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Philippians 4.10-14 – Is Christ the source of your contentment?
September 5, 2021. Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Call to worship: “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.” Psalm 18:30–32 (NIV)
Song: #404 “The Solid Rock”
Verse 1 – My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness I dare not trust the sweetest frame But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
Chorus – On Christ the solid Rock I stand All other ground is sinking sand All other ground is sinking sand
Verse 2 – When darkness veils His lovely face I rest on His unchanging grace In ev’ry high and stormy gale My anchor holds within the veil
Verse 3 – His oath His covenant His blood Support me in the whelming flood When all around my soul gives way He then is all my hope and stay
Verse 4 – When He shall come with trumpet sound O may I then in Him be found Dressed in His righteousness alone Faultless to stand before the throne.
CCLI Song # 25417 Edward Mote | William Batchelder Bradbury © Words: Public Domain
What throws your life off balance? Being late, forgetting an appointment or when the coffee shop running out of your favorite treat? It’s surprising how little it takes sometimes to knock our life out of balance.
Last week we “listened: as the Apostle Paul in Philippians chapter 1 assured his good friends that Rome’s chains had not stopped God’s work. God was using him to encourage the local believers and to take the Gospel to the palace guards. Paul was focused on what God was doing, rather than on defending his reputation from attack. In Philippians 1:18 he tells us he rejoices anytime Christ is preached.
An attitude of rejoicing may not be expected from someone imprisoned solely for telling people about Jesus Christ. We might let the injustice of our situation dominate our thoughts and yet rejoicing is a theme Paul returns to three more times in this brief letter (3:1, 4:4, 10). How can Paul rejoice and claim contentment when he is in chains simply for proclaiming the Gospel of Christ? “Listen” as Paul explains his source of contentment as he thanks the Philippians believers for their encouraging support. Notice that Paul tells us contentment is something which he learned and therefore something we can learn as well. Philippians 4:10–14: “10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (NIV)
Paul had discovered contentment through learning that Christ Jesus can supply the strength he need for every situation. In case you are wondering what kinds of situations the Apostle Paul had faced in his service to Christ listen to 2 Corinthians 11:23b-27: “24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” 2 Corinthians 11:23b–27 (NIV). That Paul could remain content through all these terrible hardship raises the question: How does one access Christ’s strength?
How do I access Christ’s strength?
- By trusting only in what Christ Jesus has done for me & not my own attempts to please God.
Philippians 3:1–3 “1 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. 3 For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort,” (NLT).
- By actively trusting in Jesus as my Saviour.
Philippians 3:20–4:1 “20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 1 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.” (NLT).
- By bringing ALL my concerns to him in trustful prayer.
Philippians 4:4–7 “4 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! 5 Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT).
- By guarding what my mind dwells on, and doing what the Lord has shown me is right. Philippians 4:8–9 “8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (NLT).
Virtually every advertisement directed towards you is the world’s attempt to help you find some contentment. Where are you looking for your contentment? Is Christ Jesus the source of your contentment? The Apostle Paul’s contentment came from a living, growing relationship with his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus willingly laid down his life so you and I could live, as we follow him as our life leader and sinner forgiver. Are you following Jesus? He is the only source of eternal contentment!
Responsive Reading #200: God’s amazing grace
People: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Worship Leader: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
People: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Worship Leader: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
People: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
Worship Leader: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
John 1:16–17; 13:1; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Ephesians 2:4–5; 1 John 4:9–10 (NIV84)
Closing hymn: #379 – Take my life and let it be
Verse 1 – Take my life and let it be Consecrated Lord to Thee Take my moments and my days Let them flow in ceaseless praise Let them flow in ceaseless praise
Verse 2 – Take my will and make it Thine It shall be no longer mine Take my heart it is Thine own It shall be Thy royal throne
Verse 3 – Take my love my Lord I pour At Thy feet its treasure store Take myself and I will be Ever only all for Thee Ever only all for Thee
Benediction: Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NLT)
To listen to this message visit: Podbean or call our Dial-a-sermon number for the weekly sermon: 1-306-985-9001 (this is a Regina number and long distance charges may apply).
Philippians 1:12-26. The power of a God centred perspective.
August 29, 2021. Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Call to Worship: “5 The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: 6 He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. 7 Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. 8 He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—his death on the cross. 9 For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. 10 And so, in honour of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, 11 and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5–11 (GNB).
Opening song: #513 “O how he loves you and me”
Oh how He loves you and me. Oh how He loves you and me. He gave His life, What more could He give? Oh how He loves you, Oh how He loves me. Oh how He loves you and me.
Jesus to Calv’ry did go, His love for sinners to show. What He did there brought hope from despair! Oh how He loves you, Oh how He loves me. Oh how He loves you and me.
A shoe salesman was sent to a remote part of the country. When he arrived, he was dismayed because everyone was barefooted. He contacted his company, “No prospect for sales. People don’t wear shoes here.” Later another salesman went to the same territory. He too immediately sent word to the home office, “Great potential! People don’t wear shoes here!” Everything depends on our perspective. It’s amazing how our view of things can impact how we respond!
Is how I respond in a difficult situation really a result of my view of it? If so, what would that look like? To answer both of these questions we are going to turn in our Bibles to the letter of Philippians to learn from the Apostle Paul. Paul & his team had planted the church in Philippi and their relationship remained close. These Christians were disheartened to learn that Paul had been confined to a Roman prison, seemingly putting an end to his ministry. They, like us at times, may have questioned why God didn’t stop this from happening. Paul writes to assure the Philippian believers that God’s plans had not been blocked; rather God was doing something through Paul’s captivity greater than any of them had imagined!
Listen to chapter 1:12-26: 12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. 17 Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. 18 But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. 26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me. Philippians 1:12–26 (NLT)
When dealing with difficulties we tend to see things through the lens of self – “Why is this happening to me?” “Why has our ministry been stifled?” Paul wants readers of his letter to the Philippians to realize that his imprisonment is not a hindrance to God’s plan; rather it is part of his grand plan to reach the whole world with the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Paul wants his readers to learn to see even life’s challenges through the lens of our God at work through us.
In his book, Basic Christian Discipleship, Billy Beacham tells of a woman who complained to her pastor about her situation at work. The pastor then asked the woman: “Where do you put lights?” Those five words totally changed her perspective and her attitude. Instead of viewing herself as a victim, she became a victor and began reaching out to others in love. Paul is demonstrating that:
- A Proper Perspective Transforms Our Circumstances (vv. 12–13). The apostle Paul wanted to travel to share the gospel, but he is locked up. The world needed his message, but the message appeared imprisoned by his chains. He wanted to go to Rome as a preacher; instead he went as a prisoner. Yet notice how Paul’s perspective transformed his circumstances. Rather than sulk and curse his shackles he communicated with those God sent to him, his captors. As a result he writes, “12 And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. 13 For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ.”
Paul was confined, yet this physical captivity was providing Paul with the opportunity to communicate the Good News in places where normally he would have had no access. We might wonder why God is not working things out like we planned them, but instead of complaining, look around at the situation he has placed you in; it is likely that place needed a light. A proper perspective does not complain about what God does not do, but trusts that he knows what he is doing whether you get to see the results or not.
- A Proper Perspective Transforms Relationships (vv. 14–18).
Trusting that God was working out his plan to reach the lost, Paul was able to rejoice, not in the motives of those who considered him a rival, but in the fact that Christ was being preached! In spite of of their motives, their message was orthodox, they preached Christ! Rather than focus on his pain and their faulty motivation, Paul looked at the God sized picture and rejoiced that Christ was preached, and that sinners were being saved. A God focused perspective will allow you to view your critics’ actions in a different light. It puts a positive spin on every circumstance—not an unrealistic one, but one that accounts for God’s providence, presence, promises, and power to work out his grand salvation plan no matter what!
Philip Comfort in the Cornerstone biblical commentary writes: Paul’s life did not center on himself and his personal happiness but on Jesus Christ and his work (see 1:21). Thus, despite peoples’ motives, Paul was happy that Christ was being proclaimed. Drawing attention to Christ, for whatever reason, was doing some good. Herein emerges one of the dominant themes in this epistle—namely, that a servant of Christ serves Christ and his message more than himself or herself. What is most important in this world is that Christ is being proclaimed. Let God be the judge of people’s motives. Our duty is to proclaim Christ.
- A Proper Perspective Transforms Uncertainties (vv. 19–26).
Paul knew God loved him and had called him. As a Christian and as an Apostle he knew that persecution because of his faith in Jesus was to be expected. For that reason, what he was experiencing did not shake his faith, nor did he want it to shake the faith of his readers, so he reminds all of us to keep a God centred focus.
In verse 19 Paul writes: “19 For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance.” Paul’s assurance that his problems would work for good was not simply a matter of positive thinking. It was Christ’s strength, not his own, that empowered him and would lead to his deliverance (v. 19); keep him from shame (v. 20); and give him boldness to honor Christ in life or death (v. 20). Then he gives the key verse that summarizes and explains his whole perspective on life: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (v. 21). Physical death for a Christian is not the end; it is the doorway to eternity with Christ, so Paul did not fear it. However, for the Philippians’ sake, Paul was willing to continue ministry in this life (along with its hardships) if that was God’s plan.
As we have seen, a God centred perspective transforms how we view our circumstances, our relationships and our uncertainties. How do I get a God centred perspective that can withstand things like the Apostle Paul was dealing with? Yes, it involves what you believe, but this depth of trust develops out of a growing relationship with God. Pastor Tim Keller suggests three hallmarks of a growing relationship with God along with some questions for personal evaluation:
1 – The Evidence of God’s presence in my life.
- How real has God been this week to my heart?
- How clear and vivid is my assurance and certainty of God’s forgiveness and fatherly love. To what degree is that real to me right now?
- Am I having any particular seasons of sweet delight in God? Do I really sense his presence in my life? Do I really sense him giving me his love?
2 – The Evidence of Scripture changing me:
- Have I been finding Scripture to be alive and active?
- Am I finding certain biblical promises extremely precious and encouraging? Which ones?
- Am I finding God’s calling me or challenging me to something through the word? In what ways?
3 – The Evidence of a growing appreciation for God’s mercy:
- Am I finding God’s grace more glorious and moving now than I have in the past?
- Am I conscious of a growing sense of the evil of my heart, and in response, a growing dependence on and grasp of the preciousness of the mercy of God?
Closing song: “Jesus, Thy boundless love to me” – same tune as #279 “Faith of our Fathers”. Music Link: https://youtu.be/5SqA3BZJdbg
Verse 1 – Jesus Thy boundless love to me No tho’t can reach, no tongue declare; O knit my thankful heart to Thee, And reign without a rival there! Thine wholly thine alone, I am; Be Thou alone my constant flame.
Verse 2 – O grant that nothing in my soul May dwell, but Thy pure love alone; O may Thy love possess me whole, My joy, my treasure, and my crown! All coldness from my heart remove; May ev’ry act, and thought, be love.
Verse 3 – O love how gracious is Thy way, All fear before Thy presence flies; Anguish and sorrow melt away, Where’er Thy healing beams arise, O Jesus nothing may I see, nothing desire or seek but Thee!
Closing Prayer: You have been given every good gift for proclaiming God’s presence and God’s love. The world is thirsting for this good news. People struggle for words of hope and peace. As you have been blessed, now go to be a blessing in God’s Name. AMEN.
 Hoehner, H. W., Comfort, P. W., & Davids, P. H. (2008). Cornerstone biblical commentary: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, Philemon. (Vol. 16, p. 160). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
To listen to this message visit: Podbean or call our Dial-a-sermon number for the weekly sermon: 1-306-985-9001 (this is a Regina number and long distance charges may apply).
- Pastor Robert is on holidays August 15 & 22, therefore there will be no messages added to the website or dial-a sermon on those Sundays.
Call to worship: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4–7 (CSB).
