Not Alone

Genesis 37-50 recounts the story of Joseph. Joseph is the youngest of 11 brothers and he is despised by them because of his dreams and his fathers favoritism. When opportunity came, the brothers sold Joseph into slavery and told their father he had been killed by a wild animal.

Joseph is now in Egypt. He is slave to Potiphar, the captain of the guard. But Joseph is not alone, God blesses him and soon he is placed in charge of all his masters house. Unfortunately, things do not continue to go well. Due to the lies of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph ends up in jail. Again he has lost everything. But soon we find out that even in jail God blesses him. In Genesis 39:21 we read, “but the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Once again Joseph has gained authority and is in charge of all the other prisoners.

In chapter 41, we see that the prison is not to be Joseph’s final destination. When Pharaoh had a dream that no one is able to interpret, it becomes known that Joseph is able to interpret dreams. Quickly he is brought before Pharaoh where he will interpret his dreams. Pharaoh is so impressed by Joseph that he places him second in command of all Egypt.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” (Genesis 41:39-40).

Joseph experienced terrible things. He was beaten and betrayed by his brothers. He was sold into slavery. He was falsely accused of a crime which led to being placed in prison. At a cursory glance one might wonder if God had totally forgotten about him. And yet we see that God had always been with Joseph blessing him and preserving him.

The story of Jospeh is more like a game of chess rather than random fate. With great strategy Jospeh is placed in Egypt where eventually he will become second in command of all Egypt. And it is in this position of great authority that he will save all of Egypt from a famine. But even more importantly, we see that God has placed him in this position in order to save his own family from extinction. Joseph will save the very brothers who sold him into slavery. Ultimately it is through Joseph’s position in Egypt that Israel would be preserved so that one day the savior of the whole world would be born.

Unfortunately we do not have a running commentary for our own lives that tells us how and where God is blessing us. Nor are we able to skip a few pages ahead in our story and see how things turn out. But the story of Joseph gives us some incredible truths that we continue to see all throughout the Bible and in our own lives as well.

1. God is with His people in all places at all times.

Whether Joseph is in Canaan, Egypt, or prison God is with Him controlling all the events. Never is he alone. The same is true for us. In fact, in Matthew 28:20, Jesus promised that He is with us to the very end of the age.

2. God reveals His purposes in His time.

Joseph did not know what the future held for him as he was taken to Egypt. Nor did he know that he would be saved from prison and given great authority. And he especially never thought that one day he would save his very family from the severe famine that plagued the land. In the N.T., Paul was a Pharisee who was determined to arrest and kill Christians. Never would he have known that God would turn his life upside down and he would become one of the most important and influential christians in all of history. Today, God is bringing trials and situations in our lives for the purpose of growing us in our faith so that we would be used by Him. Will we be used to save countless numbers of people? Will we one day be second in command of a great army or nation? Maybe. But just as Jospeh and Paul did not know what the future would hold, neither do we. But what we do know, is that God has a plan and He will reveal each step that we need to take, when we need to take it.

3. God blesses His people.

Surely Joseph did not feel blessed when he was being sold into Egypt kicking and screaming. And surely he did not feel blessed when he was accused of sexual immorality and thrown into prison. And surely he did not feel blessed when the baker had forgotten about Joseph for two whole years. But when we stand back, we can see God’s hand of blessing at every moment in Joseph’s life. In times of trials and sufferings God was growing him in is his faith for future purposes. And when we look at his whole life we see that God strategically positioned Jospeh in Egypt in order to save his entire family. We might not always see God’s blessing in our lives if we zoom in on a single moment. But it’s when we zoom out and see many moments that we often begin to see God’s hand of blessing guiding and providing for us. And even if our lives are plagued with hardship after hardship, we can rest in the truth that one day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ will return. And on that day, all who have trusted in Jesus will be gathered together in a new heavens and new earth. And never again will we experience pain or hardship or trials or suffering. God will wipe away our every ear. And for all eternity we will bask in the blessing and joy of our King.

Therefore, let us remember the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16–17,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

The Joy of Annual Meetings

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This last Sunday, after the morning worship service, our church had its annual meeting. It is at these meetings that we vote in our next years budget and take care of other matters of business. Well this year, we had four big motions that needed to be voted upon. 

