4. Freedom in Christ – Made Alive

 

Review

One of the greatest spiritual blessings is the experience of freedom and liberty IN CHRIST from the guilt of sin and the power of the enemy.  We saw in Ephesians 1:3-14 that we are chosen and adopted and redeemed IN CHRIST.  The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a guarantee of our inheritance in this life and the next.  Paul makes sure we understand the importance of thanksgiving and prayer as seen in Eph 1:15-17.  The foundation for our freedom is based upon the spirit of wisdom and revelation not information.  Spiritual enlightenment is essential when it comes to our freedom.  We must see all that God has blessed us with – hope, inheritance and the power of God.  However, with all the spiritual blessings at our disposal we have also discovered that we are still less than perfect in following Jesus.  We are saints who sin, not sinners trying to be righteous before God.  Sometimes our walk with Jesus lacks holiness or stained by failure and yet we long to follow Jesus in love and obedience.  This is one of the greatest battles facing believers today.  This leads us to consider today’s message on “freedom IN CHRIST”.

Introduction

Paul is speaking to the church in Ephesus, filled with new believers from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.  He has laid a foundation for them with regards to all the spiritual blessings that are theirs IN CHRIST.  Now he begins Ephesians 2 with thoughts describing something old and something new, which he later speaks of in Ephesians 4:22-24.  The Apostle Paul highlights the struggle between the old nature and the new nature, flesh verses sin, spiritually speaking (Romans 6:6, 7:20, 8:13; Col 3:5-10; 2 Cor 5:17).  The question is – what do these terms really mean?  Is there a tug of war that I am sometimes winning but sometimes losing?  Are God and Satan engaged in a back and forth cosmic battle?  How about the First Nations proverb about two dogs in every heart of man, representing good and evil; the one you feed the most wins. 

Ephesians 2:1-5 – Old verses New…

Let’s read Eph 2:1-5 – “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  I would like to help us understand several points here that relate to our freedom IN CHRIST.  Once again, these verses are one long sentence that can be difficult to understand but contains one big idea.

1.  Firstly, Paul speaks to them of their past.  They were spiritually dead in sin.  This is how they lived.  Later in Ephesians 4 Paul will speak to some of their sinful struggles. 

2.  Secondly, they were under the influence of the world and the power of the devil and his demons. 

 

These first two points are key to consider in light of freedom.  If we are habitually struggling with transgressions and sins we are not free.  The same is true of demonic influence in our lives.  We need to be set free from both sin and Satan in order to follow Jesus fully. 

 

3.  Then the Apostle Paul switches this thought process to include himself in the struggle for freedom.  Basically, Paul says, “I am in the same spiritual predicament, indulging sinful lusts and thoughts.  Consequently, they too were children of wrath—just like all other sinners. 

4.  Now Paul turns our attention from mankind’s dilemma to God’s perspective.  In Ephesians 2:4, Paul tells us God’s love is great and he is rich in mercy and even when we were dead in our sins.  What the big idea here?  The main point in this section becomes clear at the end of Ephesians 2:5 - “we were made alive with Christ”

Made Alive IN CHRIST

Once again, our freedom as believers is centered on being made alive IN CHRIST.  This is only clearly understood when we accept just how lost we were in our sin.  We weren’t just spiritually dead in sin.  We were also completely under Satan’s power and the influence of a fallen world.  When we realize that our end in eternity was wrath it makes God’s love even more amazing.  “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6–7).  We must remember that our freedom is only possible when we are raised IN CHRIST; raised to life from the death associated with sin and Satan. 

 

Then Paul makes one of the most significant statements related to our freedom IN CHRIST – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8–9).  This powerful declaration tells us our salvation and freedom is totally by grace and faith, both gifts of God and not by our own work or religious effort.  In the context of the church of Ephesus, both the religious Jews or the rich Romans, there was boasting as to their accomplishments.  Paul tells us the foundation of our freedom is a gift. 

In Conclusion

Hopefully by this point you understand that you are no longer part saint and part sinner; we are not in a tug of war between good and evil.  Because of Jesus Christ we have exchanged our old way of living in spiritual death and wrath, for a new life full of freedom from sin and Satan.  In other words, when we accept by faith the grace offered to us IN CHRIST, our old nature is completely dead.  Sin and Satan can still affect us and can be tempting to us, but because of Jesus’ death on the cross, our old life has also been crucified and is fully dead.  We need to learn to live in the freedom that God has given to us. 

