Sunday – October 11, 2015 “Maintaining Your Faith in Difficult Persecution”

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Scripture tells us that in the last days godlessness will have control in the world. We see this now in the world and the frequency and intensity of godlessness is growing daily. Actions and policies may be called right or moral or even what God wants by those in power. These actions and policies are usually “dressed up” as being for best of reasons or for the benefit of many. But the real purpose behind today’s ungodliness is presented in scripture.

2 Timothy 3:1-5
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

Holding a form of godliness means that those at all levels of power try to portray themselves and their actions as “good”, as the thing or things God wants. They project their own desires and cloak them with ”spiritual” words and promises. Their actions however tell the truth, that they do not know the living God or have relationship with Him. Because they do not have a real relationship with God in Christ they are not sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, they do not have the power of real godliness in their lives.

The only way to truly know what God wants, what is right and moral, is to know God. We can only truly know God by first having our sins forgiven by Christ and beginning a new life with Christ in charge. This new relationship equips us to understand what God has provided for us and how He wants us to respond. That response is having the right thoughts, purposes and actions that please and serve Him. He supplies the power for that response. To find those right responses we must look to His word, the Bible. It is through the Bible that we get to know Him. The more completely and intimately we know Him, the better we can see, trust and follow Him in all circumstances.

The scriptures reveal His love, His power, and His Promise.

God’s love is expressed in his sending his Son to die, not for the Son’s own sins for he lived the only life without sin, but to die to pay the penalty for the sins of all who will trust in the Son: The sins of you and me.

God’s power is seen in the six-day creation of the world. All things created in the six days were spoken into existence except for man, whom God made “by hand”. His power is further revealed on a human experience level by His bringing to life people who were dead.

God’s promise is for eternal life for all who trust the Son and what He has done on the cross and in the resurrection.

John 6:40
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Sunday – October 4, 2015 Revelation 3:14-22 “Laodicea: Church of the Closed Door” Part 2

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Revelation 3:19
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.”

I do not want to be a doormat, but I have lived like one. I’ve stayed put in situations where I know I should leave. I have stood silently when people have spoken out of hatred and discrimination. I have let people slander, falsely accuse, and violate me; their words like slung mud on my back. I have acquiesced to going places and doing things in I had absolutely no interest. I know the Scriptures tell me that I should bless those who curse me (Romans 12:14), or turn the other cheek (Luke 6:27-29), or that the meek are blessed and shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). I agree wholeheartedly. But that is not what I am talking about.

What I am talking about is motivation. I’m ashamed to say that too many times, my motivation for turning the veritable cheek is not Christ-likeness. Rather, my motivation is acceptance, or fear, or apathy. That’s doormat behavior ­– limp, passive, going nowhere, and getting trampled. Our calling is to be more like Jesus, and Jesus was no doormat. Jesus cleaned feet, yes, but that’s where the similarities end. Jesus willingly, intentionally donned clothes of a servant, knelt at people’s feet, poured fresh water on the dirty and muddy places and made them clean. I hate to ask myself this, but must, continually: what is my motivation in turning the other cheek, in remaining silent, in pausing before I respond? Is it to be mired in dirt, or to emulate the One who is making me clean?

When my motivation is spiritual growth, focus on Jesus, and pursuing righteousness, I enthusiastically work to wash the feet of my friends and foes alike by bearing with those who require extra grace, compromising on issues or excursions, or by calling out faulty thinking in order to edify (not embarrass). It takes work to cover people with grace when their deeds might merit negative exposure. It takes self-control and character to be truly meek.

Doormat living thrives on dirt, the soil of passive-aggression to avoid conflict. The soot of absorbing the maltreatment of others because you believe it’s your lot in life. The motivation of doormat living is self-pity and pride. Self-loathing is a crazy hubris; it is believing that even if God says I’m made in His image, He’s wrong … but only about me. It’s attempting to live like we’re just dust even after receiving God’s breath. We have this treasure, this water, so to speak, in our earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). The treasure is the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This water is the God-given ability to forgive and be forgiven, so we can continually walk in peace with God. No one but God knows the motivation behind our actions; and we can live the façade of holiness while all the while having a heart of a white-washed sepulcher, encasing dead men’s bones instead of living water.


