Sunday – June 6, 2021 Romans Week 9 Rom 2:6-16 “How Good is Good Enough”

Sunday – June 6, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 6, 2021

Romans 2:12-13
For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

If you have shared the gospel with people, you’ve heard the question, “Is God fair to judge those who have never heard about Jesus Christ?” Will a person really go to hell because they did not believe in Jesus when they never heard of Him? Another variation of the question is, “Won’t those who have done the best that they could do get into heaven?”

God will judge everyone with perfect justice. Paul establishes this point in verse 11, “For there is no partiality with God.” Paul anticipates our objection because he knows we are predisposed to think more highly of our own sense of morality. We think God will treat us more favorably than others who live just as they please. We are good people who obey the golden rule and they don’t!” Or, perhaps a more agnostic person would object, “It’s not fair for God to judge me for disobeying a standard that I knew nothing about! I’ve done the best that I could with what I knew. God won’t judge me, will He?”

Paul shows that God will impartially judge everyone for sinning against the light that they were given. His line of reasoning goes like this: The Gentile sinned without the Law, so he will perish without the Law. The Jew sinned under the Law and so he will be judged by the Law. In other words, as verse 6 stated, God “will render to each person according to his deeds.” Hearing the Law isn’t good enough; you must be a doer of the Law. Although the Gentiles did not have God’s Law, they all have an inner sense of right and wrong- a conscience. And, although occasionally they may do what is right, they all have sinned against what they know to be right. Their consciences and thoughts convict them of their guilt. But whatever they may think of themselves, the day is coming when God will judge not only outward deeds, but also the secrets of men through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the gospel.

At first glance, this doesn’t sound like good news! But, if there is no judgment for all sin, then there is no need for a Savior and thus no good news. If we do not acknowledge the coming judgment and wrath of God, we do not understand the gospel at all. The gospel does not offer good people the option of going on in our sin or shrugging it off as if it will not come under judgment if we do not repent. We need to understand the bad news of judgment in order to appreciate the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.

Sunday – May 23, 2021 Romans Week 8 Rom 2:1-5 “Self Righteousness is Unrighteousness”

Sunday – May 23, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 23, 2021

Romans 2:3-4
But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

Waiting for his first orthodontist appointment, a 12-year-old boy was a bit nervous. He was completing a patient questionnaire and had high hopes of winning the dentist’s favor. In the space marked “Hobbies” he wrote, “Swimming and flossing”. We all want to make a good impression, to portray ourselves to others as better than we really are. But when we do that, we’re forgetting something important, namely, that God knows the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13). Someday we will stand before Him to give an account of our lives.

Paul begins to zero in on the moral Gentile or Jew in these opening verses, using the same indirect approach that the prophet Amos (Amos 1 & 2), where he begins by condemning the foreign nations around Israel. Just when the Jews are cheering him on, he moves in to hit them with their sins. Self-righteous people tend to justify themselves by blaming others. Self-righteousness is a very difficult sin to get people to see and condemn in themselves. But it’s a serious sin because it keeps people from seeing their need for the gospel. It believes the lie that we can be good enough in ourselves to qualify for heaven. “Maybe really gross sinners need a Savior. But me? Hey, God wouldn’t judge a good guy like me, would He?” Or, would He?

Paul isn’t condemning the act of judging others per se, in that he expects the moral person to agree with him that the sins of Romans 1 are wrong. The problem with judging others is when you secretly engage in the same behavior that you openly condemn. When a politician postures as standing for family values, but it comes out that he snuck off to visit his mistress in South America, he has condemned himself. Paul is not saying that it is wrong to judge others. Rather, he is saying that it is wrong self-righteously to judge others, while at the same time you’re practicing the sins that you’re judging.

The self-righteous are in error concerning divine judgment. They fail to distinguish between God’s present wrath and His coming (future) wrath. One purpose of God’s present wrath is repentance, leading to salvation. The primary purpose of His future wrath is justice. There is no turning back from this judgment. When we look upon those God has “given over to sin” as eternally doomed, we are just as incorrect as looking upon those who are presently experiencing God’s “kindness” as assured of eternal blessing. For now, both God’s kindness and His severity are directed toward man’s salvation, not his destruction.