Hymn: #461 He leadeth me
Verse 1 – He leadeth me O blessed thought O words with heavenly comfort fraught Whate’er I do where’er I be Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me
Chorus – He leadeth me He leadeth me By His own hand He leadeth me His faithful follower I would be For by His hand He leadeth me
Verse 2 – Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom By water’s calm o’er troubled sea Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me
Verse 3 – Lord I would clasp Thy hand in mine Nor ever murmur nor repine Content whatever lot I see Since ’tis my God that leadeth me
Verse 4 – And when my task on earth is done When by Thy grace the victory’s won E’en death’s cold waves I would not flee Since Thou through Jordan leadeth me
Today’s message is entitled, “How to overcome the BLUES.” It is likely that all over us can identify with the blues, with feeling down when you don’t quite know why you may feel that way. I encourage you to not ignore “the blues” but to treat them like a warning light, like the “check engine” light that comes on in today’s cars. A check engine light doesn’t tell you what’s wrong, but it alerts you to a potential issue that you should look into. Christian, when you begin to experience the blues, check in with the Lord to see what’s up – ask him in prayer. Evaluate three areas, your health, your heart and your head.
Your health greatly influences how you are feeling; ask yourself, is something not right? Am I getting enough rest, food and exercise? If something seems off with your health do not ignore it, get your Doctors and health care providers involved.
Your heart, as in your spiritual heart. When you go to the Lord in prayer examine your spiritual state. Is everything okay between you and the Lord? Sin creates a division between yourself and God. Sin not only disrupts your relationship with the Lord, sin within your heart also messes up your other relationships. Discern if there is some sin you need to address and deal with it, bringing it before the Lord in confession. Ask for his forgiveness then seek his wisdom on how to proceed to avoid falling back into that sin: For example: Is there need of confession to those impacted? Should there be restitution for my actions? Do I need to seek out accountability partners to help me avoid this sin again?
If you see that your health and relationship with the Lord are good, yet you are feeling blue, (the warning light is still on) then check:
Your head, as in your thought process. Ask yourself “What’s going on in my head? What am I spending my thought energy on?” Also ask yourself “What’s going into my head? What am I allowing into my mind?” Who are you listening to, reading, or watching? Are these thoughts ultimately impacting my emotions?
The Bible, God’s Word to us, understands our struggle and has answers to help us. Listen to Psalm 42:5: “Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God— soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God.” Psalm 42:5 (The Message).
Christian, God can help you overcome the B-L-U-E-S if you will:
1. B-elieve the Positive
Don’t make the mistake of allowing your thoughts to be consumed with all that’s wrong with the world, they see the glass as always half empty and for no good reason! Some people seem to look for, listen to, and concentrate on all the bad things that are happening around them. If we listen to them, we might conclude that there is no point trying to live a life which pleases God because it won’t do any good! Is that really what you believe?
Instead, notice the positives, looking for the good in others and in your circumstances. Follow the Apostle Paul’s advice in Philippians 4:8 to control your thought life, both what goes into your mind and what you spend your time thinking about: “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8 (The Message).
2. L-ook for the Purpose
Do you believe our God knows what he is doing in this world? He has a purpose in all he allows for his people. We win over discouragement by remembering this, especially when we struggle to currently see God’s plan. The Apostle Peter reminds us: “The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good.” 1 Peter 5:10 (The Message).
Sometimes the purpose of what we are going through as Christians is in order to strengthen and increase their faith. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us all: “4 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! 5 So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. 6 It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. 7 God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, 8 the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? 9 We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? 10 While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. 11 At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” Hebrews 12:4–11 (The Message).
3. U-tilize the Promises
Part of our struggle with the BLUES may be caused by our ignorance of God’s word and a subsequent failure to act on God’s promises to us! Daily read God’s Word and let it speak to your situation, then claim and act on the promises of God. Remember what Romans 15:4 assures us: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 (NIV).
4. E-ncourage Other People
It may be the opposite of how you feel, but one of the most effective ways of lifting personal discouragement is through encouraging someone else! We can so focus on our own problems that we miss chances to help those around us in need. Be prepared, God will give you opportunities to encourage others through what He has taught you! The message Translation says: “3 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! 4 He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 (The Message). Helping others with their problems often enables us to see our situation in a different light.
This is what we read in the July 2021 Discipleship Matters – “A Purpose to Our Pain. Once, I visited a Christian friend who was determined to divorce her husband. God had delivered him from alcohol abuse, but she decided she wanted nothing more to do with him. I shared how my husband, Steve, and I had struggled in our marriage. I shared how I felt when Steve spoke harshly to me. I told her that I, too, had felt like running away on more than one occasion. “You understand exactly how I feel,” she marveled.
As we talked, I wondered, would I be able to help this friend if I hadn’t been through hard times with Steve? I encouraged her not to give up. I described how God had been faithful to answer my prayers. At that moment, the hurts I had experienced in our marriage seemed worth it, because they opened the door to empathize with someone else. Just as Paul wrote, I realized “we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).”
Believe the positive, Look for the purpose, Utilize the promises, Encourage other people and finally:
5. S-ing God’s Praises
“2 Sing about the glory of his name! Tell the world how glorious he is.” Psalm 66:2 (NLT).
Most of us could praise the Lord a lot more than we do, and this is important for at least two reasons. 1st because He is worthy of our praise, and 2nd because praising God benefits us; bringing us hope as we review who He is and what He has done. Praise helps lift us out of our despair. Join with the psalmist is proclaiming: “14 I will never give up hope or stop praising you. 15 All day long I will tell the wonderful things you do to save your people.” Psalm 71:14–15a (CEV).
Hymn: #435 “What a friend we have in Jesus”
Verse 1 – What a friend we have in Jesus All our sins and griefs to bear What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer O what peace we often forfeit O what needless pain we bear All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer
Verse 2 – Have we trials and temptations Is there trouble anywhere We should never be discouraged Take it to the Lord in prayer Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share Jesus knows our every weakness Take it to the Lord in prayer
Verse 3 – Are we weak and heavy laden Cumbered with a load of care Precious Savior still our refuge Take it to the Lord in prayer Do thy friends despise forsake thee Take it to the Lord in prayer In His arms He’ll take and shield thee Thou wilt find a solace there
Call to worship: For God has said, “I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.” 6 Let us be bold, then, and say: “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:5b–6a (GNB)
Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed, for I am thy God, I will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, Upheld by My gracious omnipotent hand.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace all-sufficient, shall be thy supply: The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not, I will not desert to its foes; that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
If nothing else, this last year and a half has reminded us that life is full of unknowns! The storms of life can blow in when least expected. How do you respond when things don’t go as you planned? When retirement isn’t so golden? When the layoff notice comes? When the doctor says “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this…?” How do you respond? Do you grab your figurative paddle and start rowing? Where do you go for help during life’s storms? Do you look to your family, your friends or the government?
The Gospel of Mark, chapter 6:46-52 records a literal storm that Jesus’ disciples faced. From this passage we are going to draw some lessons to apply to our own lives and which can also help those around us who are also facing the storms of life. From this passage we can see that:
1. Although you may not see Jesus, he sees you (vv. 47-48a). 47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48a He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.
Jesus saw his disciples battling the waves, he could have calmed them from a distance, but he wanted his disciples to learn more about himself and also the current condition of their hearts. Jesus also knows what going on in your life right now. He knows the storms you are facing, be assured he see you and knows what you can handle as you depend upon him!
2. Although you may not see Jesus, he is near you (v. 48b). 48b Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. The disciples may have been frustrated that Jesus was not there, when in fact, he was aware of their situation and close by. When you find yourself battling a storm, refute the thought that Jesus doesn’t care because he doesn’t seem to be present with the promise: “8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV). Finally from this passage we see:
3. Although you may not see Jesus, call out to him & he will join you, (v. 49b).
As the disciples cried out in fear, Jesus responded by encouraging them not to be afraid, and then he joins them in the boat and the winds calmed. Inviting Jesus into your storm may not still the storm raging around you, but trusting in Jesus’ presence will bring peace to the storm within you. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
We need to remember these truths when we are in a storm, and also to encourage someone else to put their trust in Jesus. I’ve seen Christians battling terminal cancer at peace having invited Jesus to join them in the storm, share the peace of Christ’s presence with others who are also facing the storm of cancer.
Christian, before leave this passage let’s give some serious thought to the final statement in verses 51-52: 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Why does Mark (from the Apostle Peter’s preaching) tell us their hearts were hardened? When Jesus got into the boat, the disciples had been struggling to cross the lake for over six hours. Mark tells us they were amazed that Jesus walked to them on the waves and that the winds died down when he got in the boat. We may be thinking, well yes, that is amazing. But then Mark adds, they responded with amazement because of hard or dull hearts because they missed the message in the feeding the five thousand. What was the message they missed, & so might we?
1st to focus on the gift rather than the giver and the message he is sending us!
The crowd loved the miraculous meal so much they were ready to crown Jesus king on the spot. The next day some tracked Jesus down hoping he would do it again! Was Jesus just trying to spare his treasury a huge expense or impress the people? The fact that he could feed everyone with 5 loaves and 2 fish was a message to all with ears to hear that God was here, at work!
We can make the same mistake when we focus on God’s blessings and ignore the message he is sending us through providing for our needs! We respond with an attitude of expectancy rather than gratitude for his expressions of love and care.
2nd to focus on the problem rather than call out to the one who is greater than any of our problems!
The disciples didn’t “connect the dots” between Jesus’ feeding over 5000 people and what that meant about who he is! The disciples struggled for over six hours trying to cross the lake, rather than call out to Jesus for help. Do you do that? When faced with a problem in life, what is your first impulse? Is it to focus on the storm? Most of us look at the BIG problem and forget that with our GREAT GOD we can handle any problem he allows to come our way!
In life’s storms, remember Jesus’ words “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” This literally means “stop being afraid”. Jesus calls us to face the storm with the proper perspective: ‘Take courage, it is I, so stop being afraid, I’m here with you.’ As Hebrews 13:5b–6a reminds us: God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. (NIV) In good times and bad times, in hunger and in storms, call out to Jesus; consciously invite him into your storm, knowing he will be with you as he promised. Focus in trust on him, not the storm, and experience the peace of his divine presence.
Closing hymn: #335 – Turn your eyes upon Jesus (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus | Piano | Lyrics | Accompaniment | Hymns | Hymnals | click on link to listen to the music)
Chorus – Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth
Will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
Verse 2 – Through death into life everlasting He passed and we follow Him there; over us sin no more hath dominion – For more than conquerors we are!
Verse 3 – His Word shall not fail you He promised; believe Him and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!
Benediction: Father, we bow in your presence because You are worthy to be praised. When words escape us, You speak to us with great power, great comfort, great assurance. We will say this week with confidence, “You are our helper.” Dismiss us from this place with Your blessing, matchless and mighty and powerful, in the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
Jeremiah 45. How to become great.
July 25, 2021.
Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Call to worship: “6 And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” James 4:6–10 (NLT).
Opening Song: “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord.”
Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, humble thyself in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up, higher and higher, and He shall lift you up
Soon after we have a sense that we are an individual living among other individuals we long to be special. Children want to hear from their parents what sets them apart from others, what makes them special; a skill or a behavior.
As we grow into adulthood we start to realize that ability is only part of standing out, it also includes who you know. Those with special connections often get the best jobs and the best references in their race to be great. Even Jesus’ handpicked Apostles argued among themselves over which one of the 12 of them was the greatest!
Is becoming great really about who you know? Does one become great by pursuing your dreams or is it simply working harder than everyone else. We are going to answer that question by looking at a short chapter in the book of Jeremiah, but first let’s consider some back ground.
The Lord called Jeremiah as a prophet while he was still a young man, to represent him saying: “Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 1:18–19 (NIV). Jeremiah was called to warn Judea of God’s judgment because they had broken their covenant with him, turning their hearts to false gods and putting their trust in political alliances.
Jeremiah prophesied for more than 40 years during the reigns of the last 5 kings of Judah. He is known as the weeping prophet because his messages brought him to tears over the people’s stubborn hearts and their coming fate. As a result Jeremiah experienced depression and discouragement, at times not wanting to be the messenger of God’s judgment and then not being able to hold it.