Sunday – September 27, 2015 Revelation 3:14-22 “Laodicea: Church of the Closed Door” Part 1

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Revelation 3:14-15
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.”

The word “amen” is a most remarkable word. No matter what country or culture you are from, the word “Amen” is recognized nearly all of them. The word Amen was actually transliterated, spoken from one language into another. It came originally from the Hebrew and was transliterated into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best-known word in human speech.

The word is directly – in fact, almost – to the Hebrew word for “believe” (aman), or “faithful.” So it is no surprise to find the gospel writers used in a way that came to mean “sure” or “truly,” an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When one believes God, he indicates his faith by an “amen.” When God makes a promise, the believer’s response is “amen” – “so it will be.” In the New Testament, it is often translated “verily” or “truly.” When we pray according to His Word and His will, we know God will answer, so we close with an “amen,” and so also do we conclude a great hymn or anthem of praise and faith.

The word is even a title of Christ Himself. As we can see, in the last of His letters to the seven churches begins with a remarkable salutation by the glorified Lord calling Himself the Amen. We can be preeminently certain that His Word is always faithful and true, because He is none other than the Creator of all things, and thus He is our eternal “Amen.” As the Scriptures reminds us, every promise of God in Christ is “yes and amen,” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Amen is the strongest affirmation of truth as can be expressed in the Greek language and it is applied to the promises of God in Jesus Christ.

It is, therefore, profoundly meaningful that the entire Bible and almost every epistle in the New Testament closes with an “amen.” Even the end of the Scriptures in the Book of Revelation uses this word of authority: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21), assuring everyone who reads these words that the whole Book is absolutely true and trustworthy. And all God’s people said Amen!

Sunday – September 20, 2015 Revelation 3:7-13 “Philadelphia: Church of the Open Door”

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Revelation 3:8
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

The apostles were instructed to wait until the Spirit came upon them, empowering them to carry out the Great Commission. When the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost (Acts 2), the result was Peter’s powerful sermon which God used to save many. In the Spirit’s power, the apostles performed miracles, which provided yet more opportunities to proclaim the gospel (Acts 3). But as the apostles continued to heal and to preach in the name of Jesus, the Sadducees and other Jewish religious leaders became increasingly concerned, so that they began to persecute the apostles (Acts 4 & 5).

The gospel was advancing in a way that partially fulfilled the Great Commission, but this was far less than what our Lord had commanded. For one thing, the gospel was spread only as far as “all Judea and Samaria.” For another, the apostles had not yet come to terms with the fact that the gospel was the good news of salvation for Jews and Gentiles, without distinction. Up to this point in time, it was assumed that in order to be a Christian, one must either be Jewish, either by birth or by becoming a Jewish proselyte. The failure of the apostles to aggressively fulfill the Great Commission seems to have been fueled, to some degree, by their belief that the gospel should not go to the Gentiles.

There were certain excuses for the apostles’ inaction which could have been used. For example, because they believed the Gentiles should not be evangelized as Gentiles because they were considered unclean. In the Book of Acts, God has already dealt with Peter on this matter and now through Peter, God will open the door to worldwide evangelism. Peter was the one to whom the “keys to the kingdom” were given by our Lord (Matthew 16:19). God opened the door to those who would hear his message. It wasn’t Peter who persuaded Cornelius and friends to believe; God did. Peter was an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer, but the Lord Jesus, who has the Key of David, opened the doors that had previously been shut.

We live at a time when people are obsessed with methods. They wish to know the methods of those who are successful. This is not altogether a bad thing but we should take note that the Ethiopian eunuch, Saul, and Cornelius were not saved because of some slick evangelistic approach. They were saved because God prepared their hearts and drew them to Himself by faith. More important than having the right method is preserving and proclaiming the right message. We are not to modify the message of the gospel to make it more palatable. Our task is to proclaim the gospel that God has given us in His Word. If salvation is “of the Lord” – and it surely is – then let us spend more time in His Word and in prayer, asking God to prepare the hearts of lost people and open the door to their hearts with the message of the gospel we take to them.