We are saints, children of God, with every spiritual blessing made available to us IN CHRIST.  We are chosen, adopted and redeemed and because of these blessings, we are a thankful and prayerful people.  This is our identity and we discover this by revelation. 

 

Now “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).  Paul is laying a theological foundation for our freedom IN CHRIST.  He wants to remove all doubt from our minds.

 

We will see in Eph 4-6 how we are to live out of our identity IN CHRIST.  We are to live in holiness and freedom as followers of Jesus. 

 

Let’s pray…

 

 

 

 

3. Freedom in Christ – The Importance of Revelation

 

Introduction

Over the last few weeks we have looked at the Book of Ephesians in relation to discovering and enjoying our freedom in Christ.  In light of last week’s message, we remind ourselves these foundations truths of our freedom – we are chosen, adopted and redeemed IN CHRIST.  We are now saints who have an inheritance now and in eternity.  We are saints who sometimes sin but we are no longer sinners help captive; we are free because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Being IN CHRIST we have been forgiven and declared righteous and acceptable to God.  We must accept by faith the finished work of Jesus as the starting point for our freedom.  This also means we have our personal responsibility to “do our homework” by agreeing with who I am IN CHRIST; this came in the form of a handout last Sunday “Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST” by Joyce Meyer.  This brings us to our next point in discovering our “Freedom IN CHRIST” found in Ephesians 1:15-23. 

Thanksgiving and Prayer

In light of the previous passage Paul highlighted our “spiritual blessings IN CHRIST, in heavenly places and now he moves towards thanksgiving and prayer.  I must confess that some of the most “free” people in know are thankful and prayerful.  There is something about positive confession and thanksgiving that is essential to enjoying freedom in Christ.  Thankful people are prayerful people as they realize that their blessings come from God.  Paul states, For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers (Eph 1:15–16).  Here are two important things Paul speaks of to the church in Ephesus, a highly religious city with many gods and spiritual rulers and authorities in heavenly places (i.e. demons).  Firstly, faith in Jesus is essential.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Ac 4:12).  Jesus himself stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Secondly, faith in God must express itself in love towards the saints (and everybody else).  “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love (1 John 4:7–8).

 

One my experiences in search of my personal freedom IN CHRIST, was people praying for me.  There were moments of time when I knew that freedom was just out of my reach and I needed to confess my sins and ask for help and prayer.  This is exactly what Paul does on behalf of the saints in Ephesus.  He never stops praying for their growth, maturity and freedom… 

The Importance of Wisdom and Revelation

We live in an age of information.  When I began pastoring I had books, lots of books, and they were my resource for gathering my thoughts for sermons, for counselling and my personal devotions.  The amount of information available to mankind has exploded in the last thirty years.  Now we have the internet and Mr. Google at our finger tips.  If we want some news about politics, sports or what’s playing at the theatre, we have instant access.  And yet with all this information so readily available mankind seems to have slipped backward in common sense.  Why is this downward spiral taking place?  Why do so many continue to struggle with addictions, guilt and shame?  Information does not bring us closer to God, but revelation does.

 

Remember that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church regularly.  One of the things he prayed is that they would have “wisdom and revelation knowledge” about God and His love for them.  In other words, information or head knowledge has its limitations.  In the context of Freedom IN CHRIST, information matters little.  However, Paul tells the saints – “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph 1:17).  In the context of Freedom IN CHRIST, wisdom and revelation are indispensable.  Wisdom and revelation are special attributes of the Spirit’s operation.  Wisdom can be seen as a divine but general illumination while revelation is more specific or special divine mysteries.  I see wisdom as practical application to spiritual revelation.  There's nothing more important than knowing God has chosen you, adopted you, redeemed you, loves you and that he desires an intimate relationship with you.

 

You see, there is a distinction between information and revelation.  No matter how much information you get in life, it must turn into revelation or it's not going to do you a whole lot of good.  When I was a new believer I colour coded, underlined, wrote notes on the edges of the page of my Bible.  I was gaining information but out of all the 1000’s of things I’ve highlighted I can say I have far less revelation.  Why is that? Because I have to do my homework.  Do you remember the acronym for SOAP, Scripture, Observation, Application and Prayer?  I can gain some observations of Scripture, but until I “apply what I’ve learned” and prayed, all I have is information.  In other words, until I’ve actually applying what I’ve learned, and prayed for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, all I’ve really done is decorate my Bible.  Another difference between information and revelation is this – information can be lost or forgotten, but when God gives us the gift of revelation, we've learned something that can't ever be taken away.

