Tuesday, October 27, 2015

We Are the Family of God

Part 1 of We Are the Church

Text: Ephesians 2:19

You can listen to this sermon here.



“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19). 


What's a Metaphor?

In the NT, there are several metaphors for the church. A metaphor is “a word or phrase for one thing that is used to refer to another thing in order to show or suggest that they are similar” [1] (e.g., “The exam was a piece of cake.”) In this series, we’re going to examine four metaphors for the church. The church is (1) the family of God, (2) the temple of the Holy Spirit, (3) the bride of Christ, and (4) the body of Christ. In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, all four of these church metaphors are found (see 2:18-22; 4:11-16; 5:25-27).


The Church Is Not a Place 

We often say, “I’m going to the church,” but the church is not a place; it’s a group of people. In the NT, the Greek word that’s translated “church” is ekklesia, which literally means “assembly,” or “gathering.” A church building is where a church meets. [2]

When we think of the church as a building, there is the danger that Christianity becomes compartmentalized. When Christianity is compartmentalized, we “look at Sunday as the totality of the Church experience.” [3] But wherever we go, we are the church. Wherever we go, we are to take the love of Christ with us.


One Family

Paul writes that the Ephesian believers (i.e., the church at Ephesus) are “members of the household of God” (2:19). Why is the church called the family of God?

God is our Father, and we are brothers and sisters.

We find the family metaphor throughout Ephesians:

  • God “predestined us for adoption as sons [and daughters] through Jesus Christ” (1:5). 
  • “Through [Jesus] we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18). 
  • We are united because we all have “one God and Father” (4:6). 
  • Paul refers to other believers as “brothers” (6:23). 

Being called members of God’s family would give the Ephesians (mostly Gentiles) a sense of belonging.


Family Likeness

Paul writes, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children” (5:1). We are God’s “beloved children.” The Greek word for “beloved” (agapetos) was often used to describe an only child. God has millions of sons and daughters, but he is able to extend his love to each of his children as if he or she was his only child.

As children of God, we are to imitate him.

How do we imitate our heavenly Father? We are to be people of love. If it were not for God’s love (i.e., the giving of Christ for us), we would not be his children.


Family Responsibilities

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he writes, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). We all know that we have the responsibility of caring for our family members. As Christians, we also have the responsibility of caring for our church family.

As brothers and sisters in God’s family, we have the responsibility to care for one another. 

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). How can we care for one another? There are many ways: (1) pray for one another (instead of gossiping); (2) offer to help others (e.g., a widow) with a need; (3) invite people into your home.


Not Just Individuals

A church is not to be just a group of individuals; it’s a family. God is our Father, and we are brothers and sisters. When we leave our church building, we shouldn’t forget about each other until the following Sunday. We have a responsibility to care for one another throughout the week. 


[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/metaphor
[2] In the NT, “church” can refer to either a local church or the universal church (i.e., all believers throughout the world).
[3] Carl Jones, “When We Think of the Church as a Building,” http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/when-we-think-church-building

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

There Is No Middle Ground

Part 26 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 7:13-29

You can listen to this sermon here.



“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (vv. 13-14). 


Middle Ground 

Sometimes it’s good to take the middle ground. For example, in politics it can be helpful to take the middle ground between two extreme positions. But when it comes to following Jesus, there is no middle ground.


There Are Only Two Roads

Many people want to live in the middle ground (e.g., “I believe in Jesus, but I’m not religious”). What does Jesus say to people who want to live in the middle ground? Here’s what he says: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (vv. 13-14). In other words, there is no middle ground.

You’re either on the road that leads to life and the road that leads to destruction, so make sure you’re on the right road. 

People don’t like to hear about hell. But if there is a hell and it can be avoided, my conscience demands that I share the truth. It’s often said that Jesus—known for his compassion—talked more about hell than any other person in the Bible.


The Right Road

How do we make sure we’re on the right road? This is the most important question in life. It’s a question about our eternal destinies!

1. We must do a 180. 

When Jesus began his public ministry, he announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). To “repent” means to turn (i.e., do a 180 degree turn). To get on the narrow road, we must turn from our sin (i.e., repent) and turn to Jesus (i.e., put our faith in him).

2. We get confirmation that we’re on the right road by our actions. 

Notice the emphasis Jesus places on our actions:

  • “You will recognize [false prophets] by their fruits (v. 16). 
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (v. 21). 
  • “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (v. 24). 

But we shouldn’t interpret Jesus’ words to mean that we work our way into the kingdom of God. We enter God’s kingdom by faith alone (Eph. 2:8-9), but faith results in works (Eph. 2:10).