Sunday – March 21, 2021 Book of Romans – Week 1 Introduction

Sunday – March 21, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 21, 2021

Romans 1:2-4
…the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Scriptures are said to be the defining work of civilization. But the Scriptures are not just a collection of men’s ideas about God, nor is it a guidebook for living that people developed over the centuries. The Bible was written by dozens of authors over many hundreds of years. Some are very brief–less than a page, while others are much longer. Yet, despite their diversity, when you examine them, you discover they all have a common theme: God’s relationship with the human race. Ultimately, the Bible deals with timeless questions: Who are we? Why are we here? How can we redeem our mistakes? How should we live?

Of all the books found in the Bible, no book answers these questions better than the Book of Romans. God has used this powerful letter in some remarkable ways to change the lives of some of the greatest thinkers, missionaries and theologians throughout human history. It is the book that was instrumental in leading men like Augustine, Charles Wesley and John Bunyan to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  It changed the course of church history after being read by Martin Luther. It was so important to church father Chrysostom that he had it read to him twice each week.

The Swiss commentator, Frederic Godet, wrote that “every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.” His summation of Romans was: “For what is the Epistle to the Romans? The offer of the righteousness of God to the man who finds himself stripped by the law of his own righteousness (1:17). In a nutshell, the Book of Romans is the gospel: the good news that God declares sinners to be righteous when they trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf. It involves both the imputed righteousness of justification (Romans 3-5) and the imparted righteousness of sanctification, worked out progressively through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 6-8).”

As I said last week, the Church of Jesus Christ faces challenges never seen before in the history of the church. There is a pervasive darkness in our country and a lack of clear biblical thinking in this generation. And our calling is to be a people who are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) If we are to reclaim this mandate from God, we must fully understand how that calling was granted to us and how we are to live it out. There is no better time than now to understand the wisdom of God found in the Book of Romans.

Sunday – March 14, 2021 Acts 19:19-30 “Christian Thinking During COVID 19” Pt 11

Sunday – March 14, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 14, 2021

Acts 11:20-21
Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

What is the main business of the church? Some would say that it is to care for its members, to visit the sick and pray with them, to take care of people at important transitions in life, such as marriage, childbirth, and death. That the Church is here to provide guidance and comfort for people at important times. No doubt, these are all functions of the church. But I would argue that these functions are not the main business of the church, and if we start acting as if they were, we will miss our main business.

With the COVID virus, many businesses have had to pivot not just to maintain customers, but to thrive in the radically changed environment we find ourselves today. But they must pivot in a way that maintains their main business. The Church of Jesus Christ is no different. We are always in danger of slipping into a maintenance mentality to keep the doors open, to preserve our faith and to maintain tradition. With the emphasis on maintaining “social distance” we must always remember our main business is the same business of Jesus who “came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Think of how the COVID virus is being spread today. People do not deliberately go out, seeking to spread the virus to many others. They simply go about their lives as usual, and when they come into contact with others, the virus is unknowingly spread abroad. The virus has a life of its own, and is spread by social contact as people go about their lives as normal. Ideally, and as we see it in Acts 19, the gospel was quickly spread abroad by people who went about, living their lives in contact with other people. These saints did not begrudgingly spread the gospel, nor was their evangelism the execution of a particular plan or script. Their joy simply overflowed, and because their new-found salvation was so life-transforming they just couldn’t help but tell others about it. For them, evangelism was the result of the overflow of joy and praise to God that others observed, and “caught.”

Antioch is as an example to us. It was a church founded by simple believers who knew that God has called every Christian to serve Him. They proclaimed the gospel as the power of God for salvation to every person who believes and the hand of the Lord was with them, and considerable numbers were brought to the Lord. Let’s keep our main business in focus: To obey the Holy Spirit in promoting God’s glory by sending out workers called by God to preach the gospel. As Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matt. 9:37-38).