  1. The 2020 Annual Budget.
  2. The 2020 Elders.
  3. A constitutional amendment.
  4. A decision regarding our surplus giving. 

And by God’s grace each of the motions passed almost unanimously.  I am so blessed to have such amazing leaders to work alongside. With their wisdom and effort we had presented the constitutional amendment back in March of 2019. The purpose of this amendment was to move from a “Management Team” to having Deacons. We believe that biblically qualified deacons are an integral process of meeting the physical needs of the church body. By introducing this transition so many months ago it gave us plenty of time to meet with people one-on-one and answer any questions they might have. As elders, we wanted to make sure the entire congregation not only understood but also embraced this change. 

The other motions were all presented in our annual meeting packet five weeks ahead of the meeting (3 weeks earlier than required by our constitution). This gave us plenty of time talk about these motions on Sunday mornings and to meet with people individually.  

In 1 Peter 5:2 we read, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have, not for shameful gain, but eagerly…” This verse reminds us that the church is first and foremost God’s flock. Therefore we ought to depend upon His wisdom and seek to care for the church in a way that would honor and glorify Him. It is for this reason we as elders strive to handle these business meetings with humility and wisdom.  

The last motion regarding our surplus giving was probably the most exciting. God has greatly blessed our finances this year.  And so we voted to use some of the money in order to complete a project that had been going on for several years.  And then the rest of the money that exceeds our budget (which is more than what the project required) we are going to give away to an amazing missionary who has struggled for quite some time with finances. We are currently preaching through the book of James, and in James 2:14-16 we read, 

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

The truly exciting fact, is that our church was completely on board with helping to meet the needs of a fellow brother. This last year our small church has given away over $25,000 to meet the needs of local and global ministries and other organizations. Our church is eager to  be generous with others because of the greater generosity we have been shown in Jesus Christ. 

2 Corinthians 8:9

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

I realize the reason our church has grown in its love for God and is zealous to be generous with finances has little to do with the wisdom of the elders and everything to do with God’s presence. And so my prayer for our church is what the apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:14–21

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Elder Retreat 2019

img_2807

This last weekend, the elders at my church and I went on our first elders retreat. It was incredible. The purpose of our retreat was to pray for God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ to be made known and enjoyed all the more at our church and in the world. We also made preparations for 2020, and wrestled with how we as elders can better love and shepherd as Christ loves and shepherds us. The retreat also served as incredible means in which we as elder grew in our unity and love for one another. We are now planning on having annual retreats and even times that we can bring our spouses so they can participate with us in our discussions and prayers. Below, I want to share what we did during our retreat and why it was so important.

First, we spent quite a bit of in prayer.

We began by simply praising God for all of His glory. We read various scriptures that highlighted His might, faithfulness, presence, grace, love, etc… We thanked God for all the ways He has lavished His grace upon us and our church. We interceded for many of our brothers and sisters. We asked God for wisdom and guidance as we talked about the church. What made this prayer time so exciting was that we could pray as long as we wanted. We were in no hurry. We didn’t have to get through our agenda in two hours. We spent more time in prayer than I think we had ever done before.

Next we had incredible times of discussion.

We discussed the spiritual needs of our church and how that ought to affect the upcoming sermons series. We also talked about various sins and idols that the sermon will be addressing.

We wrestled with our knowledge and understanding of current social and cultural issues. We concluded that we need to grow in these areas. We also brainstormed practical ways that we could get a better grasp on social and cultural trends. In fact, one great idea that was brought up, was to go to the local (very liberal) college and sit in on various forums and discussions. We thought that would be a great way to hear and interact first hand with people who may think differently than we do.

We also spent quite a bit of time putting ourselves under the microscope. We wrestled with how we have shepherded the church God has given us. In doing so, we reviewed how we have cared, led, and protected the church. This was a great time in which we unitedly sought to become more like Jesus as He shepherds us.

Lastly, we simply enjoyed being together.

img_2810

In the evening we suspended all church talk. Instead, we spent time watching the Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins on YouTube videos. One of our elders brought his guitar and played hits from the 60’s and 70’s. We told stories, played poker (which I won), and laughed until our belly’s hurt. Our love for one another truly grew in exponential proportions because of this time.