Enlightened Knowledge

You are given a measure of revelation when you receive Christ.  You know that God is real and that you have to grow and mature into the joy and freedom you first experienced.  Paul carries on his prayer in Eph 1:18-23.  Paul prays for enlightenment - “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…” (Eph 1:18).  This is a beautiful word describing revelation; to be illuminated, to remove dimness or blindness, to see spiritual light…  This enlightenment is to know God better in three specific ways in order to secure our foundation of freedom IN CHRIST as believers. 

 

1.     Firstly, “the hope to which he has called you”.  For believers to experience the fullness of freedom IN CHRIST, we must be full of light and hope.  For someone stuck in addictions, guilt and shame, hope is a powerful motivator for personal freedom.  We know that “hope deferred makes the heart sick”, by contrast hope realized is freedom. 

2.     Secondly, we are to know by revelation and enlightenment “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints”.  Our inheritance is in God and in turn we are his inheritance.  While hope speaks to the light at the end of the tunnel, inheritance becomes far more intentional.  When one receives an inheritance, it brings with is specific blessings such as land, property, riches and wealth.  The same is true spiritually speaking, for the saints in this life and the next.  We know that the Holy Spirit is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance when Christ returns.  However, freedom is also the byproduct of the deposits of that inheritance IN CHRIST and in the Holy Spirit now. 

3.     Lastly, Paul says “and his incomparably great power for us who believe”.  One aspect of freedom IN CHRIST, is power.  Jesus Christ overcame sin and death and the devil as a result of the Holy Spirit’s incomparable great power…  This same power is available to us for the very same reasons, to overcome sin, the devil and one day death.  We need to be enlightened to God’s power.  We are set free not only from the power of sin over our lives but also the power of the enemy.  You cannot cast out sin but you can confess it.  In the same way, you cannot confess or counsel something demonic but need to cast it out.  The power of God is able to do both, forgive sin and deliver us from the evil one. 

In Conclusion

Freedom IN CHRIST is one of the benefits of being a believer.  We are chosen and adopted and redeemed and have received the seal of the Holy Spirit upon our lives.  Paul wants us to know that spiritual wisdom and revelation are essential for the full experience of our freedom.  It's so wonderful to know God, not just with information but to be able to talk with him thereby being enlightened.  We have hope and even when we get disappointed we can ask God to restore our hope.  When we sin, we can receive forgiveness from God immediately, knowing that power of God IN CHRIST has set us free.  And when we find ourselves struggling under the schemes and strategies of the devil, God’s power is once again available to set us free.

In Application

One of the obvious applications from today’s passage of Scripture is to pray.  Paul prayed intentionally and persistently for the saints in Ephesus.  We can pray for each other today.  Here are a few areas of prayer in regard to freedom IN CHRIST­.  Pray we know by revelation that:

·      We are loved unconditionally…

·      We are chosen by God...

·      We are adopted as his children…

·      We are redeemed and forgiven and delivered from sin and all its effects…

·      We have God's hope to sustain us in trouble…

·      We are joint heirs with Christ having an inheritance now and in eternity…

·      We have God’s power working for us against the enemy…

 

When we look at this list for prayer I am not highlighting anything negative, but hoping that by revelation we see the spiritual blessings we have IN CHRIST.  LET’S PRAY…

2. Freedom “IN CHRIST”

 

Introduction

We are looking at the sermon series Freedom in Christ using the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians.  Freedom is something believers are to experience in life.  There is a journey of discovery that God the Father invites us to join “IN CHRIST”.  On this journey, we grow in understanding our Christian identity, we are set free from sin and satan; the effects of these can be seen in various forms of addiction, guilt, shame or blame.  And yet freedom in Christ is not only experiencing victory over bondage but also reaching the fullness of our potential as believers.  It is important to remember this key verse – “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10)

 

The “IN CHRIST” theme is a main emphasis in Ephesians, where Paul stresses the importance of Christ as the foundation for our freedom.  Paul gives us a Big Picture view of God’s plan for the world, beginning and ending with Christ.  Because of Jesus’ death, Jews and Gentiles can now receive the gift of forgiveness for their sins against God and others.  The life of a believer is completely founded upon the theological truth of being found “IN CHRIST”.  Our liberty from sin, death and satan are empowered by our experience and understanding of this truth.  The first part of our study of Freedom in Christ has to do with right thinking about what God has accomplished for us. 