Sunday – March 7, 2021 1Peter 2:13 “Christian Thinking During COVID 19” Pt 10

Sunday – March 7, 2021

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Word On Worship – Sunday – March 7, 2021

1 Peter 2:13-15
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”

For centuries, the Christian’s relationship to civil government has been a matter of critical importance. In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel spent 400 years under Egyptian rule. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the people of Israel, directing them to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and to Babylonian rule. The false prophets, however, promised the people that God would quickly deliver them from their bondage. As a result, over a period of time through a sequence of defeats at the hands of the Babylonians, almost the entire population of those dwelling in Jerusalem and the territory of Judah were taken as captives to Babylon. This same spirit of rebellion against foreign domination, even though divinely imposed, was evident in the Jews of Jesus’ day.

The command is given to submit ourselves to every human institution. The word “submit” is almost always taught and understood in terms of authority. Submission is the proper response of the Christian to those in a position of authority over us. In secular thinking, this may be as far as submission will go, but this is not so in the Bible. In addition to being a matter of authority, submission is also a matter of priority.

Peter calls upon the saints to “honor all men.” I believe this is a manifestation of submission. Peter commands the saints to submit to the king as the one “in authority” (verse 13). Submission is not only to be granted to the king, the ultimate authority, but to all of his agents. As I understand Peter, this not only means men in prominent positions of power such as governors but those who act on their behalf, the civil servants who carry out the functions of government on our level. Peter expects us to respond to these agents of authority as though they were the supreme human authority whom they represent.

Christians today are becoming more and more suspicious of government as it seems to encroach on our freedoms, especially during the COVID pandemic. When Christians are dominant in government, Christians breathe easily, but when “liberals” take control, we suddenly look at government differently. Let us remember that the government of Peter’s day was Rome, and the emperor at the end of Peter’s life was Nero. And yet Peter speaks of government not as our persecutor but as our protector. He speaks not of civil disobedience but of submission. He does not speak of government as our accuser but as the instrument through which false accusations are silenced. Let us look at government and respond to it as God has intended it to be, not as we fear it will be.

Sunday – December 27, 2020 Gal 4:-7 “In Search of Why Christ Came”

Sunday – December 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 27, 2020

Amos 3:6
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?

By the 1850s, London was the most powerful and wealthiest city in the world, with a population of more than 2 million. A cholera outbreak in 1854 struck fear into the hearts of Londoners. Charles Spurgeon, only 20 years old at the time, came to the capital to pastor New Park Street Chapel. He would look back to this plague as a key time of learning both for himself and also for the city. Spurgeon wrote, “If there ever be a time when the mind is sensitive, it is when death is abroad. I recollect, when first I came to London, how anxiously people listened to the gospel, for the cholera was raging terribly. There was little scoffing then.”

In a message later in his life, Charles Spurgeon told the story of visiting a dying man who had previously opposed him: “That man, in his lifetime, had been wont to jeer at me. In strong language, he had often denounced me as a hypocrite. Yet he was no sooner smitten by the darts of death than he sought my presence and counsel, no doubt feeling in his heart that I was a servant of God, though he did not care to own it with his lips. The sinking sand of this world is a constant reality—but it often takes the storms of this life, such as COVID-19, to reveal it. Spurgeon saw the plagues of his day as a storm that led many to seek refuge in Christ the Rock.

But that was the 1850’s, what about today? There are many factors that set our age apart from others. In the past pandemics I have written about in the Word on Worship this month, before modern hospitals, there was no specialized, professional health care. What’s more, previous generations ministered to the sick with little knowledge of how their diseases were transmitted. Today we know caregivers can be carriers, even when asymptomatic. In sone ways, self-isolation can be the most loving thing to do, rather than infecting the ones we’re seeking to love. While the outworking of love may look different in different ages, love must still be the aim—a love directed by the Holy Spirit, not our self-centered flesh.

Regardless of how we may feel about the pandemic, the government’s response or the economic and health turmoil we now find ourselves inhabiting, the focus of those who follow Christ must remain the same as the Church of centuries past. Continue to point out to the sinking sand of the world and the mortality of us all. Proclaim and prize Christ the Rock, knowing that He alone can, and He alone will, weather the storms. Love our neighbors—moving, in Christ, toward those in need. And may God be pleased to continue to work through this trial to glorify Christ’s name and extend His kingdom.