I want to mention one last thing. Location is important. We were blessed to go to Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center which is located just South of Canada in Sumas, Washington. This retreat center is absolutely beautiful. They have intentionally shared their grounds with the purpose of helping people to worship God, their Savior. The food was also great. If you go, be sure to ask for the apple cinnamon french toast (I had two helpings). The staff was very courteous helpful. In fact, at one point, the director approached us as we ate breakfast, thanked us for coming, and spent time praying for us.

That pretty much summarizes our first annual 2019 Elder Retreat.

img_2794img_2792img_2796

Local Versus Global Missions

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Recently, I was asked, why as a church do we not do more local missions.  I must say this question has caused many emotions to run through my head.  The context of this question arose because I and another person from our church just returned from a 16 day trip to India and Thailand.  Also, we have communicated quite a bit about others in our church who will be traveling to Lebanon and Poland this summer in order to help encourage local churches and share the gospel.  I imagine the person who asked this question feels as through all our efforts are going to the global church and very little effort is being spent local.  Below our 6 conclusions I came up with based upon this questions.

  1. We probably need to do a better job communicating ways that we are serving locally.  For example we regularly support the local crisis pregnancy center.  We also are currently gathering backpack supplies so when schools resumes in August we can provide them to families who have financial needs. We also are regularly sending volunteers to help serve at a local soup kitchen. We also encourage our table groups to regularly pray for unbelievers and to serve them and share the gospel with them.
  2. We also could probably improve on encouraging our people to discover new ways that we as a church can serve locally. 
  3. However, we must not be dependent upon the local church to provide every avenue for local ministry. Every single believer is a missionary. Therefore, wherever a believer is, the Spirit is with them so they would share the gospel. Our houses are incredible places of ministry where we can invite co-worker and neighbors into so we can share God’s love with them.  Here in America we have incredible freedom to share the gospel. The unfortunate truth is that so many people are more fearful of man than they are of God and thus they do not evangelize.  
  4. We must realize that in other parts of the world the church does not enjoy the freedoms that we have.  For example, in certain parts of India, China, Laos, and North Korea christians are regularly persecuted. They need believers to come and encourage them to stand firm in the gospel.  
  5. We are also commanded to go into all the world and proclaim the greatness of our God (Psalm 96, Psalm 67, Matt 28). If we don’t go then we would be disobedient. 
  6. We know Jesus will not return until His gospel has gone into all parts of the world (Mark 13:10). If we truly desire for Jesus to return then we must go to the nations. It is out of our love for Jesus and longing to be with Him that run to the nations proclaiming the gospel knowing that He will save all whom He has chosen. 

I find that when Christians are actively sharing the gospel locally they are excited about what God is doing globally. They even want to be more apart of missions in other parts of the world. However, often when Christians are not actively sharing locally they become skeptical of the need to be actively global in missions.

The Gospel In India

beige analog gauge

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

 

On May 12, 2019 I went with a small team of believers to India.  The purpose of our trip was to meet and connect with local pastors in order to develop a partnership for the advancement of God’s kingdom. When preparing for this trip, one of the big questions I was asked was, “why are you going?” So, I’d like to answer that question and then also communicate what I saw and learned on this trip.

Why did we go to India?

The ultimate reason why we went to India is because our God is great and glorious.  Psalm 96 says, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” The Psalmist says we are to declare God’s glory among the nations. Our God is not a local deity who ought to be proclaimed only in one small region or country or zip code. No, our God is to be proclaimed among every nation because He is Great! Our God is worthy of all honor and praise. And it’s because He is great that He has done “marvelous works.”  And the most marvelous work God has ever done is the sending of His Son Jesus Christ so that through His death and resurrection we could be forgiven and adopted into His family. 

This is why we went to India and this is why we ought to go to every neighborhood, zip code, country, and continent.  We go to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ so that people from every tribe tongue and nation would be saved and one day gather around the throne of God praising Him for all eternity.  

What did we see?

There are many things that I could write about regarding what we saw. Regarding the culture we saw very modest and well-dressed looking people. Indians are very kind and courteous. We saw Indians eating with their hands (no silverware), which was something I was not very good at.  We also saw a different kind of driving. They drove all over the roads, lanes were suggestions. Regarding religion, we saw many Hindu temples. We also saw people bathing in the Ganges River hoping to have their sins washed away and to earn favor with the gods.  