Sunday – September 13, 2015 Revelation 3:1-6 “Sardis: A Mostly Dead Church”

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 Revelation 3:1
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”

From time to time I hear of the bands of my childhood come to town to play a concert. Some of the bands that are still touring today that were touring in the 1980s and I am shocked to see it. I will think to myself, “Wow, those guys are still touring?” The reason it is strange to me is because these bands are not putting out any new songs or any new music. They are simply playing the hits that were so great 20-30 years ago. They are living on the reputation that they made for themselves decades ago. But they are not creating any new, fresh music.

In Christ’s letter to the church in Sardis, He gets immediately to the heart of the problem. Christ describes Himself as the one who is in charge, holding the seven stars and has the seven spirits of God. Christ knows the works of the church at Sardis and they are dead. This is a dead church. In the other letters to the seven churches so far, Christ knows their works have been good for the church. Christ sees what the Christians are doing in their love, faith, and service. Christ also knows the works of the church in Sardis and those works are not good.

Even more interesting is the fact that they did not know they were a dead church. The church in Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but it was not living up to its reputation. The problem that Christ exposes is superficial Christianity. Members claim to be of Christ but they do not live like they are of Christ. They seem to be Christians, but the Spirit has left the body. They are not putting what they have received from the Scriptures into practice. Christ calls them and us to remember not just what they received and heard but HOW they received.

A dead church is a church that is living on its past. It has a great resume, but the work of Christ has run out of gas and the church will not finish well. How can we avoid such a fate, to start well but finish so poorly? Ask yourself, how has this week been different because of what you have heard from last week’s message? What act of ministry have you participated in? Or is that the pastor’s job because you pay him to do it for you? Are you mentally and physically participating in worship? Our Lord’s words to these churches are not to make us feel comfortable with where we are, but to cause ourselves to examine ourselves to see if our faith is changing us to be more like Jesus or are we becoming that touring band living on past glory?


Sunday – September 6, 2015 Revelation 2:18-29 “Thyatira: Tolerating Tolerance”

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Revelation 2:20-21
‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.”

“That’s a long story.” How many times have you heard this statement? Often it is the first response from a Christian who is asked how they came to faith in Jesus Christ. After studying this text, I’ve concluded that the statement, “That’s a long story,” also applies to divine judgment. In 1 Kings 21, Ahab and Jezebel committed a terrible sin. This king and queen appear to have had a second palace in Jezreel, and adjoining the royal property was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. The king decided that he would like this property as well. He offered to trade with Naboth for a better piece of property or to pay him a premium price in cash (silver). It wasn’t a bad idea, and it was a generous offer, except for the fact that the Law of Moses forbade an Israelite from selling his family inheritance.

His wife, Jezebel, was not about to take “no” for an answer. She took matters into her own hands, instructing the leaders of the city to obtain false accusations against Naboth, and then to carry out his execution for “blaspheming God and the king,” as well as Naboth‘s sons. Ahab might have found a measure of solace in the fact that he didn’t really know how Jezebel was going to acquire this property for him but he knew her well enough to know it would be neither legal nor moral. He was the king, and he allowed her to act in his behalf – and with his authority.

It is not until 2 King 9 that we see the wheels of justice catch up with Jezebel. It is here that Jehu races toward Jezreel in his chariot, accompanied by soldiers loyal to him, ready to storm the city of Jezreel. See the approaching army, Jezebel retired to her tower to apply makeup and continue in her way of manipulation and intimidation. It has served her well with her husband Ahab and in the past protected her position. If this woman was as mean an employer as she was wicked as a queen, no one would have shed any tears at her death. Jehu commanded his supporters, standing by the queen, to throw her out the window, and they did. She fell to the ground to her death where she was trampled by the wheels of Jehu’s chariot.