Assisting Jeremiah in his ministry was a scribe named Baruch. We don’t know much about Jeremiah’s background, but we know Baruch came from a noble priestly family. His Grandfather is mentioned as being the governor of Jerusalem during the reign of King Josiah (2 Chron. 34:8). His brother was an officer in King Zedekiah’s court. Baruch had connections and was set to become great. However something motivated Baruch to put his skills to different use when he became a scribe for the prophet Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, Baruch seems also have had times when his choice brought him great sorrow.
One of those times in recorded in Jeremiah chapter 45. It is remarkable that the Lord God spoke to his prophet Jeremiah with a message specifically for his scribe Baruch when he was struggling! “1 When Baruch son of Neriah wrote on a scroll the words Jeremiah the prophet dictated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, Jeremiah said this to Baruch: 2 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: 3 You said, ‘Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.’ 4 But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. 5 Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’ ”” Jeremiah 45:1–5 (NIV).
Jeremiah 45:1 references an event which happened in 604 BC and is recorded in Jer. 36. At the Lord’s command, Jeremiah had Baruch record on a scroll every prophesy relating to Judea and the other nations he had received. They were to be read to the people of Judea. Since Jeremiah was not allowed at the Temple he told Baruch to go at a time when the population would gather for a fast. At least nine months later, during a fast, Baruch read from Jeremiah’s scroll. The details included in 36:8-19 show us Baruch’s connections both at the Temple and within the king’s court. He is able to use the room of a temple secretary to read to the people standing in the temple courtyard. After his reading at the Temple, Baruch is invited to the palace so officials in the secretary’s office in the royal palace may hear it. Jeremiah 36:15-19: “15 the officials said, “Please sit down and read it to us,” which he did. 16 After they heard what was written on the scroll, they were worried and said to each other, “The king needs to hear this!” Turning to Baruch, they asked, 17 “Did someone tell you what to write on this scroll?” 18 “Yes, Jeremiah did,” Baruch replied. “I wrote down just what he told me.” 19 The officials said, “You and Jeremiah must go into hiding, and don’t tell anyone where you are.”” (CEV).
King Jehoiakim was told about the scroll and ordered it brought to him and read by Jehudi: “23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” Jeremiah 36:23–24 (NIV). Even though those who had brought the scroll to the king’s attention urged him not to burn it, he so anyway and then ordered that Baruch and Jeremiah be arrested.
Jeremiah 45:1 suggests that this was not the result that Baruch hoped for. He had chosen to help Jeremiah in his work for God, rather than seek success in the palace; however his emotions were raw at this point. We see this as God used six terms to describe them: Woe, sorrow, pain, worn out, groaning, and no rest. Can you identify with Baruch’s emotions? It can be so frustrating to be attempting to do something good for the Lord and then to face opposition and criticism. You may wonder why God isn’t stopping it.
Bible scholars are not sure whether Baruch is lamenting over the personal sacrifices he made or distressed because what will happen to his fellow citizens due to their harden hearts. Verse 4 confirms that God’s judgment is coming “I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth.” This verse also speaks to how seriously God takes sin. He is willing to endure the sorrow of tearing down generations of work with his chosen people rather than have them continue in sin.
Jeremiah 45:5 contains the answer to our question: How does one become great? “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” We don’t become great by seeking great things for ourselves or by relying on our cunning and connections. We become great in God’s eyes by obeying him in humility. Paul Robinson, missionary to Uruguay, said, “Don’t worry about doing something great. Be great by doing what you can where God has placed you. It will pay off after awhile.”
The Bible tells us that Baruch stayed with Jeremiah, and both of them were forcibly taken to Egypt by those fleeing Babylonian retribution (Jer. 43) and that is the last we hear of them. In Egypt Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would invade and defeat Egypt, which it did in 583 BC. Jewish historian Josephus implies both men were taken captive to Babylon. Jewish rabbinic tradition suggest that Baruch was a teacher of Ezra, the priest who instructed those who had returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity.  The Lord did preserve Baruch’s life as he promised. Baruch’s life teaches us that:
How do you become great? Baruch’s life teaches us that:
- Ambition is alright, if it is God directed ambition to fulfill His plan in and through your life.
- It is dangerous to be driven by selfish ambition. An old Moravian prayer says, “From the desire of being great, good Lord, deliver us!”
- When setbacks and failures occur in my life, I need to recognize the hand of God and hear his voice. Disappointments are often His appointments, for our times are in His hands.
I close with the words of J. Oswald Sanders, from Robust in Faith, who learned how to trust in God’s way to greatness:
I asked of God, that He should give success to the high task, I sought for Him to do.
I asked, that every hindrance might grow less, and that my hours of weakness might be few.
I asked, that far and lofty heights be scaled; and now, I humbly thank Him that I failed.
For with the pain and sorrow, came to me a gift of tenderness in act and thought, and with the failure, came a sympathy, an insight, which success had never brought.
Father, I’d be foolish and unblessed, if You had granted me my blind request.
Hymn: #390 “May the mind of Christ my Savior”
Verse 1 – May the mind of Christ my Saviour live in me from day to day, by His love and pow’r controlling all I do and say.
Verse 2 – May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour, so that all may see I triumph only through His pow’r.
Verse 3 – May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything, that I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
Verse 4 – May the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea; Him exalting self abasing, this is victory.
Verse 5 – May I run the race before me strong and brave to face the foe, looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
Verse 6 – May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win, and may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
Benediction: 15a Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. 16a Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NLT)
 The New Bible Dictionary, p. 135. WM. B. Eerdmans publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1974.
Call to worship: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble” “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:1-2, 8–9 (ESV).
Hymn: #51 “Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah”
Verse 1 – Guide me O Thou great Jehovah Pilgrim through this barren land I am weak but Thou art mighty Hold me with Thy pow’rful hand Bread of heaven Bread of heaven Feed me now and ever more Feed me now and ever more
Verse 2 – Open now the crystal fountain Whence the healing stream doth flow Let the fiery cloudy pillar Lead me all my journey through Strong Deliverer strong Deliverer Be Thou still my strength and shield Be Thou still my strength and shield
Verse 3 – When I tread the verge of Jordan Bid my anxious fears subside Death of death and hell’s destruction Land me safe on Canaan’s side Songs of praises songs of praises I will ever give to Thee I will ever give to Thee
As much as I love a sunny day, the summer is demonstrating the absolute necessity of rainy days! Agriculture is suffering and this impacts all of us.
Covid-19 with its lock downs brought a different kind of drought. It limited travel, sports, schools, church services, dining out and getting together with family and friends. Some people grew weary and emotionally wilted under the restrictions, but not all.
The availability of vaccines has allowed restrictions to ease and people are beginning to travel again in record numbers, eager to shake off the lockdown blues. However, what will you do if you return from your get away to find that the dissatisfaction hasn’t left? Book another trip? Try something different? Some will look around at people they know to see if anyone seems to be handling life better than they are, and wonder “What is their secret? How did they manage all this?” Will anyone think of you as they look for answers?
Jeremiah 17:7-8 says: “7 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7–8 (NIV).
The prophet Jeremiah describes a blessed (happy) person as being like a green, fruitful tree – yet doesn’t that describe most trees? Yes, but the difference is that this tree endures the heat and drought, why is that? This tree is planted by a stream. It remains green when the surrounding countryside turns brown from lack of rain.
1. What do we need to do to be like that tree?
The key to blessing is to place your trust & confidence in the Lord God. The Lord called Jeremiah to prophecy during the last 40 years of Judea’s existence as an independent country. Judea was between the regions two superpowers, Egypt and Babylon. Judea’s leadership trusted in their diplomatic skills to negotiate treaties for their security rather than trust in the Lord.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 uses the image of two trees to warn against trusting in human strength rather than trusting in the Lord God. “5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” Jeremiah 17:5–6 (NIV).
Turning your heart away from the Lord and trusting in human strength (your own or others) removes you from God’s blessing. They are pictured as a stunted bush, struggling for survival in the parched wilderness, completely dependent upon external circumstances (rain) for survival.
2. What are the results of placing my trust in God?
A. Internal: Continued growth.
You learn to draw your strength from him, meaning external circumstances do not inhibit your spiritual growth. In fact trouble encourages us to put our ‘spiritual roots’ deeper into the Lord, rather than rely upon the sporadic rains of circumstances. Jeremiah says this results in a life without the fear and worry of the unknown others face.
China Inland Missionaries Arthur & Wilda Matthews had been in China for 12 years before leaving for further language training. While away the Communist Party of China came to power. Yet when they were invited to return by the Chinese church and given visas in 1950 they felt God had opened the door for them.
Yet when they arrived the found the Chinese Christians fearful of the political situation and they were told by the Chinese pastors that they would not be allowed to evangelize in the region. “As time went on, they were not allowed visit homes and preach within the city. Eventually, they were not allowed outside of the missionary complex, or even distribute of medicine.” When other missionaries were allowed to leave the Matthews’ requests were refused. Arthur was given the opportunity to report on fellow missionaries, when he refused it was the beginning of 2 ½ years of struggle. During this time they were encouraged by the words of Andrew Murray for dealing with difficult times: Remind yourself:
1. He brought me here. It is by His will I am in this place and in that fact I will rest.
2. He will keep me here in His love and give me grace to behave as His child.
3. He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends for me to learn.
4. In His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.
So let me say, I am: Here by God’s appointment; in His keeping; under His training; for His time.
B. External: A Green & fruitful life.
Not only does trusting the Lord bring the blessing of deepening your relationship with the Lord, whether you realize it or not, your resilience in difficult times will be noticed by others. Jeremiah pictures it like a green and fruitful tree during a drought. As it got hot, my lawn turned brown, except for one spot, where my sump pump was emptying the water. You did not notice it until the rest of the lawn turned brown from lack of rain! I’ve seen this happen as Christians go through difficult times which cause others to wilt “and turn brown”. When faced with trials, you will be noticed as having a source of strength that cannot be explained by the outward circumstances.
Fellow missionary Isobel Kuhn wrote about Arthur & Wilda Matthews in her book “Green Leaf in Drought Time.” Kuhn writes: “yet as trial piled upon trial; as the ground (their human comforts) grew so parched with drought that it threatened to crack open, their leaf was still green.”
Isobel relates that during the darkest days of their detainment in China, Wilda daily heard gunfire from the nearby execution range where the Marxists were killing townspeople in mass numbers. She wondered when her own time would come, and she shuddered at what would happen to their little girl, Lilah, if she and Arthur should perish. They were near starvation, but the Communists wouldn’t release their funds or issue exit visas. They were trapped, and every day seemed their last.
What good could possibly come out of such prolonged anxiety? Isobel points out that having explained the message of the Victorious Christian Life to the Chinese, the Matthews now had an even deeper, more lasting ministry. “There was an unseen Source of secret nourishment, which the Communists could not find and from which they could not cut them off. . . . The message above all others which the Chinese church needed was to see that truth lived out under circumstances equally harrowing as their own.”
Those “who trust in the Lord” today are mocked as people who are limiting their potential to “be all they can be.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 show just the opposite is true. Those who place their whole trust in the Lord have a source of strength which is independent of circumstances and is limitless.
What color are your leaves right now? Where are you drawing your strength from? Have you put your trust in the Lord? Are you ready to explain the reason for the hope you have in your Lord? If you have placed your trust in the Lord Jesus, be ready, your green leaves and fruit life will give you away!
Hymn #493 “It is well with my soul”
Verse 1 – When peace like a river Attendeth my way When sorrows like sea billows roll Whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say It is well It is well with my soul
Chorus – It is well with my soul It is well It is well with my soul
Verse 2 – Tho’ Satan should buffet Tho’ trials should come Let this blest assurance control That Christ hath regarded My helpless estate And hath shed His own blood For my soul
Verse 3 – My sin O the bliss Of this glorious tho’t My sin not in part but the whole Is nailed to the cross And I bear it no more Praise the Lord Praise the Lord O my soul
Verse 4 – And Lord haste the day When the faith shall be sight The clouds be rolled back as a scroll The trump shall resound And the Lord shall descend Even so it is well With my soul
Benediction: “20 To him who by means of his power working in us is able to do so much more than we can ever ask for, or even think of: 21 to God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus for all time, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (GNB).
Call to Worship: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 95:6 (NIV).