But what stood out most was our time with the local pastors. We met with pastors in Tamil Nadu and also Andhra Pradesh.  These pastors wore huge smiles and their hearts were full of God’s love. These pastors were meek and yet very zealous for the gospel of Jesus. It was obvious they had all faced persecution and knew martyrdom was very likely in their future. The effect of persecution had not made these men hard or callous, but had made them soft and tender. They loved to read God’s Word and spend time with one another.  Fellowship with other believers was not something they took for granted but rather they cherished deeply.  They coveted our prayers and the time we had with them. I only wish we could have spent more time with them. 

What I learned?

There are so many things I learned on this trip, but I will share just two.First, the church is growing. I have read about the church growing in Southeast Asia.  But on this trip I got to see it with my very own eyes. I saw brothers and sisters passionate about God’s Word and hungry to share it with unbelievers. I saw the reality of Revelation 7 being fulfilled, that one day there will be people from all tribes and nations gathered around the throne of God. 

Second, I learned the beauty of persecution.  We read in the N.T. that persecution is a means of growing us in godliness. And that is exactly what I saw among these pastors.  Persecution had refined these men and they shined forth the love and peace of Christ in ways I’ve never seen before.  In a strange and unexpected way, being with these men, made me desire to be persecuted as they had. These men had been formed in the crucible of suffering and they were more beautiful because of it.  

I am already looking forward to returning to India. I cannot wait to once again embrace these bothers and hear new stories. I know that because of persecution I may not see some of them on this side of heaven. But I know with great confidence that we will meet again, for our King, Jesus Christ, intercedes for us and nothing is able to separate us from His love.

Daniel 9

Recently I preached through the book of Daniel. Daniel was an incredible book in which I greatly grew in my understanding of God’s power, provision, and presence. When I look back at the series, there is one sermon in which I wish I could redo (and I will someday in the future). And that is the sermon from Daniel 9:24-27. Now admittedly this is a very difficult passage which has been the occasion of much disagreement in Christian circles. The reason I look forward to preaching this passage again is because it was not as clear as I would have liked for it to have been. I became too caught up in all the details that the main point became somewhat muddied. Here is the general outline I would use next time I preach Daniel 9:24-27:

  1. The passage is about Jesus and all that He accomplished for us at the cross (v.24).
  2. Hope is not found in an earthly city, temple, or a specific plot of land. This is evident in that the Jews will return to their land and rebuild their city and temple but will not be free from suffering and trials (v.25).
  3. Jesus is the one who comes and makes a strong covenant through His death and resurrection. And by His death He will put an end to the entire sacrificial system (v.26-27).
  4. Suffering will characterize the church between Jesus’ first and second coming (v.26-27).
  5. There is a day coming in which all sin, suffering, and evil will be done away with and only those who have trusted in Jesus will experience God’s blessed rule for all eternity (v.26-27)

Living In-between The Times

boat-606187_1920

In Daniel 7:13-28 we are given a picture of the entire church age, from the time that Jesus establishes the Kingdom of God until He returns and gathers all the saints to live forever in the Kingdom.  In between these two comings of Christ, we see that that there will be tribulation for believers.

Below are three ways that we as Christians ought to respond to this period of tribulation.

Persevere

As christians we can persevere in our faith because we know the end of the story. In Daniel 7:26 we read, “But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end.” And then in verse 27 we read, that the kingdom will be “given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” The Beast and all it’s horns will one day be judged and destroyed. In fact, we read about this day in Revelation 19.  Jesus is seen riding a horse as he comes before the beast and all who follow Him.  And then with a sword coming from His mouth (meaning His Words), Jesus will slay the beast and all who follow him. And the beast will then be thrown into the lake of fire for all eternity.

As christians we do not persevere in hopes that God will overcome Satan. The good news of the gospel is that in Christ, Satan has already been defeated. In Colossians 2:15 we read that at the cross Jesus has defeated and triumphed over Satan.

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (v.15)

As Christians we can persevere in our faith because we stand firm from a position of victory.

Praise

The destiny of all who have trusted in Jesus Christ is to dwell in the indestructible, imperishable, glorious, and everlasting Kingdom of God. If you think we will simply be sitting on clouds with harp s in our hands then you are mistaken.  Our destiny is to live in eternal celebration of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.  Throughout the New Testament Jesus is pictured as the groom who is preparing His bride (the church) for marriage.  And in Revelation 19:6-8 we see the bride praising God as she comes to the marriage supper.