The Road Jesus Traveled

Jesus came to earth to go to the cross. He declared, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). “For” means “in the place of.” Jesus died in our place so that we could escape sin’s consequences (i.e., hell).

People often ask, “If God loves us, why do people go to hell?” There had to be atonement for sin. If God could simply overlook sin, why did Jesus die on a cross?


Life's Biggest Question

We often spend a lot of time thinking about lesser questions (e.g., "Will I have enough money for retirement?")

There is no question more important than “Am I on the road that leads to heaven?”

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Grateful Heart

A Thanksgiving Sermon

Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15



You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God (v. 11). 


Gratitude List

Have you noticed that we’re good at noticing the bad things that happen to us, but we often take the good things for granted? (We often say, “That’s just my luck!” thinking we have an unusual amount of bad luck.) A good practice (not just on Thanksgiving Day) is to make a list of the good things in our lives (i.e., a gratitude list). When we focus on the good things, our perspectives will change.


God Is a Giver

The song “Count Your Blessings” says, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” But it shouldn’t surprise us. Why should we have grateful hearts? 

We should have grateful hearts because God has given to us an inexpressible gift. 

The apostle Paul concludes his section on giving by praising God for the gift he has given us: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (v. 15). Human words are unable to express how amazing God’s gift is. And what is God’s “inexpressible gift”? It is Jesus (and salvation through his death).

“God loves a cheerful giver” (v. 7) because God is a giver. “Every good and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). People who see God as a taker don’t have grateful hearts.


The Benefits of a Grateful Heart

Being grateful has many benefits. In this passage, we see two benefits of having a grateful heart.

1. If we have grateful hearts, we will have generous hearts. 

Paul writes, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (v. 11a). Notice that he says we are “enriched in every way” not merely so that we can have more but that we can give more (“to be generous in every way”). Of course, God doesn’t enrich us with only material blessings but also with spiritual blessings. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Gratefulness for God’s grace produces generosity.

2. If we have generous hearts, others will have grateful hearts. 

Our generosity not only helps others; it also can result in people giving thanks to God. Paul says that the gift of money for the believers in Jerusalem “will produce thanksgiving to God” (v. 11b). Paul writes, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (v. 12). God is glorified when we give. And doesn’t God deserve to be glorified? He has given us an inexpressible gift!


Gaining by Giving

We often think of giving as losing something (e.g., losing money, time), but we should really view generous giving as a gain. What do we gain? The joy of helping others and glorifying God. But we won’t see giving as a gain unless we have grateful hearts.

Every child of God can write a long gratitude list, and at the top of the list is God’s inexpressible gift!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Different

Part 25 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 7:12

You can listen to this sermon here.



“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (v. 12). 



Can You Spot the Difference? 

When I was a kid, I liked to play Spot the Difference games. Sometimes it can be difficult to spot the differences.


How are followers of Jesus to be different?

We are to be different by being people of love. 

Jesus says, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (v. 12). That’s love, and it’s not easy. “This simple principle would by itself revitalize human relationship if people everywhere were to begin to live by it.” [1] “Others” includes anyone. Remember what Jesus said in 5:44: “Love your enemies.” People usually treat others as they are treated (e.g., if you insult me, I’ll insult you). [2]


It's All About Love

Jesus declares that doing good to others (i.e., being a person of love) “is the Law and the Prophets.” In other words, it’s the essence of the Law and the Prophets. “The Law and the Prophets” refers to the Old Testament. Later in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says that on two commandments “depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:40). What are these two commandments? First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (v. 37). Second, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39; cf. Lev. 19:18). [3]

If you’re wondering how you should act, remember one word: love. 

The apostle Paul writes, “The one who loves has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8). Obeying God’s commands can be difficult, but knowing what we should do isn’t complicated. Love is the answer. Paul adds, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8).


So Where Do We Get the Love? 

The word “so” at the beginning of verse 12 points back to verse 11, which says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” If I believe that God will graciously give me all the good things I need, then I “will have the inner freedom and impulse to live the Golden Rule.” [4]


Your Will Recognize Them by Their Fruits 

Jesus states, “You will recognize [false prophets] by their fruits” (vv. 16, 20). “Their fruits” refers to the way they live. Someone who knowingly is a false teacher lacks love. “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22).

Can people spot the difference with you? Are you a person of love?


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, 265.
[2] To love someone doesn’t mean we always have to accept their behaviour (see v. 5). Sometimes doing good to someone requires correcting him when he does something wrong.
[3] Earlier, Jesus had said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17).
[4] John Piper, “The Spring of Persistent Public Love,” http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-spring-of-persistent-public-love.