Sunday – October 11, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 23:12-35 “HOPE His Operatiing Providence in Everything”

Sunday – October 11, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – October 11, 2020

Acts 23:16-18
But the son of Paul’s sister heard of their ambush, and he came and entered the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions to him and said, “Lead this young man to the commander, for he has something to report to him.”

You’ve probably heard people say “Some people have all the luck, but not me!” Or, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I would not have any luck at all.” Perhaps you’ve even said or thought something similar yourself at times. But all of those declarations are at odds with biblical truth, because each statement goes against the truth of God’s providence. There is no such thing as luck or pure chance. If we have a bad day, it is because the Lord ordained these circumstances for our benefit. Bad days don’t just happen! “Whatever will be will be” reflects a view of our circumstances as being caused by impersonal fate.

The word “providence” does not occur in the Bible, but the doctrine is stated and illustrated as a major theme throughout Scripture. As you probably know, it is the theme of the Book of Esther, which never mentions God directly. And yet His providential hand is behind the twists and turns of the story, preserving His chosen people from destruction.

Deists deny God’s providence by asserting that He created the world, but He is no longer actively involved in it. Others say that God is active in the events of the world, but that He is not sovereign over evil. Rather, evil is the result of free will. But the Bible teaches that God is actively controlling or directing even evil events and evil people in such a way as to accomplish His sovereign will, and yet He is not the author of evil and is not responsible for it (Eph. 1:11). But no evil person or act changes or thwarts God’s sovereign will

The doctrine of God’s providence is very practical and comforting on a daily basis. If we live in a world of random chance, then we have every right to be afraid.  You never know what bad things might happen to you or your loved ones, and so all you can do is hope for “good luck.” Sadly, many Christians believe God is not sovereign over evil, so when terrorists fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or a gunman kills your loved one, it can only be called a tragedy.  But if that evil event was under God’s providence, then we know that He can work it together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). Those who lost loved ones can know that those wicked men did not in any way thwart God’s sovereign plan. Rather, those evil men were inadvertently carrying out His sovereign plan for history and they will face God’s judgment.

 

Sunday – September 27, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 22:1-29 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – September 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 27, 2020

Acts 22:4-5
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

Have you ever wished that you had a more dramatic testimony? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who came to Christ from a life of terrible sin and you’ve thought, “If I just had a testimony like that, I could lead all sorts of people to Christ!” If you grew up in the church, your testimony may not be a dramatic or compelling story that leads people to Christ. But the Lord has shown me over the years that my heart is just as corrupt as the hearts of the most wicked people on earth. I’ve also learned that it takes the same mighty power of God to save an outwardly good person as it does to save an outwardly evil person. An outwardly good person needs salvation every bit as much as the notorious sinner does.

Everything about Paul’s conversion came from God. Nothing about his conversion stemmed from Paul. God didn’t look down and see some merit in Paul that qualified him to come to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Paul confesses that he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). There are many who say that the reason that God chose Paul, or that He chooses anyone, is that He foresees that the person will one day choose to follow Him. But to say this is to base God’s sovereign election on the fallen will of man, ignoring the plain biblical truth that unless God first does a work of grace in our hearts, no one would ever choose Him. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and no one is able to come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

In several places, Paul attributes the first cause of our salvation to God’s choice of us, not to our choice of Him. In Ephesians 1:4-6, he says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

If God’s grace and power are mighty to save a sinner such as Paul, then He is able to save any sinner, and to do it instantly and totally. His light can blind and knock down the most powerful persecutor of the church. You may have some terrible sins in your past. You may even be militantly opposed to Christianity, convinced by all of your arguments that it is just a myth. But the risen Lord Jesus is mighty to save even you. He can open your eyes to get a glimpse of His glory and grace, and you will never be the same.