Our society is in crisis! There is a crisis of trust resulting in immense frustration. Lack of trust in political leaders has trickled down to include a lack of trust for those who work for them, bureaucrats, law enforcement & even among those once viewed as highly trustworthy in science & medicine!
People are looking for, honest leaders with integrity who do what they promise for the good of those “they serve,” rather than serving themselves.
However, there is something else that is happening among us, it has always been present, but now it is on a scale rarely seen so broadly within a society – I am speaking of individualism. Popeye the sailor man’s “I yam what I yam” is now on steroids – becoming: “No one can tell me what I can or can’t do or be or say! I will do whatever I feel like!” Do you see the potential for problems?
In 2012 the Josephson Institute conducted a survey of American High School students.
· 99% agreed with the statement: It’s important for me to be a person with good character.
· 98% agreed with the statement: In personal relationships, trust & honesty are essential.
· 95% agreed that trust & honesty are essential in business & the workplace.
These are encouraging results, young people who believe in integrity. However, like their society, what they believe is not always demonstrated in what they do! Here are some more questions:
· 36% agreed with the statement: A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed.
· 57% agreed with the statement: In the real world, successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating.
· 51% admitted to cheating during a test at school.
· 75% admitted to copying another’s homework.
· 76% admitted they have lied to a parent about something significant.
· 93% agreed with the statement: I am satisfied with my own ethics and character.
These young people are reflecting their society. We agree that trust & honesty are essential, individually and corporately, however we “bend the rules” when it suits us. It appears we are truly “more concerned about feeling good than being good!” 
The idea: “Do as I say, not as I do” has existed throughout humanity’s history. Jesus Christ lived by the motto: “Do as I say and do as I do.” We have a peculiar example of this in John 13:1-17 where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet (a servant’s job) and then says in v. 15 “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” John 13:15 (NLT). John 13:1–17:
“1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (NIV).
Jesus gave his disciples an example to follow. That these words were preserved means they are also for us! Why did Jesus wash his disciples’ feet?
What Jesus did during the meal, would have stunned his disciples. Not only did Jesus wash his disciples’ feet, but he first removed his outer garments. Some commentators feel that Jesus stripped down to his loincloth, before he wrapped a towel around his waist, just the way the lowliest servant would do. The disciples, with the exception of Peter, were silent as Jesus went to each one and washed their feet, likely wondering if they were going to get an explanation for this odd behavior.
The Gospel of Luke 22:24-30 gives us some insight into the mindset of the disciples that evening; it tells us they were arguing over who was the greatest. Luke records Jesus telling them his kingdom requires servant leaders. John 13 shows us that Jesus actually became their servant: “15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” John 13:15–17 (NLT).
John 13:1 does not just introduce the foot washing scene; it also serves as an introduction to the remainder of this Gospel. Verses 1-3 states that Jesus knew his death was imminent, but it also reminds us of Jesus’ “roots;” he has come from the Father, was under his authority and would return to the Father, completing his mission (cf. John 3:14-16).
The phrase “he loved them to the end” or “he showed them the full extent of his love” (NLT notes) holds more meaning than we might realize. The Greek word translated “to the end” is also be translated “to the very finish” and is used in its verb form as Jesus’ last words from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). Dale Brunner in his commentary on John translates this phrase as: “He loved them right up to the very finish, perfectly” Jesus willingly lay down his life on the cross to finish the work of salvation required to offer humanity forgiveness from sin.
Verses 1-3 tell us that Jesus, knowing all this, got up, stripped down and then washed his disciple’s feet in an act that was clearly beneath him, even from a human perspective. The disciples do not understand why Jesus is doing this. Jesus explains in vv. 12-17 that his kingdom requires servant leadership, and he sets the example. Yet Jesus’ words to Peter in verse 7 hints that time will reveal even more: “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (NIV).
After Jesus’ resurrection his disciples came to realize the foot washing was parable, a picture of what Jesus, the second person of the Trinity did for humanity. The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-5 calls for Christians to demonstrate humility towards one another with the same attitude as the Lord Jesus. Then in verses 6-11 he describes how Jesus stripped off his heavenly glory, became as a servant, and as a human being, humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. This humble obedience to his Father resulted in his glorification, that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow.
Have you been moved by Jesus’ love? Have you accepted his love and forgiveness? Have you been challenged to up-root your self-centred focus by Jesus’ humble obedience to his Father? Are you willing to commit your life to Jesus and his mission? Jesus did not just teach these things, he did them! You cannot live this way this on your own, ask Jesus for strength, submit to his leadership in all your life.
Benediction: “20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV).
 Professor James Davison Hunter, University of Virginia.
 Bruner, F. D. (2012). The Gospel of John: A Commentary (p. 753). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: Eerdmans.
Call to worship: “Praise Him for His grace and favors to our fathers in distress; Praise Him, still the same as ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless.”
Hymn: #379 “Take my life and let it be”
Take my life and let it be Consecrated Lord to Thee take my moments and my days let them flow in ceaseless praise
Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee
Take my voice and let me sing Always only for my King Take my lips and let them be filled with messages from Thee
Take my silver and my gold not a mite would I withhold Take my intellect and use Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose
Take my will and make it Thine It shall be no longer mine Take my heart it is Thine own It shall be Thy royal throne
Take my love my Lord I pour At Thy feet its treasure store Take myself and I will be ever only all for Thee
CCLI Song # 1390 Frances Ridley Havergal | Henri Abraham Cesar Malan © Words: Public Domain
Last week we finished Ephesians chapter 2, focusing on what it means for us to be the church. We are going to step away from Ephesians for the summer and get back to it this fall. Before we do that let’s take one more look at Ephesians, chapter 2:20 which describes the church as: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” (NIV). One of those Apostles was the fisherman Simon, whom Jesus gave the name Peter. “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt. 16:17–18 (NIV).
The book of Acts tells us that Peter became a key leader in the early church. Guided by the Holy Spirit Peter’s preaching was instrumental in the numerical and spiritual growth of the church, laying the foundation for future believers, including ourselves. Even so, Peter would insist that God alone deserves all the praise and glory for what he accomplished in Peter’s life. Before he met Jesus, Peter likely thought he was doing the most he could with his life, given his circumstances, wow, did meeting Jesus ever change that!
Today we are going to look at a variety of lake centred events in Peter’s life which Jesus used to teach and develop Peter into a rock he could build his church upon.
1st Luke 5:1-11
“1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Luke 5:1–11 (NIV).
Luke 5:1-11 introduces us to Simon Peter while he is still fishing. In verses 1-3 Peter is in the background, an incidental character in the story, like a doorman or taxi driver in a drama. In this case he’s the owner & operator of the boat Jesus is using as a floating pulpit to teach the people crowding the shoreline. However, when Jesus finishes teaching our attention is directed towards Simon as Jesus asks to be taken fishing. It is as if Jesus says: Simon, show me what you’re good at, let me see where you are investing your life. Peter explains that their hard work the previous night hadn’t resulted in any fish, lowering expectations for a daytime attempt. However, something about Jesus made Peter willing to assemble his gear and crew to head out to go fishing.
When Peter saw that by following Jesus’ instructions they had caught more fish than his nets or both his boats could hold, he knew God was at work through Jesus: “8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’” In this encounter Peter saw Jesus as master and himself as a sinner, unworthy of Jesus’ attention, so he warns Jesus away. Rather than being deterred, Jesus tells Peter not to be afraid but to join him in fishing for people, and he did.
This is where each of us needs to begin, with a realization of our own sin and a recognition that Jesus is here to help. The journey begins as we stop avoiding and running from Jesus and start learning to walk with him and learn from him.
2nd Matthew 17:24-27
“24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”” Matthew 17:24–27 (NIV).
From this encounter Peter, who had caught many fish before, again saw Jesus’ power and learned the lesson that Jesus, as the Son of God is our provider. God promises to provide for us and encourages us not to obsess over possessing material things, because he already knows what we need (Matthew 6:25-34). Do you trust Jesus as your provider? If so, how has he taught you to trust him?
3rd Matthew 8:23-27.
“23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”” Mt. 8:23–27 (NIV).
In this encounter at the lake, a storm beyond the skill of professional fishers threatens to sink the boat until Jesus scolds the wind and waves, calming everything down and amazing the disciples. Here Peter sees his own fear in contrast with Jesus’ ability and desire to protect them. How often does the Lord use a storm in your life to teach you the same lesson?
4th Matthew 14:22-33
“22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”” Matthew 14:22–33 (NIV).
Peter has come to trust Jesus for the impossible, enough so that he willing to get out of the boat and walk on the water if Jesus invites him to join him. Yet here he learns what happens when we take our eyes off of Jesus and instead focus on the storm! Each one of us will encounter storms in this life, the question is, are they going to stop you from stepping out in faith with Jesus – not if you keep your focus on him, rather than your problems! Here’s a question to reflect on: when someone asks you “How are you?” Who is the subject of your response? You? Your problems? Or is it your Lord and his help? “12b I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12b–13 (NIV).
5th John 21:1-17
“1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:1–17 (NIV).
After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter decided to go fishing. After fishing all night without catching anything, Jesus called from the shore to throw the nets on the other side of the boat. When they did, they caught more than they could handle. Back on shore, Jesus ate with Peter and re-commissioned him as His apostle. From this encounter Peter saw Jesus as his very Purpose for living and himself as a servant. This was Peter’s final lesson before Jesus returned to his Father. Peter has been changed. He is now willing to submit to the Lord’s will and lead in humility. He continued to learn and grow as he continued to keep his eyes on Jesus and trust in him alone.
How about you? Have you met Jesus and accepted his invitation to do what you do under his guidance, taking it to the next level? It begins by recognizing you are broken, a sinner in need of help, and realizing that Jesus is not repulsed by that fact, rather that’s why he has come, to help you, if you will trust him to.
Next, realize that Jesus’ goal is for you to not only follow him, but for you to learn from him and grow to become like him. As you do this, you will bring glory to God the Father. How does Jesus do that? By using the school of life to teach you to depend upon him by showing you he is worthy of your trust. He will not abandon you; you can survive and grow through whatever comes. Notice, I didn’t say he would remove every difficulty; I said he would go through it with you and enable you to grow more like him (Jesus) as you do. Listen to these words from the Apostle Peter’s first letter, chapter 1 verses 3-7: “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:3–7 (NIV).
Hymn: #371 “Have Thine own way Lord” (vv.1-4)
Verse 1 – Have Thine own way Lord have Thine own way Thou art the Potter I am the clay Mold me and make me after Thy will While I am waiting yielded and still
Verse 2 – Have Thine own way Lord have Thine own way Search me and try me Master today Whiter than snow Lord wash me just now As in Thy presence humbly I bow
Verse 3 – Have Thine own way Lord have Thine own way Wounded and weary help me I pray Power all power surely is Thine Touch me and heal me Savior divine
Verse 4 – Have Thine own way Lord have Thine own way Hold o’er my being absolute sway Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only always living in me
CCLI Song # 28225 Adelaide Addison Pollard | George Coles Stebbins © Words: Public Domain
Call to Worship: (based on Psalm 25)
Hymn: #8 “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”
Verse 1 – Praise to the Lord the Almighty The King of creation O my soul praise Him For He is thy health and salvation All ye who hear now to His temple draw near Praise Him in glad adoration
Verse 2 – Praise to the Lord Who over all things So wondrously reigneth Shelters thee under His wings Yea so gently sustaineth Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been Granted in what He ordaineth
Verse 3 – Praise to the Lord Who doth prosper Thy work and defend thee Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee Ponder anew what the Almighty can do If with His love He befriend thee
Verse 4 – Praise to the Lord O let all that is in me adore Him All that hath life and breath Come now with praises before Him Let the amen sound from His people again Gladly for all we adore Him
What is the church? What comes to mind when you hear that question? Most people use the word “church” as short hand for the building – “I’m going to church” meaning coming to this building.
What is the church? Some describe it as being “organized religion”. Does church only happen when we form committees and write constitutions?
What is the church? Is it individual Christians? Each one of us had to make an individual, personal choice to recognize our sin and accept God’s gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Does that make each of us “a church” with no need for others?