In the Beginning

The origin of mankind is both a wonder and mystery.  We know that God created Adam and Eve in light of several passages of Scripture, Gen 1:28-29, and Gen 2:18.  They highlight our significance and purpose in creation, all our needs were provided for us giving us a safe and secure home where we found our belonging.  There was unbroken fellowship between God and mankind and each other, our spirit and soul and body were in harmony and we only knew the perfection of freedom; nothing negative affected our thoughts or emotions or choices. 

 

And yet we know that mankind was deceived by Satan and disobeyed God with devastating results.  Spiritually we died and are unable to live in the full presence of God; no more Eden.  Mentally we struggle with a diminishing knowledge of God and damaging thoughts.  As well, we wrestle with all kinds of negative emotions.  And lastly, we are now plagued with too many competing choices for our attention.  Our beautiful experience of freedom is now filled with sin and shame and rejection from God and we have come under the influence of the schemes and strategies of Satan.  The unity we enjoyed with God and each other was lost the moment Adam and Eve engaged in disobedience. 

Spiritual Blessings in Christ

By way of introduction to our freedom, Paul writes one long sentence of praise to God, a most beautiful doxology, found in Ephesians 1:3-14.  In this passage, we have some of the most important doctrinal words relating to our spiritual blessings “IN CHRIST”, where this phrase occurs 11 times…  Our spiritual blessings “IN CHRIST” are in heavenly places.  For the most part, blessings in the Old Testament were seen in practical ways.  Whereas in the New Testament our blessings in Christ are often of a spiritual nature – “in heavenly places”.  What does this mean for believers?  The Christian’s freedom begins with that which is already DONE IN CHRIST, and through our faith in Jesus, are able to rest in the finished work of Jesus and our position “IN CHRIST in heavenly places”.  In other words, our freedom IN CHRIST - in heavenly places - is a fact of new life out of which we experience growth.  Our position “IN CHRIST in heavenly places” is complete; we don’t grow into sons and daughters of God – we are children of God when we come to faith in Jesus.   The foundation of our freedom is not based on something we do or don’t do, it is our spiritual blessing IN CHRIST in heavenly places. 

 

·      Our Christian freedom begins with the revelation of what God has done for us; We are CHOSEN IN CHRIST.  What does this mean?  Just as God chose the nation of Israel as his treasured possession (Deut 7:6-8) because of his love and faithfulness, he has now chosen us to be his children.  We are chosen before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4) which again reminds us that our freedom has been on God’s mind a long time.  We are chosen (Eph 1:11) IN CHRIST and Paul gives us some descriptive words related to our freedom in heavenly places; hope, the praise of his glory, salvation, the promised Holy Spirit, inheritance, redemption.  All of these phrases reveal aspects of our freedom IN CHRIST as believers. 

 

·      Paul uses another word picture to lay a foundation for our freedom as Christians – ADOPTION.  Adoption, makes more personal the idea of being chosen IN CHRIST (Eph 1:5). Adoption takes time and money, consideration, involves love and planning.  Once adopted the child has the full rights as any member of the family.  All the privileges and resources of the family come to bear upon the newly adopted one.  This is again a picture of great freedom.  God in his love thought about each one of us as his child.  It was to his pleasure and enjoyment that we were adopted. 

 

·      Next, we see Paul speaking of our REDEMPTION IN CHRIST. In Paul’s day to redeem meant to buy back a slave from captivity.  In doing so, it was an act of choosing, possibly adoption, but also paying the price for one’s freedom.  Redemption is a powerful word that describes our freedom from guilt, power and consequences of sin: it means to redeem, liberate, free, deliver, exchange, convert, to buy back.  Our redemption is only possible IN CHRIST, we cannot buy back our freedom and innocence from the effects of sin; it requires the blood of Jesus resulting in the forgiveness of our sins.  This is a spiritual blessing in heavenly places whether we feel like we are forgiven or not. 