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

When Jesus returns will be made perfectly like Him to live with him forever in the new heavens and new earth. We will forever be in a state of absolute joy. And what have we done that has earned us this right to live with God forever in everlasting joy and peace?

Nothing. Our entrance into the Kingdom is solely based upon God’s grace in sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die on a cross for our sins and then rising victorious three days later.

It is because of this glorious truth that we as believers can be full of praise right now. We can praise God that He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and eternal judgment and has brought us into the Kingdom of light with His Son Jesus Christ.

Proclaim

As christians we know the hope of the world is Jesus.  We know that whoever does not believe in Jesus Christ will spend eternity separated from God in everlasting torment.  This is why Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 commissioned the church to go into all the world making disciples.  We have been given the gospel not so that we would be cul-de-sacs but so we would be conduits.  We are God’s chosen instruments to take the gospel into every corner and crevice of the world knowing that God will rescue some by His grace.

The Power of Jesus

lion-3007701_1920At the end of Mark 4 through chapter 5 we encounter 4 incredible miracles.  I believe the author has piled each of these miracles on top of each other so we the reader would be in awe of the character of God.  Each of these stories are incredible but when stacked on top of each other they lead us to knees in humble adoration of our King.

In Mark 4:35-41 we read about a great storm that has come upon Jesus and His disciples as they are attempting to cross the Sea of Galilee. Now some of the disciples are trained fisherman. They would have experienced many storms in their lifetime and would have known exactly how to handle them.  So the fact they are frightened to the point of fearing for their lives tells us this was no ordinary storm. But then we read in Mark 4:39 that Jesus stood up and said, “Peace! Be Still!”  And the storm was gone.

Next in Mark 5:1-20 we see that Jesus and His disciples encounter a man who is possessed by a legion of demons.  We are told in verse 4 that he has broken shackles and chains and “no one had the strength to subdue him.” Here is a crazy man that no one can control. And yet as the story progresses we see that Jesus overcomes him. Jesus casts the demon out of the man and restores his mind.

Next, in 5:21-43 we encounter 2 healing stories entangled together. First, Jesus is asked to heal a sick girl who is about to die. And while Jesus is on His way to see her, he encounters a sick woman who no one has been able to heal.  In verse 25, we are told this woman has had a discharge of blood for 12 years and she has spent all her money on doctors who have been unable to heal her. But then in verses 28-29 we see that by touching Jesus’ garment she is miraculously healed. Jesus has done what no one in the world could do, heal her.  But because Jesus has stoped to talk to this woman the little girl has now died.  But death does not discourage Jesus. He says, “do not fear, only believe.” Jesus then proceeds to the little girls house where He raises her from the dead.

In these 4 stories we see that Jesus has power over all things. He has power over nature, over demons, over sickness and diseases, and He even has power over death. There is nothing in all of creation that can resist the power of Jesus.

The Radical Gospel of Grace

Currently I am preaching through the book of Galatians.  Below is the transcript of the sermon I preached this last Sunday on Galatians 1:13-16.  The transcript is probably 95% accurate.  It’s what I bring up on stage with me.  The actual conclusion is different then what is written below.   If you would rather listen to the sermon, click here.

The Radical Gospel of Grace

We can boldly share the gospel knowing that God’s grace is so rich and powerful that it saves all who are called by it.