Biblically speaking, is the church a building made out of wood, steel and cement? NO, a church building is the place where the church meets, but the building is not the church. Is the church an organization? God the Father has designed his church to be organized, with Christ Jesus as the head and Holy Spirit gifted and guided leaders to add in the Spiritual growth of believers. Is an individual the church? Each of us must make a personal choice but God has decided his church is corporate: We see this as the Spirit’s gifting is distributed among the body of believers, and hear it in Jesus’ promise to be with us; Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (NASB 2020).
We are looking at Paul letter to the Ephesians, and today are in chapter 2, verses 19-22. Paul in describing the riches and privileges in Christ that Gentile believers have now received, teaches all his readers about the nature of the church and answers the question: What is the church?
Let’s begin by reviewing what Paul has already told us. In chapter one Paul reminds his readers of the amazing grace that God has extended to believers in his plan to forgive and adopt us into his family. Then he prays that the Holy Spirit would help them to grasp how amazing this gift is.
In chapter two Paul reminds us of what we were saved from and our hopelessness apart from God’s intervention on our behalf. Paul then reminds his Gentile readers of their isolation from God until Christ Jesus intervened on their behalf.
In Ephesians 2:13 the tone changes with the words “But now…” as Paul begins to describe that the Gentiles may also be brought forgiven into God’s presence through the blood of Christ Jesus. Jesus, on the cross has destroyed the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile. Going beyond the end of hostilities, Jesus brings both Gentile and Jew together to make a brand new person, which is known as “The Church” (cf. Eph. 3:6-10).
Listen as I begin reading from verse 17: “17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17–22 (NIV).
Today’s passage, Ephesians 2:19-22 begins with the word “consequently” in the NIV translation, to tell us that Paul is about to build on what he has just told us (“but wait…there’s more!”). Paul now explains to the Gentile Christians the amazing new privilege which they are now included in by using three familiar models of the church. These three models help us to clarify what God means when he calls us the church.
Models of the Church – Eph. 2:19-22
1. The church as God’s Kingdom (v. 19a).
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people”
In Eph. 2:12 Gentiles were reminded that they were separate from Christ, excluded as citizens of Israel and foreigners to God’s covenant promises. Have you ever been a foreigner in another country? It can be exciting to visit a new country, but it can also be unsettling to realize that as an outsider you may not have the same rights and freedoms as a citizen. In Canada if you are not a citizen and you are convicted of a serious crime, you can be deported back to your own country, even if you’ve lived here most of your life. How about living in a small town? Outsiders, those who didn’t grow up in the community may never be granted the same status as those who broke the land and founded the town. Now imagine you are living in the first Century, a mere accusation of a crime may be enough for a foreigner to be banished from a community, losing home and land and needed to start all over.
Paul is telling the Gentiles, you are no longer outsiders; God has welcomed you into his kingdom. In Romans 9:23-26 Paul makes this point clear as he quotes from Hosea 2:23 & 1:10: “23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” 26 and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’ ”” Romans 9:23–26 (NIV).
2. The church as God’s Family (v. 19b).
“and also members of his household,”
In this new creation formed of believing Jews and Gentiles called the church, we are not just citizens of God’s kingdom we are also members of his family! We are not visitors, not household servants; we are sons and daughters of God with complete rights of inheritance and full access to God the Father! We have seen our relationship with God, what is our relationship with each other in the church? Siblings, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, expressing love for each other, and caring for each other as family does.
3. The church as God’s Temple (vv. 20-22).
“20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20–22 (NIV).
We are built on the foundation of those commissioned by Christ to teach and lead the church, the Apostles and prophets of the early church and thus the New Testament scriptures they recorded for us. Christ Jesus is the chief cornerstone (v. 20), essential to the foundation and the rest of the structure, he holds it all together (v. 21). What is being built? A holy temple – God’s holy house. The term used here for temple isn’t speaking of the whole temple grounds, but refers specifically to the inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple. With this in mind look at verse 22: “22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Paul is reminding the Gentiles, the former outsiders that they also are being built into this incredible living Holy of Holies, the church, where the Holy Spirit of God dwells! What an amazing privilege! Some homes have signs says: The Jones’ live here. The Church of Jesus Christ, believers’ lives are to declare – The Spirit of the Living God dwells here! With the privilege of the Spirit’s presence also comes the responsibility to represent him appropriable.
We started out by asking, what is the church?
· The Church is not a building or something I go to or attend, the Church is something I as a Christian am literally a part of!
· The Church is not filled with people; the Church is built of people and is filled with the Holy Spirit!
· The purpose of the Church is NOT to serve and please me, rather OUR purpose as the Church is to serve and please God. We do this as (with God’s empowering) we live a life worthy of our calling (Eph. 4:1-3).
Hymn: “We have come, God’s living Temple” (tune of #51 – Guide me o Thou great Jehovah)
We have come, God’s living temple, In the joy of Christ the Son. Here the Father’s word is spoken. Here His gracious work is done. Breathe His Spirit! Drink His goodness! Heaven’s life is here begun.
Set aside all vain distractions. Lay your needs before His throne. Give your hands, a holy offering. You are His and not your own. All your spirit praise His Spirit! Turn your thoughts to Him alone.
Christ is God’s eternal temple, All His holy presence here. By His Spirit, we His body Live to make His presence clear, Loving, learning, giving, growing Till our Lord Himself appear.
Go and shine with God’s own presence! Live the love of Christ the Son. By your words let Him be spoken, By your hands His work be done. Breathe His Spirit, share his goodness Till His glorious Kingdom come!
Words by Ken Bible Music by John Goss; arr. by Ken Bible © 2012, 2014 by LNWhymns.com. CCLI Song #7030966.
“Let the walls fall down.” Ephesians 2:11-18.
Esterhazy Baptist Church. June 20, 2021
Call to Worship: “I will give ⌊you⌋ thanks, O Lord, with all my heart. I will tell about all the miracles you have done. I will find joy and be glad about you. I will make music to praise your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9:1–2 (GW).
Hymn: #512 “My Saviors Love”
Verse 1 – I stand amazed in the presence Of Jesus the Nazarene And wonder how He could love me A sinner condemned unclean
Chorus – How marvelous how wonderful And my song shall ever be How marvelous how wonderful Is my Saviour’s love for me
Verse 2 – For me it was in the garden He prayed not My will but Thine He had no tears for His own griefs But sweat drops of blood for mine
Verse 3 – In pity angels beheld Him And came from the world of light To comfort Him in the sorrows He bore for my soul that night
Verse 4 – He took my sins and my sorrows He made them His very own He bore the burden to Calvary And suffered and died alone
Verse 5 – When with the ransomed in glory His face I at last shall see ‘Twill be my joy through the ages To sing of His love for me
We live in a divided world. We see this as we hear the international news: fighting between Israel and Hamas, tension between the USA and Russia, and Canada’s struggle with China holding two of our citizens because we have detained one of their citizens. Our recent national news also reminds us that Canada past and present has racial and social injustice to deal with.
In our text today, Ephesians chapter 2:11-18, the Apostle Paul looks at divisions and shows us how Christ Jesus has bridged them. Paul reminds his readers of where they have come and how that happened in order to reinforce their appreciation of what God did for them – It is by grace you have been saved!
Paul has been explaining the incredible grace of God which has been extended to all of us – both Jew and Gentile. I can imagine during his ministry that Paul encountered some individuals who expressed doubt in his message because they had NEVER heard such hopeful news for humanity before. “How can something this life changing just spring up out of nowhere? Smells fishy to me!” Paul’s response, based on our text today might have been: “You have never heard this before because you are Gentiles, and until now, God’s plan to include you in his plan to save humanity had not been revealed.” Paul then explains:
- The problem faced by the Gentiles – you are outsiders.
- How outsiders can become insiders.
III. How Jesus did this and the difference it makes.
- The problem faced by the Gentiles – They are outsiders, Eph. 2:11-12.
“11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” Ephesians 2:11–12 (NIV).
The uncircumcised were:
1 – Christ-less – They had no messianic promise or hope to look forward to.
2 – Stateless – They weren’t part of God’s people, Israel.
3 – Friendless – They were not included in the unconditional covenant promises God made with Abraham, David and in Jer. 31:31-34 & Ezek. 36:22-32.
4 – Hopeless – They were not aware they had any hope of help from God.
5 – godless – They did not know Israel’s God, they worshipped gods of their own making – false gods.
This is still the situation for those without Christ, who have not heard what God has done. In verses 13-18 Paul explains what the Triune God has done: sinners who deserved God’s wrath have been brought near – how is this possible?
- How outsiders can become insiders – Eph. 2:13-14
“13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” Ephesians 2:13–14 (NIV).
1 – Jesus shed his blood, offering himself in our place, to forgive our sins and brought them near. That idea “brought near” is used in Isaiah 57:19 “Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them.” (NRSV). “When the Rabbis spoke about accepting a convert into Judaism, they said that he had been brought near.” Does this mean that Gentiles must first become Jews to experience God’s grace in Christ? That is what some within the Jerusalem Church believed until God made it clear to Peter by sending the Holy Spirit upon Gentiles who accepted Jesus as their sin forgiver and life leader.
2 – Jesus became our peace.
Jesus became our peace by removing the dividing wall of hostility between us and God and us and others. Paul may have been thinking of the wall within the Temple which warned Gentiles, under the threat of death, not to pass further into the Temple. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem because of the false assumption he had brought Gentiles into the Temple.
The Jewish people were not the only ones who divided people – Greeks considered non-Greek speaking people to be barbarians and Romans had vastly different laws for Romans verses non-Romans. Sadly, things have not changed in the last 2000 years, differences continue to divide us!
How did Jesus become our peace? William Barclay explains it this way: Suppose two people have a difference and go to law about it; and the experts in the law draw up a document, which states the rights of the case, and ask the two conflicting parties to come together on the basis of that document. All the chances are that the breach will remain unhealed, for peace is seldom made on the basis of a legal document. But suppose that someone whom both of these conflicting parties love comes and talks to them, there is every chance that peace will be made. When two parties are at variance, the surest way to bring them together is through someone whom they both love.
That is what Christ does. He is our peace. It is in a common love of him that people come to love each other. That peace is won at the price of his blood, for the great awakener of love is the Cross. The sight of that Cross awakens in the hearts of men of all nations love for Christ, and only when they all love Christ will they love each other. It is not in treaties and leagues to produce peace. There can be peace only in Jesus Christ.
III. How Jesus did this and the difference it makes, Eph. 2:15-18
- How Jesus did this (v. 15a): “15a by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.” NIV
The Jewish people had come to believe that their only hope in being acceptable to God was to keep his law. The Pharisees had developed thousands of rules and regulations to keep people from breaking God’s commands. These regulations governed behavior and encouraged legalism but did nothing to nurture one’s relationship with God. As we have already seen, humanity was spiritually dead, the law could not change that, nor could keeping the law be anything more than an outward facade over a dead soul! God, in love, brought us near through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross on our behalf: Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (NIV). Jesus came to tell us that we cannot earn God’s approval by keeping the ceremonial law, instead we must accept the forgiveness and fellowship which God in mercy freely offers.
- The difference it (Jesus’ sacrifice) makes (vv. 15b-18):
“15b His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:15–18 (NIV).
- Believing humanity is made new in Christ (v. 15b).
The Greek has two words which mean new. One, neos means new in point of time; a pen made this week is new even though thousands were made the previous week. The Greek word Paul uses here, is kainos and it means new in point of quality; it is something which did not exist before. This is what Jesus has done. Once divided humanity is brought together through accepting the saving work on Christ on the cross and made into something the world has never seen before. The Gentiles have not become Jews, nor have the Jews become Gentiles, the two have been remade in Christ into his body the church, which we will look at in greater detail next week.
- Believing humanity is reconciled to each other and God through Christ (vv. 16-17).
Reconcile means “to bring together again.” We MUST remember our reconciliation with God AND each other came at a heavy cost – the death of God’s Son on the cross! To ignore the reconciliation achieved and called for by Christ Jesus between Christians is to disregard the price he paid for your salvation! We are friends with others because they are friends of God!
- Believing humanity now has access to God the Father, by the Spirit, through Christ (v. 18).