In Conclusion

The plan of God has always been to restore the unity and oneness we possessed in the beginning, a perfection of freedom.  One of the main themes of Paul writing to the church in Ephesus was all about our unity “IN CHRIST” and the effects of this oneness upon the Body of Christ.  The foundation for our freedom is IN CHRIST IN HEAVENLY PLACES, therefore we must learn to live on earth, think and feel and make choices, with this understanding.  Ephesians 1:3-14 is full of our spiritual blessings.  Our freedom in Christ has already been given to us because of the riches of God’s grace IN CHRIST.  We must take time to meditate on them and understand how they relate to you personally.  Spiritual blessings will have different spiritual affects upon God’s children because we all have different stories and experiences of life.  I am here to tell you that freedom begins with what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us. It is hard to understand but our freedom is first a spiritual thing, a heavenly blessing, that we must accept by faith in Jesus Christ. 

In Application

I believe all of us can relate to areas in our thoughts, emotions and or choices where we see ourselves not free, feeling guilty and powerless to change.  Maybe we try harder to change.  Maybe we just get depressed and give up.  Or maybe we seek counselling.  Maybe we engage in more spiritual activities.  All of these activities are not the beginning point of freedom.  Freedom as believers has to be applied from a place of agreement and understanding our spiritual blessings IN CHRIST. 

 

The question “who am I?” as a Christian is not based on my thoughts or emotions but on what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us.  I have included a list compiled by Joyce Meyer entitled – Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST. 

 

By means of application let’s read this together.

 

Let’s take these Scriptural truths home with us knowing that they form the foundation for our freedom IN CHRIST.

 

Knowing Who I Am IN CHRIST - by Joyce Meyer

 

Not sure who you really are? Read this list of Biblical truths that reveal who God made you to be.

I am complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:41 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18Luke 10:17-19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).

I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11 Thessalonians 5:23).

I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).

I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and long suffering (Romans 8:33Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:82 Timothy 1:9).

I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:51 Peter 2:24).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6Colossians 2:12).

I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7Ephesians 2:4Colossians 3:121 Thessalonians 1:4).

I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).

1. Freedom in Christ - Introduction

Freedom in Christ

Introduction

One of the pursuits of those following Jesus Christ is freedom; freedom from negative thoughts and feelings, freedom from sinful habits and freedom from the devil.  In the pursuit of freedom such as healing or deliverance, a better marriage or home life with family, “freedom 55” and financial resource, we must remember that we must “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33).  We must not enter worry in our quest for freedom but must make sure it is our first intention to seek his kingdom.  In other words, we are to love and obey the Lord firstly, before we seek after any other goals in life no matter how significant, even freedom…  Sometimes I have seen new Christians who are hell bent in going after the devil.  Other times there are those who attempt to set themselves free from sin.  Others try to live such spiritual lives there is an unhealthy disconnect with the world around them.  All of these are seeking freedom but without a proper point of beginning.  I believe there is a scriptural order when it comes to experiencing freedom in Christ. 

Freedom in Christ

We are going to begin to study Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus with the underlying thought of “freedom in Christ”.  Ephesians is a book of discovery which I believe gives us some biblical direction with regards to freedom.  We will discover about our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  We will seek out proper personal sanctification which is like having a bath in a spiritual sense.  We will grow in our understanding of relating to each other, whether in family, friendships or the church.  And we will learn how to submit to God and stand firm against the enemy of our souls, the devil. 

 

Remember the Lord’s Prayer in Matt 6:9-13  This passage has a divine order with regards to freedom.  Our Father and Thy Kingdom comes before personal needs, the forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the enemy.  Freedom in Christ is about a journey of growth and maturity for those who are willing to do the homework, so to speak.  We have a wonderful teacher in the Holy Spirit as he walks us through the Holy Bible.  Let’s take some time this morning to gather the overview of the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. 

Ephesians Background

The Apostle Paul was a missionary who spent considerable time in the city of Ephesus.  We see

for a brief time at the end of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21), and then he spent more than two years discipling to the church at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-41).  Ephesus was a very prosperous port city engaged in regional trade, it housed the famous temple to the Greek goddess Artemis, it was a very spiritual and religious city, signs, wonders and conversions to Christ by Paul’s preaching in the synagogues and homes, and persecution by the silversmith Demetrius which caused a riot which led to Paul leaving the city.  Nero was emperor in Rome but this was before the persecution described in Apostle Peter’s letters.  Ephesians and Colossians are very similar in composition and by adding Philippians and Philemon we have Paul’s prison letters.  It is interesting to note the Apostle John wrote of Jesus addressing the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2; the believers were hard workers, they did not tolerate wickedness, they persevered, endured hardships, did not grown weary but they did forget their first love with Jesus.  This tells me the priority of God for all that we do is the pursuit of Jesus.