God does know how to deliver the righteous from judgment and how to reserve the unrighteous for judgment. Our text is ample proof of that. My question to you, my friend, is this: Are you going to be among the righteous, who are spared from divine judgment, or are you among the wicked, whom God is reserving for punishment? Sinners often gloat over the fact that God seems to be doing nothing about their sins, and so they feel that they are free to continue to live in sin, without fear of divine judgment. God has made it clear that there is a day of accountability and we are to be ready.

Sunday – August 30, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 2

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Revelation 2:16-17
‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

It has been said, “Any idiot can be complicated; but it takes genius to be simple.” Indeed, the most effective oral and written communicators are those who take profound truths and make them simple. This has bearing on every area of our lives. When we communicate with others either individually or corporately, we must be clear and simple. The well-known acronym K.I.S.S. (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) applies here.

Although the Lord is the deepest thinker, after all “His ways are not our ways.” He always strives to bring His great truth down to common folks like you and me. However, many who have taught from the Book of the Revelation have produced a most unfortunate history of application in the church.  Unfortunately, this trend continues today. By appealing to “hidden manna” and “white stones” all kinds of false doctrines are being perpetuated and widely accepted. Therefore, we must be on the alert against this passage and others like it being abused. Our goal must be to understand why our Lord Jesus has written to this letter to these churches and how it applies to our lives.

The wonderful mysteries God has prepared for those who love Him are not knowable only by a select group of Christians. Any and every believer can understand and appreciate them because the indwelling Holy Spirit can enlighten us. However, without the light of God’s Spirit, we’ll be in the dark. This is why our Lord instructs each of these churches to listen to what the Spirit has to say to each of these seven churches. The Holy Spirit searches the very depths of the heart and mind of God. He can do this because He is God – the third member of the Trinity.

There will be many things about life and faith we will not understand on this side of heaven. They are mysteries – but mystery is not a bad thing. It ultimately comes down to whom do you believe? Do you believe God and what He has promised to those who overcome or do you believe what the world says about what will make your life pleasant and meaningful. The walk of faith is one that trusts what God has promised even though we cannot know what the results will be because the One who has promised it is faithful to what He has promised and is all powerful to accomplish what He has promised.

Sunday – August 23, 2015 Revelation 2:12-17 “Pergamum: Sin City” Part 1

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Revelation 2:12-14
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this: ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.”

The Bible displays a sense of proportion concerning Satan which we should seek to gain and then maintain. The Scriptures tell us all we need to know about Satan, and no more. Given Satan’s key role in the plan of God, his great power, and his cunning ways, we might expect to find more about Satan in the Bible than we do. God neither wishes to flatter Satan with too much publicity nor desires that we become preoccupied with him. Satan fell because of his insatiable desire for prominence, desiring the glory which belongs only to God. Satan should receive only the attention he deserves. God’s Word supplies the facts and perspective we need.

I sometimes hear Christians referring to adversity or difficulty, assuming that it has come from Satan. Perhaps it has or perhaps not. But if it has come from Satan, it has ultimately come from God. In the midst of his trials, Job was not aware that Satan was involved. For him, it did not matter. Job knew that God was sovereign, and thus whatever came his way came ultimately from the hand of God. Job’s problem was that he questioned the wisdom of God. Job’s great comfort came when he grasped that God is not only sovereign, but also wise and good.

Satan is out there. Sometimes we will know it. Sometimes we will not. But behind him is the God of the universe who is in complete control, using Satan, angels, kings, and sinful men to accomplish His plan. Satan’s might and power are great but not when compared with the God who uses him to achieve His plan. The Bible has been written to increase our depth perception – our ability to look behind the immediate source of circumstances to see God, the ultimate source.

To this point in time, God has purposed Satan’s existence and opposition to fulfill God’s plan. But for Satan the perfect plan of God includes a future day of doom. God’s perfect rule over creation requires the elimination and removal of Satan, sin, and death from this earth. Only then will God’s cure for the curse be complete. The Bible predicts and describes the defeat of Satan. My friend, whom will you choose? If you do not choose Christ, you are already Satan’s slave, doomed to share in his eternal torment. Those who follow Satan share in his doom. Those who receive God’s grace in Christ share in His reign of righteousness.