The Greek word translated as ‘access’ is prosagōgē and it is used in a variety of ways: bringing a sacrifice to God; bringing poeple into the presence of God to be consecrated to his service; introducing a speaker or an ambassador into a national assembly; and above all it is the word used for introducing a person into the presence of a king. The Persian royal court had an official called the prosagōgeus whose function was to introduce people who desired an audience with the king. This is the right that the Lord Jesus gives ALL who have accepted him as their sin forgiver and life leader – access to Almighty God. Thanks to Jesus’ loving sacrifice on our behalf, we are no longer outsiders, we have access to Almighty God!
What are we going to do with this privilege? Let us take one more look at Ephesians 2:17-18 “17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Ephesians 2:17–18 (NIV).
Who is the “he” and “him” mentioned in these verses? Jesus. Jesus (he) preached peace to:
- You who were far away – who was Paul thinking of? Gentiles, meaning us. In today’s context who might this be? Those who have never heard about God and his love for humanity – this includes many in our world today!.
- Those who were near – who was Paul thinking of? Who might this be today? Think of this group as those who have a vague understand about God and Jesus but haven’t fully understood God’s plan or accepted his gift of forgiveness.
We as believers are to live as those made new in Christ, and tell those near and far away the good news of Jesus’ saving grace.
Hymn: #302 “Share His love” (vv. 1-3).
Verse 1 – The love of God is broader Than earth’s vast expanse ‘Tis deeper and wider than the sea Love reaches out to all To bring abundant life For God so loved the world His only Son He gave
Chorus – Share His love by telling What the Lord has done for you Share His love by sharing of your faith And show the world that Jesus Christ Is real to you ev’ry moment ev’ry day
Verse 2 – All those who have trusted In God’s only Son And hold this precious treasure In their hearts Seek ways to make it known To all who need to know That God so loved the world His only Son He gave
Verse 3 – We show the love of God Each day we live Reveal Christ’s presence in our lives And how the Holy Spirit Guides us day by day For God so loved the world His only Son He gave
Benediction: “5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:5-6 ESV)
June 13, 2021. Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Ephesians is written for us! The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to Christians almost 2000 years ago who were trying to live out their faith and not get drawn back into the sinful patterns all around them – a situation we each face daily! So, how do you do it? How do you walk as Jesus walked in a culture that is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christian beliefs? Paul gives us the answer in his letter to the Ephesians.
With this introduction and the expectations created chapter one comes as a surprise. After his introduction and greeting in 1:1-2, you might expect Paul to point out their failures and the offer correction. Instead, it is as if Paul excuses himself, turns his back on his audience and begins to praise God. We listen in as Paul offers a doxology, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
When Paul finishes his song of praise, in verse 15 he returns to his audience, commends them for placing their faith in the Lord Jesus, and then he turns away again and breaks out into a prayer to God for them! What is going on? We need pay careful attention to Paul’s praise and Paul’s prayer. Do not skip over them, read them repeatedly, for they explain how Paul survived the hatred he faced, and teach us how we can stand firm in our faith. Paul’s focus was not on what was wrong with the world, for that was obvious – it is in bondage to sin, we all are. Paul’s attention was on God, specifically his work and his plan for us. Paul’s prayer for the believers was that the Spirit of God would continue to increase their understanding and appreciation of the powerful presence of God at work within them to accomplish his plan! Paul begins to help these believers, and us too by first focusing on our God. It is NOT hopeless; God is working out a plan he developed before this world was made! You are not hopeless, God has done an amazing work in you, and will continue until he is finished. What is hopeless is trying to live a moral life in your own strength. Surrender your life to God in Christ, keep it there, and walk in his strength! This is the lesson of today’s text, Ephesians 2:1-10, let us take a closer look at it.
Although it was foolish, when I was younger, I sometimes envied the dramatic testimonies of those who had been saved from a gang, or prison or drugs. The contrast between their life before Christ and their life after accepting Christ seemed to empower these Christians in a way that those of us who grew up in Christians homes did not seem to have. If you have ever had that thought or current feel that your life without Christ is not that bad, then you need to read Ephesians 2:1-3 and 11-12 over and over and over until you get, as Eph. 2:12 says “Apart from Christ, everyone is without hope,” whether you were on drugs, in a gang or not. Everyone of us is born into sin and spiritually dead. As ugly as this looks, it is our reality! “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” Ephesians 2:1–3 (NIV).
A. Without Christ I am spiritually dead – not weakened, not sick, but lifeless, dead, unable to help myself or communicate with anyone who could help – that is what it means to be dead! That is what sin has done to me/us.
B. Without Christ I willfully follow the ruler of this world and revel in gratifying my sinful cravings, regardless of the consequences – I am addicted to my sin!
When you read the description of our situation in Ephesians 2:1-3 what do you think? What does this look like? Something without value or use – we would call it trash!
Verses 4 & 5 describe God’s response to us:
“4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4–5 (NIV).
How many of you enjoy art? One of my nieces has her master’s in art, and Karin & I have spent time with her looking at paintings. While I find it fascinating that a painter can give a flat canvas the appearance of three dimensions, its not quite my thing. I think some cars are beautiful works of art and design. However, what is utterly amazing is taking something worthless and making it into something beautiful.
In these verses Paul is highlighting the incredible transformation that God, and only God was able to do with us. Verse 10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship, the Greek word can also be translated “creation.” We are God’s work of art, created from “material” which seemed impossible to work with!
The love of God for us motivates God to breath life into our spiritually dead souls. The same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand (1:19-20), has worked within us and raised us up with Christ, AND seated us with him in the heavenly realms (2:6). God’s power changes us – from death to life, from bondage to sin to freedom in Christ. Why has God done this?
A) He loves us (John 3:16) and this exhibits the riches of his grace in Christ Jesus. We can forget about bragging about our goodness, God gets all the credit for who we are now: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV).
It is important to reflect on 2:6. As God raised us up with Christ, cleansed and resurrected our sin deadened souls, he then seated us with Christ Jesus in the heavenly realms. This speaks of closeness of relationship to our God, our protection by God and our position in Christ. There is nothing we must do to be here, other than accepting God’s invitation – let that sink in! It is reminiscent of what we read in 1:3 “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NIV). Blessed with EVERY spiritual blessing. When you find yourself doubting God’s care – remember all he has done for you. When you find yourself feeling powerless to keep going, remember where you are seated in the heavenlies.
Why has God done this?
B) Notice, we have not been re-born to hang on a wall in a museum. We have been specially designed by God for a purpose, to do the good works he pre-prepared for us to do. Eph. 1:4 says that before the world was created, God chose us to be holy and blameless.
As we get to chapter 4, Paul will give concrete examples of how we are to imitate God in our everyday lives. What we must remember is God has provided all we need to do this; we must humbly depend upon him daily for the ability to do this! We have been saved by God grace alone and we will only represent him successfully by relying upon him for everything!
Benediction: “18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. 19 Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” Psalm 72:18–19 (NIV).
We are continuing our look at the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Paul wrote it to Christians who were struggling to live differently from the culture around them. In chapters 4-6 Paul deals with stealing, lying, anger, greed, swearing, bitterness, immorality, as well as how to live in harmony in a Christian household. Does this sound familiar? Research on the Church in North American suggests we have the same struggles.
Let’s look and learn from the Epistle to the Ephesians. Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison, yet it is his most optimistic and encouraging letter. How can a letter which deals with the reality of our struggles be uplifting? Paul begins by focusing on the advantages a believer has in Christ, and then he teaches us how to live a life of love as a response to God’s love to us.
Today we are looking at Eph. 1:15-23. As this section begins we clearly hear Paul’s mentoring heart for these Christians. He expresses his joy for their salvation and his continuing commitment to them in prayer: Ephesians 1:15–16. “For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (NIV)
What does he pray for? Their money troubles? Temptations? Interpersonal issues? No, Paul’s focus is on God, not them! We need to do the same; remember, it all starts with God, not with ourselves or our problems! Paul asks God that he would enable them to know Him better! Ephesians 1:17. “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (NIV). In 1:13b-14 Paul has told us that Christians have been given the Holy Spirit to confirm that we belong to God. In verse 17 Paul is asking that the already present Holy Spirit would give these believers wisdom and revelation so they would come to know God better – this is the only way, only God can show us the things of God!
Notice here that Paul is thrilled about their salvation, yet recognizes it is only the beginning of all that God has for us. Karin & I married because as we dated we grew in love. Much to our delight, after we married, we found that we grew so much more in love than we had been when we married – and something we hadn’t thought it possible!
Some Christians are struggling in their Christian life because they have not gone any further than asking Jesus to forgive them of their sins. They think this is all there is. They believe that following Jesus as their life leader means doing and not doing certain things, which they try with varying degrees of success, and that’s it. Paul wants us all to understand that there is so much more! He prays that these believers would to continue to develop their relationship with God. Listen to Ephesians 1:18–19a. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (NIV) Paul begins by requesting that God would enlighten the “eyes of their hearts.” In biblical usage the heart refers to our inner self, which is our mind and our emotions. Paul prays for insight in three specific areas:
1- The hope to which he has called you.
2- The riches of his glorious inheritance.
3- His incomparably great power for us who believe.
1- The hope to which he has called you.
John Stott in his commentary suggests this looks back to the beginning of our Christian lives. Eph. 1:3-5 refers to God’s call on our lives to be holy and blameless in his sight and adopted as his children. God had a purpose and a plan in calling you to himself, which is beyond what you could ask for or imagine, and this is the reason for our hope! Stott summarizes: “it was a call to an altogether new life in which we know, love, obey and serve Christ, enjoy fellowship with him and with each other, and look beyond our present suffering to the glory which will one day be revealed. This is the hope to which he has called you. Paul prays that our eyes may be opened to know it.”
2- The riches of his glorious inheritance.
This looks ahead to our final inheritance, of which the Holy Spirit is a guarantee we will receive it. 1 Peter 1:4 describes it as “…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you,” 1 Peter 1:4 (NIV). We will be among those described in Revelation 19:6. “Then I heard something like the voice of a vast multitude, like the sound of cascading waters, and like the rumbling of loud thunder, saying, Hallelujah, because our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns!” (CSB) This is what awaits us; to be in the presence of the one who has saved us, adopted us and blessed us with every spiritual blessing – we will be home!
3- His incomparably great power for us who believe.
If the hope to which we were called looks back on all God has done for us, and reflecting on our inheritance has us anticipating the future, then knowing God’s great power is for us RIGHT NOW! Paul explains what this power is like through three examples: Ephesians 1:19–23. “and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (NIV)
This is power that Paul refers to in Ephesians 3:20–21 in preparation to share on the Christ empowered life Christians are to live. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (NIV). Paul is saying to ALL his readers: You think you can’t handle life’s pressures, can’t live up to God’s call on your life? Remember who is on your side! Remember your call! Remember your inheritance and the immeasurable resources of God’s power at work for you!
Ephesians 1:20-23 are intended not only to encourage us, but also to instruct us. Here Paul shares with us some of the Spirit granted wisdom and revelation he has received concerning the implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let’s take a closer look at these verses.
Paul wants us, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, to go beyond knowing Jesus in our head as our sin forgiver. He wants us to realize all that God has done for us will do for us and has available to us right now if we will step out with him in faith as our true life leader! Ask yourself, am I doing this? I am trusting God with the resources he has made available to me to walk with him in trust? What are you lacking that he cannot supply? What is he calling you to trust him in today? Will you?
Hymn: #228 “Rejoice the Lord is King”
Benediction: “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” Ephesians 3:20–21 (The Message)
 Stott, J. R. W. (1979). God’s new society: the message of Ephesians (p. 56). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Ephesians 1.1-14. Praise God for His amazing grace shown us.
May 16, 2021. Esterhazy Baptist Church
Call to Worship based on Ephesians 1: 3-14:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, who destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, who has forgiven our sins according to the riches of his grace, and has made known to us the mystery of his will. This is our God! Let’s worship him together.
Do you ever reflect back on a meeting or conversation you’ve had and wondered why you found it necessary to so strongly question or criticize someone else’s decision? Or perhaps you fought back with vigor when your actions were questioned. Maybe you then comforted yourself with the thought “I’ve got to look out for myself, because if I don’t do it, nobody else will!”