Galatians 1:13-16

3-5-17

  1. Introduction:John Paton (illustration primarily comes from John Piper’s book: Filling up the Afflictions of Christ.)
  2. 1606 eighty islands in south pacific were discovered.
  3. In 1773 the Islands were explored by Captain James cook and named New Hebrides (because they were similar to the Hebrides Islands of the NW coast of Scotland.
  4. The chain of islands is 450 miles long.
  5. If you draw a line from Honolulu to Sydney Australia it will cut through Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu.
  6. Today the population is 215,000
  7. John Williams and John Harris came as missionaries in 1839 to these islands.  They were killed and eaten within minutes of landing on on the island.
  8. In 1842 another team of missionaries arrived and were driven away in 7 months.
  9. John Paton at age 33, on November 5th, went with his wife from Scotland to the Island of Tanna.
  10. John Paton, before leaving, had led a very fruitful ministry in Glasgow where he helped those of lower-income with great success.  Many in fact tried to discourage him because his ministry was so successful.  But he was determined.
  11. One, Mr. Dickson was especially against John.  This is how He replied to him,
    1. Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will raise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” (58, Piper)
  12. In March the next year his wife and newborn son died of the fever.
  13. He served on the island for another 4 years under constant danger until he was driven off the island in 1862.
  14. He married again and in 1864 took his new wife Margaret to an island called Aniwa on Nov. 1866.
  15. This is how he described the people,
    1. The native people were cannibals and occasionally ate the flesh of their defeated foes.  They practiced infanticide and widow sacrifice, killing the widows of deceased men so they could serve their husbands in the next world.
  16. For the next 15 years John learned the language, built orphanages and loved on the people in Aniwa.  And the end of his ministry he saw the entire island come to faith in Christ.
  17. John Paton had left certainty for uncertainty.  He was leaving a place where he had been very successful to go to a place in which he might fail to be useful.
  18. What causes a man to leave all that he has and risk the life of his family to go live with cannibals? What causes a man to leave a successful ministry where he is respected to be with a people who would like to kill him. Today we are going to see the answer.  And the answer is the radical grace of God.

