I was empty. I never saw Gods law as freedom, it was the unattainable drudgery beneath my feet which I had to trample over in order to get to my true gods, my sin. It was a thorn in my side. It was a reminder of all that I wasn’t able to be because sin was my true god. What a discrace I was as I reveled in myself while proclaiming Christ as my savior. All that work I was so proud of was done in rebellion to God. It was the propping up of a dead person. Dead in sin. A dead and lifeless rebel.
I only bring up the ‘good’ works I performed to show how lost and useless I truly was. Everything I did, I did for myself and the selfish desire to save from hell those who I put before God... And no one ever rebuked me! No one ever told me that if I had been born again the fruit of the God who lives inside would never allow this disgrace. If I am an image bearer of God himself, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and a new creature He wouldn’t dare bring this shame to His glory. No one ever told me that to live is to die. To be born again I must lay down my very self for the most unworthy privilege of gaining Christ.
I thought I was saved. I thought I loved God. I wanted the world to know, “Christ is the only way to heaven!” “He loves you!” I proclaimed. “Accept salvation!” I’d plead. All the while He was never enough for me. God had a place in my heart along side all the idols of my world. He shared me with the things and people that I truly needed and used to get through my days. But Christ didn’t want a place in my heart, He wanted me to give up my heart in order that He might give me a new one. Christ was not my ruler. He was never sufficient for me. I longed after the world, I needed it to make me feel whole... a mere place holder for God. I had no idea that I lived a lie. I thought I could try harder and live better with His help in me but I never had His help. I was empty, separated from the Father, relentlessly adding to the shame and pain Jesus bore on the cross with my outlandish sins. I used God for heaven and used the things of this world for my life. I was dead and had no idea that a Holy God doesn’t share. I struggled day after day, year after year to live up to my calling as a perceived child of God all the while certain of my salvation; All the while dead in my sins. I believed Christ died for my sake yet I was unwilling to die to my sins for His sake. I took the part of the gospel that told me, “Christ did all the work and now you’re free,” but I neglected the part of the gospel which required my very life. I didn’t know.
I didn’t know until He came and asked of me my life...
I had spent another year in total rebellion to God. I was exhausted. I was praying and He came. I felt Christ tell me to lay down my sin and walk in obedience to Him. I said, “I can’t. I need........” But Christ spoke so clearly to my heart saying, “I am sufficient for you.” He brought to my mind the moment before he was taken away to die. He was praying and asked His disciples, His friends, to stay awake, to stay alert, and to pray for His sake. But each time He came back, Christ found them asleep. Three times He pleaded for their faithfulness but three times He found them asleep, all just moments before He willingly laid down His life for them. Christ reminded me that just as His Heavenly Father was sufficient for Him, so He is sufficient for me in my hardest struggle. Nothing is a more firm hand to hold than that of Christ Himself. As Christ had His Father when all else failed in some of His darkest moments, so also I had to lay down my hope in the things of this world and put my life in the hands of Christ alone. I’ve never regretted turning from my sin and resting in Him as Lord.
He convicted my heart with truth found in His word, and how very grateful I am that He did. There’s nothing in this world we need if we have Christ, and nothing in this world to desire if God has given us a new heart. And so I laid it all down for the blessed privilege of picking Him up. The truth I now know is that all my sins, my copping idols, were trash in comparison to the joyful treasure of being filled with the Holy Spirit. The difference then and now is the Holy Spirit. Every desire in my flesh is selfish sin leading to death but every desire of the Holy Spirit is righteousness leading to life for His own glory. Before I would seek Him and try to desire what He calls us to do. Now, I couldn’t escape His desires for holiness if I tried. It’s all His supernatural work in me. Through Christ I have what this world can never offer (and I’ve searched). It’s a peace that passes understanding... It’s enduring this world, with joy, for the reward set before me... It’s an eager expectation that one day I will rid myself of this flesh which would dare inflict pain on Christ and shame on my Holy Holy Holy LORD. My hope is complete. I rest secure in the outcome of my repentance and faith through Christ Jesus, who has called me out of darkness and into His light. I am a new creature now and I can’t get enough of Him. He who is finally alive in me draws me to Himself. Nothing is work anymore. To know Him more and more is my very water, food, and breath. I, in myself, am a faithless failure but He in me is life abundant. This is freedom...to know my purpose (the daily, joy-filled, glorification of our Lord) and to have already attained the goal of my faith (my undeserved home in heaven as I praise Him forever).
Holy God you are more than sufficient. All blessing and honor and glory to my Father, my Savior, my King.
“When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Oh my soul, what a burden I am.
And God, why do you long for me?
What a disgrace I will be to heaven.
What shame I carry to your name.
Release this weight of sin from your goodness.
Take your badge of grace off this wretched image.
How disgusted I am to bring dishonor to glory.
Though, as I long to rid your world of my iniquity,
You will nonetheless bring this waist to freedom.
Let me go.
I deserve what I should have payed the price for.
Take your honor and your glory and throw me to the fire.
This blackened stain should have no place as your witteness.
No place should I have to retreat when life finally ends.
Take back what I should never have owned;
Give your gift to those who will do you justice.
Look away and never back.
How could I be yours?
Forgive me not and cast me down to where I deserve.
Be glorified oh my God.
Oh God, I am your abomination.
I want nothing to do with your disgrace.
Leave me and be holy.
Be faithful to all yet faithless to me.
I could never deserve You.
Help me, dear God.
That I would receive your mercy’s.
That I would dwell in the cross.
That I would live in redemption.
That I would rest in your blood.
That your reconciliation would be my strength.
That I might not hide from my Father...
But be seen and free.