Today we are starting a series on the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Many of the recipients of this letter likely could relate to a feeling of not being in full control of one’s life. After all, the Roman’s had conquered this land and they wrote the laws. You were either a Roman, a subject of Rome or a slave – a living tool. For most people standing up for oneself had to happen on a smaller individual scale: putting down a co-worker, stealing from a hated neighbor and seeking sexual release at the local shrine.
Paul wrote the letter to the Ephesians to Christians in and around the area of the city of Ephesus, in what is now western Turkey while he was in prison. This was likely written as a circular letter, to be passed on after it was read, from one church to another church.
Based on the subjects covered in Ephesians chapter 4-6, it seems these Christians were struggling, like many of us today, with living any different from the rest of the society around them. Paul tells them to stop all lying, angry outbursts, stealing, using filthy words, and to stop being bitter. They are not to be involved in immoral, indecent or greedy behavior. He also tells them how they should treat one another within the Christian household.
What do you do when you see a Christian struggling in one or more of these areas? Do you give them a good scolding? What do you say if they know they shouldn’t do these things, but they can’t seem to change their behavior? Let me ask you, what works for you? What leads you to change ungodly behavior?
As you look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, you will notice that Paul doesn’t begin by focusing on their failures. In chapters 1-3, Paul begins with who they are in Christ – what God has done for them, is doing, and will do for them (and us too). This format is frequently used by Paul; first the Theological foundation, and then what our response should be to the wonderful work of God toward us. It is no mistake that the transition verses between the Theological and practical sections are one of the most beloved benedictions in the Bible: Ephesians 3:20–21. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (NIV) Paul speaks these words in response to a review of what God in grace has done for us and will do in us through Christ Jesus our Lord. Now, let’s take a closer look at 1:1-14.
Ephesians 1:1–2. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV). Paul begins this letter the way he usually does, by reminding his readers that his call to be an apostle is ALL God’s idea; and as we shall soon see, this truth is also applicable to us. Our salvation is all God’s idea!
Verses 3-14 are a prayer of praise to God, a doxology. In the Greek text this is all one sentence, yet we will look at it one thought at a time.
I. THE PLAN OF THE FATHER –1:3-6
Ephesians 1:3. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (NIV). Verse 3 is like a sign over the market place telling what is available inside, and it is incredible! “Are you feeling down, discouraged or weak in your Christian walk? What are you waiting for? This is the place to be, enter and see all that God has for you!” Paul praises God the Father for blessing us with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus! Wow, every spiritual blessing, which means nothing, is withheld from us in Christ. We will hear the phrase “in Christ” or “in him” many times in Ephesians because it is so vital to understanding what God has done for us! Let’s continue reading, to see all that we have to praise God for.
Ephesians 1:4a. “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” (NIV). Let the enormity of this verse sink in. Sin made everyone of us ineligible to be in God’s presence. However, we were chosen by God, to be holy and blameless in his sight, before the creation of the world! Our redemption was part of God’s original plan. Christian, are you struggling right now with sin? God chose you to be holy and blameless in his sight before creation – don’t give up! Let’s keep reading of the resources available.
Ephesians 1:4b-5. “In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—” (NIV). There are two key words in this verse: predestined and adoption.
1) Predestined: In the Greek this work has the idea of “surveyed” and “marked out.” You responded to God’s grace and decided to follow Jesus as your sin forgiver and life leader, and God knew you would, he had you “marked out.” For what purpose? To be forgiven of sin, made holy and blameless so we could be in his presence… as sons! This is where the second key term comes in:
2) Adoption: Verses 4 & 5 tells us that God’s choosing of us was NOT:
§ A self-serving act – “I need another servant.”
§ An act of pity – “I’ll care for them until they come of age, and then they are on their own.”
God’s Choice of us to be adopted with the rights of sons is: An act of glorious grace worthy of highest praise (v. 6).
Adoption was well known to Paul’s readers. It is an especially powerful concept to consider here when we realize that the major reason for adoption was child abandonment. When a child was born to a Roman father, it was brought and laid at his feet. If he picked the child up, he was accepting it as his own. If he left it and walked away, he was rejecting it. Maybe it didn’t look right, bad timing or it was wrong sex. Usually a child wasn’t killed, but it was left out in the elements for the gods to decide its fate. It was common for people to seek out such children, looking for strong ones that might make good slaves, either for themselves for sale in the slave markets when they had matured. Ephesus had one of the largest slave markets in the world at the time of Paul.
This image of an abandoned child being chosen bought out of slavery and adopted as a full member of the family, is a powerful picture of what God has done for us. We can take no credit; it is all what God the Father has done through his Son, Jesus. Ruth Paxson in her book “The wealth, walk and warfare of the Christian” says: Years ago a very dear friend of mine died, the only child of her parents. I had gone in and out of the home as another daughter. Among her papers was an envelope addressed to her parents, to be opened in case of her death. It contained just one request, that they would regard me as a daughter and do for me as they would have for her.
Is this not the request which the Son made of His Father for all the other sons who had believed on Him? Did He not express His desire to share with them all that was His, even to His oneness with the Father and their home in glory?
As we keep reading, we will see the full implications of this adoption.
II. THE WORK OF THE SON –1:7-13a
Ephesians 1:7. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (NIV). We were redeemed from the slave market of sin, not with money, but through Jesus’blood. While we were sinner, at our worst, WE ARE LOVED THAT MUCH- WHY? Ephesians 1:7b–8a “…in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (NIV). The riches of His grace. “Grace, grace, God’s grace, freely bestowed on all who believe; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”
Ephesians 1:8b–10. “With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (NIV). God’s great plan, which he has now revealed, is to bring all things together under the Lordship of Christ Jesus at the proper time.
Ephesians 1:11–13a “11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13a And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” (NIV). Here Paul is again reminding us that God is working out his carefully crafted plan, and it is going according to his will. This includes bringing Jews (those first to put their hope in Christ) and Gentiles together into the church through the gospel of salvation.
III. SECURED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT –1:13b-14
The remainder of this section focuses on the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God. Paul says that having heard and believed the message of truth; we received the Holy Spirit as a sign, a guarantee that we are a child of God with full rights. Ephesians 1:13b–14 “13b When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (NIV) The use of seals to show ownership was common. Slaves were branded and soldiers were tattooed. The Holy Spirit as a seal upon us signifies God’s ownership of us as well as his commitment to us to fulfill all his promises towards us, as we read in 2 Corinthians 1:21–22. “21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (NIV)
As we respond to God’s invitation to accept Jesus as our sin forgiver and life leader, we begin to learn that God has planned for this relationship with us from before earthly time began! The Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit planned your rescue, paid for it (with the blood of Jesus), and adopted you as a full member of the family. Christian that is who you are! I don’t need to seek identity through what I live in, drive, or wear – I am secure as a child of the King of the Kings. I don’t need to use others or get their approval; I am loved and guided by the Spirit of God. I live to please him.
Christian, are you struggling in your walk with the Lord? First, this is not a journey you are to make alone! Your coming to salvation is the work of the God head – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – with all the resources of the heavenly realm available. As well, notice Christians are addressed in these verses in the plural: “He blessed us, he chose us…” We are part of the church, the body of Christ; this is also God’s plan for us. We are not alone, nor are we are not powerless. “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3 (NIV).
Hymn: #350 “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus” (vv. 1,2,4)
Verse 1 – ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word. Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know thus saith the Lord.
Chorus – Jesus Jesus how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er. Jesus Jesus precious Jesus, O for grace to trust Him more.
Verse 2 – O how sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to trust His cleansing blood. Just in simple faith to plunge me, ‘Neath the healing cleansing flood.
Verse 3 – Yes ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, Just from sin and self to cease. Just from Jesus simply taking, Life and rest and joy and peace.
Verse 4 – I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, Precious Jesus Savior Friend. And I know that Thou art with me, Wilt be with me to the end.
Benediction: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV).
When we speak of kindness, what do we mean? It’s not getting everything we want, because that can be the worst thing. When I chose the title for this sermon, “Sowing kindness” I was reminded of a different word with the same pronunciation: “sewing”. It’s likely that some of us have memories of torn clothing being mended by our mothers or that last minute costume being sewn together, as well as other countless acts of kindness. However, kindness isn’t just for mothers. The Bible says, “Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves.” Proverbs 11:17 (NIV).
Joseph Joubert says: “Kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve.”  This is exactly how God loves us! In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus says: “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43–45 (NIV). Luke’s version of this sermon of Jesus says: “35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Luke 6:35 (NIV). Romans 2:4 reminds us of the purpose of God’s kindness to us: “4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4 (NIV).
As Christians, we are to live lives of kindness. Colossians 3:12 in the NIV says: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The Living Bible says: “…because of God’s deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others.” (LB) Kindness is love in action. It’s something that you do. Notice the word “practice.” Circle that. It’s practical help.
How can we become more deliberate in our kindness? Here are five words to suggest how you can become a kinder person. One, be sensitive. These are elements of kindness. Two, be supportive. Three, be sympathetic. Four, be straightforward. Five, be spontaneous.
1. Be sensitive.
In other words, tune in. Become aware of the needs around you. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (NIV84). He says be aware. If you care you’ll be aware.
The number one barrier to kindness is busyness. When I get too busy I don’t have time to be kind. I’m the least kind to my wife, to other people when I have my agenda, my goals, my desires, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do, and I don’t have time to be kind. If I were to ask you what are the three greatest needs of the people closest to you this last week would you be able to answer? Kindness starts with being aware and sensitive. If you care, you’ll be aware.
2. Be supportive.
Kindness is shown through being supportive in your speech; this is demonstrated through the way you talk to people. “Kind words bring life but cruel words crush your spirit.” Proverbs 15:4 (GN).
Do you remember how ruthless kids were on the playground when you went to school? Do you remember that? They’d exploit every weakness and failure. You’d be hurt and go home and be reminded of the rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words or names will never hurt me.” However, that’s just not true. A broken bone heals faster than a broken spirit. Your words have a great power to heal or to hurt.
How much do you support people with your words? Are you and encourager or are you a discourager? Do you lift people up or do you put them down? Do you give them strokes or pokes? When you belittle people, you are being little. Be sensitive, be supportive.
3. Be sympathetic.
Kind people share in the emotions of others. Romans 12:15 “When others are happy be happy with them. If they’re sad, share their sorrows.” (LB).
Remember what Jesus did at the death of Lazarus when he meet Martha and Mary? “He wept.” Some people struggle with funerals, they say, “I feel so awkward when I go to a funeral. I don’t know what to say.” The best way to handle a funeral is just weep with people. You don’t have to say anything. Just being there is being kind. The best thing you can do when somebody is grieving is cry with them. Weep with those who weep. That’s what it means to be kind. And rejoice with those who rejoice. Be sensitive, be support, be sympathetic.
4. Be straightforward.
Sometimes kindness means being candid and frank. Leveling with people where they’re making a mistake. Proverbs 27:6 “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.” (LB). Psalm 145:5 “A good man may rebuke me in kindness.” (GN). That is the essence of the slogan: “Real friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” A real friend does not say, “It’s none of my business.” If you’re a friend it is your business. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is level with the person and tell me exactly what they are doing wrong.
When you go to a doctor do you want them to lie to you or do you want them to be straightforward? Do you want them to say, “You’ve got to have surgery or you’re going to die.” Or do you want them to say, “It’s no big deal. You might get well on your own. Relax. Think positive.”
Care enough to confront. Care enough to confront that child. That mate. That friend. That employee. “How do you know when to confront and when to comfort?” You have to evaluate each situation and figure out which is going to bring the most healing. Sometimes comfort will. Sometimes confrontation will.
If you’re going to be a kind person, you need to be sensitive and you need to be supportive and you need to be sympathetic and you need to be straightforward.
5. Be spontaneous.
In other words, don’t wait to do a kind act. When you’ve got time to do it, do it. Do it now. Look at this verse Galatians 6:10 “As we have the opportunity let us do good to all people especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (NIV84). Circle the phrase “As we have the opportunity.” When should you be kind? Whenever you see a need.