Sunday – August 30, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 19:8-41 “Do You Believe in Magic”

Sunday – August 30, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 30, 2020

Acts 19:11-12
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

If there was a time for miraculous healing being needed, it must be now. We are continually bombarded with news about sickness from COVID 19, riots in the streets from social unrest and devastated communities from economic shutdown. And this is just relating to the events of 2020. We still see people stricken with terrible disease, famine from natural and manmade causes and broken families from any number of causes. Where is God’s miraculous power in the hurt and where are His people to bring healing to the afflicted?

The hope of miraculous healing attracts many people to churches that claim to see such miracles happening, because there are many who are afflicted with serious, incurable illnesses. Even here at Sunrise, we have many (including myself) suffering from such diseases. I often pray for healing, and I would rejoice if God miraculously intervenes heals. Sometimes God does heal miraculously, and we should pray for it, if it is His will. But the problem is, these verses do not seem to be true in my experience. So far in my life, God has never used me to perform a miracle. And I can’t say that whatever I ask Him to do, He does it every time.

Luke notes that these miracles in Ephesus were extraordinary, even for the apostle Paul (19:11). They seem to parallel the extraordinary miracles that Peter performed for a brief period in his ministry (5:15-16). It is significant that apart from Stephen and Philip, there are no miracles recorded as performed by anyone other than the apostles. The purpose of these apostolic miracles (according to Heb. 2:3-4), was to confirm the message of salvation that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed. In fact, throughout the entire Bible, miracles are not uniformly sprinkled as everyday occurrences. Rather, they are clustered at key moments, such as the exodus, where God was working on behalf of His people. Those who lived after are often reminded of these former miracles to call them back to God.

Can God heal miraculously today? Of course! Does He heal miraculously today? Sometimes, but not nearly as often as television evangelists claim or we want to see ourselves. If God chooses in His will to use us to heal someone through our prayers or to deliver someone from demonic power, we should be available for Him to do it. But to try to use such powers for our own purposes is to be lord of our lives. We must be people who live out our salvation in humility and repentance, which requires we be subject to God’s will.  God’s will often contains suffering to achieve His purpose in our lives. Rather than trying to use God, we should let God use us!

Sunday – June 28, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 14:1-28 “Mission Accomplished”

Sunday – June 28, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 28, 2020

Acts 14:11-12
When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker.

It seems like we Christians have been schooled in the Gospel Americana. One of its main features is an obsession with meeting the minimal entrance requirements for admission to Heaven. Every time I have watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail, (as my wife is fond of telling you, if you only knew what your Pastor watches…) I recall the scene when Arthur and his band are trying to cross a giant abyss in order to enter the castle. There is a bridge keeper, and he asks each of them three questions to see if they can cross the bridge and enter the castle. If they get any of the questions wrong, they will be cast into the abyss.

Absurd, right? Most people think the big question is, “How do you know you will get into heaven?” but the real question is, “If you went to heaven, would you like it and would you stay?” Dallas Willard was an expert at forcing us to wrestle with a different viewpoint. People think they can simply decide to turn to God whenever they get the desire, but Willard challenges this idea. The “them” he refers to are those who have thus far rejected Christ, but think Christ is always at the ready. Christ may be always at the ready, but what makes us sure that we would be. Willard describes them as…” Who cannot want God to be God? Multitudes of such people pass by every day, and pass into eternity. The reason they do not find God is that they do not want him or, at least, do not want him to be God. Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

During a crisis, many people turn toward the transcendent. They seek high and low for God, or a god, to help them cope with something unpleasant. When I hear that someone has turned to Christ, I automatically rejoice, but I do wonder “to which Christ did they turn?” Was it the one who claimed to be God, who challenged the religious institutions and the hubris that is inherent in the human race? The one who says, “Repent of your sins, and follow me?” [Mark 1:12-18] Or was it some selective Christ figure or principle that would accommodate one’s lifestyle and world view? Willard states it well in his last sentence: “Wanting God to be God is very different from wanting God to help me.”

Hell is real; a place where all those who insist on their will being done and have rejected God’s will being done reside. Hell is God’s best for those who don’t like him, oppose him, or have put him on trial and found God to have failed. It is for all those who don’t want the peace and tranquility that come with submission, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Is entrance to heaven answered by three random questions from God? Or is the truth closer to you don’t want God to be God, so you can be your own god?