Sunday – August 16, 2015 Revelation 2 verses 9 to 11

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Revelation 2:10
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Secular society has a theology of suffering easily summed up in two words seen on bumper stickers all across the country. While I cannot quote the bumper sticker exactly, you will recognize it when I tell you it reads, “… happens.” Or as the  King James translation would read, “Dung Happens.” If we were to “exegete” this slogan, we would see the fruit of this theology provides the following affirmations (not truths). First, suffering equals dung. Suffering is not just worthless; it is repugnant and disgusting. It has no value. Second, suffering is random and senseless, similar to a drive-by shooting which comes upon innocent victims unexpectedly without reason or provocation. It just happens.

Sadly, many contemporary Christians’ theology of suffering believes suffering is unpredictable and unavoidable; we can do nothing to avoid it and certainly we cannot make something of it. We can only passively accept and endure, hoping it will end as soon as possible. One reason this has become so prevalent in the Church today is the wide-spread preaching of a distorted gospel in which Christ is presented as the key to earthly bliss and the solution to all our problems.  As a result, many think Christians do not suffer. Such pseudo-Christianity becomes evident when suffering does occur and the misinformed believers abandon their profession of faith.

Christians must categorically disagree with this theology of suffering. First, we know that while God does not “cause” all suffering, no suffering comes our way but that which God has purposed for our good and for His glory. God may not “cause all things” but He does “cause all things to work together for good, to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Therefore, the Christian dares not view suffering as a negative experience (“dung”) but as something positive. Suffering is neither random nor senseless; it is part of the divine plan. We also dare not look upon suffering as something we merely endure; for the Christian, suffering is an experience in which we may rejoice.

Only salvation through Christ can transform one’s values the way our Lord desired the saints in Smyrna to be transformed about suffering. Only when we see Christ as precious do we see the things of this world as valueless, indeed, even detrimental. That will include persecution and suffering just as much as comfort and riches. Have you found Him to be precious? Have you trusted in His shed blood as God’s provision for your sin? I earnestly urge you to do so, even now.

Sunday – August 9, 2015 “Ephesus Love Lost” Part 2 Revelation 2 verses 1 to 8 pt 2

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Revelation 2:7
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

Have you ever put yourself in the shoes of John as he is trying to write out the revelation that has been given to him from our Lord Jesus? He is the last apostle standing. In John 21 Peter had been grumbling when Jesus told him they would bind his hands and lead him where he did not want to go and he wanted to know why John’s fate was not going to be his. But at this time all of the other apostles, as far as we know, are dead and only John is left. He is no longer a young man, and his time for departure is very near – whether that be from old age or his exile on the island of Patmos as a prisoner.

The churches that are addressed in the Book of Revelation are moving from first generation churches to second generation churches. When we consider the history of Israel, after God has moved in a powerful way the transition between generations was never easy. The same is true for generations in the church. In Acts 19, we are told that the gospel spread throughout all of Asia (modern day Turkey). The idol makers were greatly distressed because of the hit that their businesses took. Even imposters like the seven sons of Sceva tried to get in on the rising tide of God’s powerful work. Even people of Ephesus cleared out their books on the occult and idol worship, taking them out to the city square and burning them. And yet Jesus tells them He has something against them.

The first generation church, based on what they saw and experienced, realized the sufficiency and the power of Jesus Christ in their lives. But that was nearly forty years before. It was a distant memory for the older generation and merely a story that was told to the next generation as they heard their parents repeat yet again what God did “back then.” I cannot help but think John was sitting on the island of Patmos and wondering what all of this meant for the ensuing generations and what this would mean for the future of Jesus Christ’s church.

This should cause each of us this morning to pause for a moment. If it had been roughly forty years after the church at Ephesus had been born when Jesus gave this revelation to John, we should remember that is drawing very close to the age of Sunrise Community Church. The passing of time is not always good. Churches, like human bodies, tend to have life spans. Unless love is continually kindled, bodies move from old to cold. And so I wonder if the problems the church at Ephesus faced at the writing of this letter may not be too different than the problems that face us today. I believe this letter is one we should listen well to what is said.