Have you ever had somebody do something nice for you and you think, “I need to write that person a thank you note.” But you don’t do it right away and then it’s been so long since they did it that you’re embarrassed to write it so you forget it. The lesson to learn is that opportunities to show kindness do not last. You must do it now as you have the opportunity. They pass quickly. As the saying goes: Give roses while people can smell them!
However, the number one enemy of kindness is busyness. We just get so busy we don’t have time for anything but our own personal agenda. I hear people say all the time, “I’m too busy to serve. I’m too busy to have a ministry.” Then you’re too busy. You’re out of God’s will. You’re out of balance. Life involves blessing yourself, blessing others.
Who can you be kind to this week? You look around you; there are people that are discouraged and hurting. How about at home? Is it possible that this week you could possibly just possibly be a little bit kinder to your wife, or to your husband or to your children? And do an act of kindness? Go out and play catch with them, spend some time with them.
How about at work? Is there someone new you could show kindness by standing with them, helping them through the next three or four months. How about that person who is unkind to you at work? Some people are unkind to others simply because they’ve never experienced kindness themselves.
How about at school? Do you think it’s possible you could be kind to that person that nobody else likes? Is it just possible in the name of Jesus Christ you could be kind to that person this week. Then watch what happens. Kindness transforms people.
How about that friend who doesn’t know Jesus Christ? The kindest thing you can do for somebody is share the Lord with them. Make a friend for life. Tell them that God loves them. That’s the kindest thing you can do. You realize that you are the only Bible that some people will ever read? You say, “I have a Living Bible.” You are a living Bible for many, many people.
Why are we talking about this, today? Because the Christian life is to be a life of kindness. We can make following God so complicated, but it isn’t. The Prophet Micah in 6:8 tells us how to live in a way which pleases God: “8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NRSV). It is no surprise then that kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit of God: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22–23 (NIV).
Colossians 3:12 calls for kindness to be as natural to a Christian as wearing clothing is: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” It is not surprising then as the early Christians did this the Romans in the Roman Empire used to confuse two Greek words. Cristos which mean Christ, Christians, and the word crestos which means kind. They were always confusing Christians and kindness. I can’t think of a better confusion. I can’t think of two words that ought to be synonymous. To be a Christian and to be a kind person.
This week I found a hymn on thankfulness, called: “Forgive us Lord, for shallow thankfulness.” I will read it as a poem:
Forgive us Lord for shallow thankfulness,
for dull content with warmth and sheltered care.
For songs of praise for food and harvest press,
while of Your richer gifts we’re unaware.
Teach us to thank You Lord, for love and grace,
for life and vision for a purpose clear,
for Christ your Son and for each human face,
that shows Your message ever new and near.
Forgive us Lord for selfish thanks and praise,
for words that speak at variance with deeds.
Forgive our thanks for waling pleasant ways,
unmindful of a broken brother’s needs.
Teach us O Lord true thankfulness divine
that gives as Christ gave, never counting cost,
that knows no barrier of yours and mine,
assured that only what’s withheld is lost.
Forgive us Lord for feast that knows not fast,
for joy in things that meanwhile starve the soul.
For walls and wars that hide Your mercies vast
and blur our vision of the Kingdom goal.
Open our eyes to see Your love’s intent,
to know with minds and hearts its depth and height.
May thankfulness be days in service spend,
reflection of Christ’s life and love and light
Here are two things to do this week. First, pray about finding a place to serve. Find a place where you can give as an act of kindness. It may be in our community or through our church as we hope to become more active this fall.
Second, do seven secret acts of kindness to those around you and don’t give hints, (i.e.,” Honey, did you notice the flowers? Did you notice the bathroom was clean? Did you notice the car was washed?”). Do these acts of kindness secretly, getting your joy from the Lord, for it is the Lord you are imitating as you are kind!
Hymn: #451 “O Master, let me walk with Thee” (vv. 1,2,4)
Benediction: 15a Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. 16a Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 3:15a, 16a, 17 (NLT)
 Found in: An Encyclopedia of Compelling Quotations, p. 402. ©2001 R. Daniel Watkins. Henrickson Publishers, Inc. Peabody, Mass.
We have finished looking at the seven “I am” statements Jesus made about himself in the Gospel of John:
1. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
2. Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
3. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
4. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
5. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).
6. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
7. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1).
Today I would like us to consider an eighth “I am” statement of Jesus found in John 8:58: ““Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”” John 8:58 (NIV). You will recognize this statement, as his listeners did, as the title God used for himself when asked by Moses what he should call him. The Israelites, for fear of using God’s name in vain, stopped saying it, replacing it with Lord. When Jesus said these words in verse 58, many considered it an act of blasphemy, but they didn’t understand what Jesus meant.
Christians, some 2000 years after this statement, we aren’t surprised by Jesus’ claim to be the eternal God; for this is at the core of our faith. This isn’t new to us; however, John chapter 8 shows us how our Lord dealt with knowing his true identity while living amongst and seeking to help those who rejected him. Here we learn how to live a God centred life by observing Jesus. Listen to some of the exchange which led to Jesus’ statement in verse 58, beginning at John 8:31-59 from the Good News Translation:
31 So Jesus said to those who believed in him, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; 32you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “We are the descendants of Abraham,” they answered, “and we have never been anybody’s slaves. What do you mean, then, by saying, ‘You will be free’?”
34 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave does not belong to a family permanently, but a son belongs there for ever. 36If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free. 37I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are trying to kill me, because you will not accept my teaching. 38I talk about what my Father has shown me, but you do what your father has told you.”
39 They answered him, “Our father is Abraham.” “If you really were Abraham’s children,” Jesus replied, “you would do the same things that he did. 40All I have ever done is to tell you the truth I heard from God, yet you are trying to kill me. Abraham did nothing like this! 41You are doing what your father did.” “God himself is the only Father we have,” they answered, “and we are his true children.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God really were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own authority, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my message. 44You are the children of your father, the Devil, and you want to follow your father’s desires. From the very beginning he was a murderer and has never been on the side of truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he is only doing what is natural to him, because he is a liar and the father of all lies. 45But I tell the truth, and that is why you do not believe me. 46Which one of you can prove that I am guilty of sin? If I tell the truth, then why do you not believe me? 47He who comes from God listens to God’s words. You, however, are not from God, and that is why you will not listen.”
48 They asked Jesus, “Were we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon in you?” 49 “I have no demon,” Jesus answered. “I honour my Father, but you dishonour me. 50I am not seeking honour for myself. But there is one who is seeking it and who judges in my favour. 51I am telling you the truth: whoever obeys my teaching will never die.”
52 They said to him, “Now we are certain that you have a demon! Abraham died, and the prophets died, yet you say that whoever obeys your teaching will never die. 53Our father Abraham died; you do not claim to be greater than Abraham, do you? And the prophets also died. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I were to honour myself, that honour would be worth nothing. The one who honours me is my Father—the very one you say is your God. 55You have never known him, but I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him, and I obey his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see the time of my coming; he saw it and was glad.” 57 They said to him, “You are not even fifty years old—and you have seen Abraham?”
58 “I am telling you the truth,” Jesus replied. “Before Abraham was born, ‘I Am’.” 59 Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple. John 8:31–59 (GNB)
There is much of importance being revealed to us as Jesus is trying to explain his mission to an increasingly argumentative crowd. For the sake of brevity, I am going to follow the observations of Grant Osborne, in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary,  who sees John 8:54-56 as a short summary of what Jesus has been saying: “54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”” John 8:54–56 (NIV).
First, Jesus did not seek his own glory or do anything on his own. “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing” Jn 8:50 (cf. 5:19, 30; 6:38, 57; 7:16, 18, 28; 8:16, 26, 28, 42). Jesus did what his Father directed and for the sole purpose of bring glory to the Father. Jesus counters the accusation that he is demon possessed (JN. 8:48-50) by pointing out that he is honoring God through his actions; which is not the goal of one possessed by a demon!
True selfless action threatens all who try to gain “fame” by faking it. Bruce Milne in his commentary on John says this about the claims against Jesus: The vitriol of the Jews [caustic response] here should not surprise us, even on the part of some who had so recently professed to follow Jesus. The human heart is seldom so spiteful as when it perceives its self-esteem threatened. There is almost nothing we will cling to with greater vehemence than the props by which we bolster our self-image. Further, the treatment meted out to Jesus here is a timely reminder of what is involved in identifying with him and his truth in a fallen world of falsehood. 
Paul used Jesus’ attitude to call us to demonstrate humility towards each other. “3 When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. 4 Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others. 5 In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. 6 Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. 7 But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant.” Philippians 2:3–7 (NCV). Jesus did not seek his own glory or act independent of God.
Second, all his glory comes from the Father. “My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me” 8:50 (cf. 5:23; 6:27). Because Jesus is completely oriented to God’s glory, God gives him glory (cf. 12:28; 17:1–5). This is what Paul celebrates in Philippians 2: “8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8–11 (NLT).
Jesus’ choice not to live for his only glory, but for the Father’s, results in God the Father exulting him, and God’s opinion is all that matters! Here’s a question for all of us: Is the Father’s opinion of me all that matters to me? Is that how I’m living? If not, what needs to change?
Third, the people didn’t really know God, even though they claimed he was their God “Though you do not know him” Jn 8:55 (cf. 5:37–38, 42; 7:28; 8:19, 47). This is the heart of the conflict and repeats a frequent Old Testament theme “Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care— but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.”” Isaiah 1:3 (NLT), (cf.Jer 2:8; 4:22; Hos 4:1). The people claim they know God, and are children of Abraham, but in practice have rejected God and his work among them through Jesus. They rejected Jesus because he did not fit their conception of the Messiah; they did not realize that he was more than Messiah—he was the Son of God. Therefore, they did not know the true God.
When Jesus questions his critics claim that they are true children of Abraham, they reveal their true lineage by saying that Jesus is demon possessed. Abraham never rejected God’s message or tried to kill his messengers. Grant Osborne says: When my wife taught first grade, she could tell which children belonged to which parents within the first minute of meeting them. The children were the image of their parents. That was Jesus’ point; the Jewish people’s actions showed who their true parent was, and it was not Abraham. Again, the proof was their desire to kill Jesus. This showed that they had completely rejected the truth. In other words, their actions proved their true heritage. To reject the Son is to reject the Father.
There is only one way to know God the Father, and that is through a relationship with Jesus the Son as your sin forgiver and life leader – that’ it! When do you stand? When people watch you, who would they say your father is? What does your life declare?
Jesus didn’t live for his own glory, but for his Father’s. As a result God the Father honoured Jesus, and his opinion is all that matters! Claiming to know to God isn’t enough; his presence within his children will change how they live in this world.
Fourth, Jesus both knew God and obeyed him Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. Jn.8:50 (cf. 5:19; 6:46; 7:28–29; 8:29).
There is only one path to God (14:6) and only one way to know God—through Jesus, the one and only Son who knows him utterly and completely (1:18). This relationship with God through Jesus is:
(1) A gift, not a pedigree. We receive it through putting our trust in Jesus, not our religious heritage or hard work.
(2) It is eternal, not temporary. Jesus invites into a relationship with the eternal God.
(3) It is expressed in our obedience, not our independence. We become a child of God, dependent upon him and reflecting his character. 
Jesus is the Great I am – the second member of the Trinity, God the Son. Today we remember how Jesus did not seek to gain glory for himself, but in humble obedience to his Father, took our place on the cross, for the sins of this world. As a result of his obedience: the price of our sin has been paid and our adoption as children of God is possible; and as Jesus rose victorious over sin and the grave, he was given the name above all other names, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and confess that he is Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father!
Benediction: To Jesus who said: “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” To him belongs all the “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength… forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:17–18; 7:12 (NLT)
 Osborne, G., Philip W. Comfort. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 138–139). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Milne, B. (1993). The message of John: here is your king!: with study guide (p. 135). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
 Osborne, G., Philip W. Comfort. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 135–136). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
 Milne, B. (1993). The message of John: here is your king!: with study guide (p. 134). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
John 14:6 “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.”
April 18, 2021. Esterhazy Baptist Church.
Call to worship: “God, you will