Read Galatians 1:13-16

  1. Life Outside of Christ
    1. Description of Paul
    2. In verses 13-14 we are given a description of Paul before he came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul hated the church.  He persecuted the church violently.  The word violent means “extremely more than necessary.”  Paul savagely attacked Christians.  In Acts we read that he arrested men, women, and children.  Paul was like a bull that had red in his eyes.  He didn’t just want to cripple Christianity, but he wanted to destroy it, he wanted to kill and bury every christian.  And there was none more zealous than he.  In verse 14 he said he was advancing beyond all those who were his age.
    3. In 1 Tim 1:13 when Paul looks back on his unsaved self he said he was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.
    4. Here’s the point: Paul hated Christianity.  There is no arguing him into heaven.  He will not be reasoned with. He’s the one that if you bring up Jesus he will begin railing on how dumb you are for holding to such pathetic beliefs. Paul’s heart is like granite, it is impenetrable to Christianity.  Not even a wrecking ball could dent his determination to persecute the church and put an end to faith in Jesus.
    5. Transition: What we have here is a picture of Paul’s spiritual condition.  And guess what?  It’s a picture of yours and and mine also.  We might not have been as fanatical as Paul or as outwardly rebellious as Paul but the Bible says our hearts were just as hard and dead as Paul’s
  2. Description of Humanity
    1. Jeremiah 17:9
      1. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it
    2. Romans 8:7–8 
      1. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    3. Ephesians 2:1–3 
      1. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
    4. 1 Corinthians 2:14 
      1. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
    5. Here’s the point: we are all born rebellious.  We are all born determined to to hate Christ.  We are all born resistant to the grace of God.  No one can be argued into heaven.  If salvation is up to you and me then we are without hope.  If salvation is tied to yours and my ability to convince people of the gospel then we have no greater chance in saving people as we do going to the cemetery down the street and calling people to come out of their coffins.  We can yank and pull and drag people into the church to hear the gospel, but we have no power to save.
    6. So if we have no ability to save our selves or others, then what hope do we have?  How was it that Paul was saved?  How was it that John Paton saw an island full of cannibals transformed into believers of Jesus Christ?
    7. It’s grace.  All grace.  In Galatians 1:4 Paul said, Jesus came to “deliver us from the present evil age.”  Paul, the New Hebrides, you, me, we’re all saved by grace.  And that’s what we are going to look at verses 15-16.
  3. Saved to be in Christ
    1. Description of salvation.
      1. As we look at these verses notice how the pronouns change.  In verses 13-14 the primary pronoun is “i”, referring to Paul.  But in verses 15-16 the pronouns have changed to “He” and “His” referring to God.  Salvation is an act of God’s grace, for only God has the power to save. So while Paul described his sinful life from his point of view, we are now going to view His salvation from God’s view.
      2. Grace Chooses.
        1. First thing we see is that God has “set apart” Paul before he was even born.  To be “set apart” means to mark.  Paul says something very similar in Ephesians 1:4, “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world.”
        2. God’s plan of salvation reaches back before creation. God has chosen those whom will be saved. To some that might sound strange. But omniscience and sovereignty are meant to comfort us not frighten us.  In Psalm 139:15-16 we are told,
          1. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
        3. There is nothing that our God does not know.  He knows us before we were born.  He planned our days.  And He determined in the depths of time those who would be saved.  Here’s a text from Jeremiah 1:5, notice the role of God
          1. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
          2. God chose in the depths of time to create Jeremiah for the purpose of sending him to the nations as a prophet.
        4. Look at how 2 Timothy 1:9 describes our salvation:
          1. who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,
        5. Paul says we have been shown grace in Christ before the ages began.
        6. I know these texts raise many questions, but the purpose of them is to draw our eyes to the majesty of the God who saves.  We have a God who is unlike man, powerful, all-knowing, Creator of all things, and He is the one who saves. And He marks us before we are born, before we have done any works, so that we would know that in no way have we earned our salvation but that it solely comes from God’s grace.
      3. Grace Calls
        1. The word “called” means to summon.  And what we see is that all who are marked by God are called to be saved. This summoning is not like a King sending his soldiers to trap and arrest an individual forcing them to come to him.  Nor is like when one of my kids tells the other, “dad’s calling you and in you’re in trouble.”  For when the child comes in that way they do so out reluctance, not joy.
        2. To be called by God is to be made new, meaning we have been given a new heart with a new mind with new desires that now long to run to God, to please God, to obey God and worship Him.
        3. When God calls us, we go from death to life.  Just as when God spoke creation out of nothing in Genesis, so when He calls us, He speaks life into our dead hard hearts.  Wrecking balls cannot dent our heart but God’s grace melts and makes them new. This is how Paul describes our salvation in Ephesians 2:5
          1. even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
        4. It’s the grace of God that saved Paul, and the grace of God gave you life.
        5. Now this coming to life, this salvation looks different in every person.  Just as every snowflake is unique, so also is every salvation.
        6. Stephen Smallman said that the new birth we experience in Jesus is like the whole gestation process of a pregnancy.  The labor pains of some people are long and pronounced, possibly lasting for years.  Others, the gestation period is short.  What this means is that some people hear the gospel for a long time and wrestle with it over months or years before finally trusting in Christ.  Others, like Paul seem to have a dramatic experience in which they quickly come to faith in Christ.  Some people easily point to the time they know they were saved.  For others it’s hazy because it appears to have happened over a period of time.
        7. John Paton said this, “Truly there is only one way of regeneration, being born again by the power of the Spirit of God, the new heart; but there are many ways of conversion, of outwardly turning to the Lord, of taking the actual first step that shows on whose side we are.  Regeneration is the sole work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart and soul, and is in every case one and the same.  Conversion, on the other hand, brining into play the action also of the human will, is never absolutely the same perhaps in even two souls–as like and yet as different as are the face of men.” (pg.214-215, What about Free Will).
        8. Let’s just step back from a moment and make sure we understand the point.  All whom God calls are saved and experience new life.  Some come quickly and some slowly but they all come.
        9. It’s this truth that gives us confidence to share the gospel with others. You see you are not responsible to save, that’s God’s job. And we need not lose hope or be discouraged when some seem resistant or even violent. For God changes some quickly and some slowly. But all whom God calls are saved.
        10. It’s this truth that has caused men and women for centuries to leave their comfortable lives to share the gospel in other parts of the world knowing that God will save. It’s this truth that frees us to share the gospel with our professing atheist friends knowing that God’s radical grace can melt their hearts.
        11.   It’s this truth that gives us such great confidence that as we share the gospel, there will be people saved.  And it’s this truth that comforts us when we mess up. Have you ever walked away from a gospel presentation thinking, “I should have said this”. Remember it’s God who saves. He perfectly uses our imperfections as a means to saving others.
        12. Know this, there is no one who can resist the call of God.  We all know those people who appear to be running from the gospel at full speed.  You mention Christ and they start sprinting.  If salvation was left to us, there would be no hope for them. But because of this radical grace that we have in the gospel, we confidently pursue them, praying for them, loving them, knowing that God’s grace can make their hearts new.
        13. It’s this radical grace that saved Paul when he was bent on not being saved.
        14. It’s this radical grace that propelled John Paton to leave Glasgow to go live with cannibals.  It’s this grace that sustained him as he lost his wife and son.  It’s this grace that compelled him to return to the islands with his new wife and preach the gospel for 15 years until the entire island came to know Jesus.  John Paton was not trusting in his efforts but He was trusting in the radical grace of God.
    2. Grace Delights
      1. In verse 16 we see that God was pleased to reveal His Son to Paul. God loves to shine His grace in the darkness of hearts that we would see Him and love Him.  Know this, God takes great delight in your salvation.
      2. Just as we don’t come kicking and screaming into the Kingdom of God, neither does God kick and scream as He saves us.  You see, He doesn’t save us because He owes and or is in debt to us.  He simply saves us out of delight.  This is grace: God freely saving us out His good pleasure.
      3. And God so delights in showing us grace that he doesn’t stop once we are saved. Ephesians 2:7 says,
        1. so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
      4. God will never cease to pour His rich abundant grace upon you.  When a million years of being with God has passed, His bucket of grace will not be any closer to running out than when He began.  God’s grace never ceases.
      5. If you are here today as believer in Jesus Christ, then know that God takes great delight in your salvation.  You are a work of God’s grace.
    3. Grace Purposes
      1. And lastly we see that those whom God saves He does so for a purpose.  God saved Paul so that He would take the gospel to the Gentiles.  God reveals His Son to us so that we would be saved and be used to reveal His Son to others.
      2. Ephesians 2:10 says,
        1. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
        2. The grace that saves you is the grace that is working in you right now that you would be used by God. Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Esther Job, Ruth, Boaz, Solomon, Paul, Peter, John, Andrew, James, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Priscilla, Aquilla all of these and every believer have been called for a purpose.
        3. You have been raised from the dead, given new life in Christ, the Spirit now dwells in you right now that you would be used as an instrument of God for His glory.  You might be feel unqualified or insufficient.  But let me encourage you, the same grace that was sufficient to bring life into your soul will equip you for every good work God calls you into.  Because of God’s grace, Paul who once hated Gentiles is now devoted to sharing the gospel with them.
      3. Illustration: One time John Paton was surrounded by raging natives acting as though they might kill him.  This is what he said,
        1. My heart rose up to the Lord Jesus; I saw Him watching all the scene.  My peace came back to me like a wave from God.  I realized that I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done.  The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of Heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, or a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ, whose is all power in Heaven and on Earth.” (75, Piper)
      4. You, right now by God’s grace share in the very divine nature of God.  You are a missionary and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you are in the words of John Paton, “immortal” until God calls you home.  God determined to save you and He is determined to use you.  You are called to demonstrate the love of Christ and to share the good news of grace of Christ.
      5. That might mean you pack your bags like John Paton, leaving all that you have in order to go share the gospel with unbelievers.
      6. It might mean you are a Father and husband who regularly shepherds his family on how to love God.
      7. It might mean you are a single working mom relying upon God’s grace to take care of your family and to show your children the joy that God gives.
      8. It might mean you are retired and able to volunteer in your neighborhood or here with the church regularly showing others the love of God.
      9. It might mean you take your coworkers to coffee that you would share the gospel and begin doing a bible study with them.
      10. It might mean you share the gospel at work risking your job for the sake of another’s salvation.
      11. It might mean you go to school boldly sharing the gospel with your friends which results in you being and labeled the christian kid.
      12. It might mean you are a wife and mother showing the tender mercies of God to your children as your serve them and show them the beauty of submitting to your husband.
      13. Bottom line: God’s saved you by grace so that by grace you would be used by Him.
  4. Conclusion:
    1. Our mission at Timberline and really the mission of every church is to make disciples who make disciples. And we can do it. But not because of our strength or how persuasive we are.  We can make disciples because we are armed with the the radical grace of God. The gospel of grace can melt the most brazen of hearts, it can move the most resistant of wills.
    2. Let us leave her today prepared to share the gospel with our neighbors, with our co-workers, with family members. And let’s be praying that we would be willing to leave the comforts of our home at any moment to move and share the gospel with other people groups.
    3. And let us never forget, we have a God who loves to reveal His radical grace. And all who are called by God are saved.
    4. Pray for unbelievers.