Ephesians – The Big Idea

The Apostle Paul is not addressing any theological or moral failure in the church of Ephesus.  He is giving well-defined truth both spiritual and practical, with regards to growing in one’s Christian faith.  This is why I believe Ephesians offers some clear guidance with regards to the freedom we can enjoy in Christ, again, both spiritually and practically. 

 

We see that the Ephesians begins with a formal greeting – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:1-2).  The letter carries on and is divided into two distinct segments; one theological and one practical.  The first three chapters highlight salvation, grace and forgiveness, one family all in relation to God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The second segment has to do with the lifestyle of the followers of Christ with each other, in marriage, family, at work, the world in general and ending with awareness of spiritual warfare.  Paul ends with a closing benediction – “Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Eph 6:23–24).

 

Why is Ephesians so important?  Ephesians highlights significant topics with regards to what it means to be a Christian, in faith and lifestyle.  There are powerful key verses in Ephesians that help us with both the spiritual and practical experiences of life.  Over the months ahead we will begin to look at these verses and discover how they relate to our Freedom in Christ.

In Conclusion

As we consider Freedom in Christ it is important to give some definition to freedom.  We are not talking about political freedom or freedom of speech.  We cannot individually “climb out on a limb”, so to speak, and find freedom without remaining attached to the tree.  Biblically speaking I believe there are two aspects of freedom to consider.  Firstly, we are free from sin, self and satan.  Secondly, we are free to become all that God created us to be.  We cannot experience the second point fully until we have dealt with the guilt and shame of sin, selfishness and the schemes and strategies of the devil.  How does freedom happen?  God makes us spiritually alive by giving us a new heart in Christ. God transforms our heart by his Holy Spirit.  Our heart becomes loving towards God and our new family.  It sees Jesus Christ as our best friend and desires to love him as the Lord and Saviour of our life.  By faith, we give our life to Jesus and receive his forgiveness and freedom from sin.  We grow in our Freedom in Christ as we engage our free-will towards obedience and righteousness.  The end result is we become God’s workmanship.  We become all that God created us to be.  Let’s pray…

You are an Overcoming People

Introduction

The Apostle Peter is addressing the persecuted church during the reign of Emperor Nero.  Peter himself was experiencing his own trials, most likely suffering in a Roman jail only to be martyred a year or so later.  Church tradition has Peter dying upside down on a cross several years after Rome burns…  He can identify with the suffering of the church therefore, Peter writes to them as a chosen people for God’s glory.  One of the challenges facing the believers how to maintain godliness in the face of such persecution.  So, Peter writes to the church how to be submissive to abusive governmental authority, to bosses and submission in the home; live freely, be servant-hearted, respectful, loving, fear God and honour authority.

 

Within 1 Peter there are various words used to describe the suffering of the first century church in Asia Minor.  1 Peter 1:6 – grief, sorrow or sadness; 1 Peter 1:11 – resigned or surrendered to suffer; 1 Peter 2:19 – physical, mental or emotion pain; 1 Peter 2:21 – to suffer on behalf of someone else; 1 Peter 4:12 – literally means a fiery suffering.  The levels of suffering and or persecution varied in intensity and in circumstance.  Let’s remember that Peter’s desire is to bring hope and encouragement to the persecuted church. 

Overcome and Blessed

Because of the fall of mankind into sin, pain and suffering are now common place in this world.  The blessings of the Garden of Eden have been replaced by the pain of childbirth and hard labour in providing a living.  Considering this, one of the greatest lessons someone can learn in this life is perseverance through adversity and suffering.  (Handout)

 

1 Peter 3:8-9 Peter exhorts the ecclesia in Asia Minor to unity, sympathy, love, compassion and humility, understanding the struggles they are facing.  He knows how easy is it to return evil with evil or insult for insult because of suffering.  But Peter tells them there is an inheritance when one responds in the opposite spirit by quoting Psalm 34:12-16.  From a Christian perspective, Peter says we are blessed now and eternally when we when we suffer for doing what is right. 

Overcoming Sin

I mentioned earlier that we are troubled by sin in this world.  Peter gives us a challenging reality with regards to overcoming sin in life.  “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).  Peter is telling his readers that suffering in one of the ways to overcome sin.  This may seem tough to ponder but this is true of Jesus’ life. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” (Heb 5:7–9).  This Hebrews passage describes the mystery of the Son of Man learning obedience through suffering and fully identifying with humanity.  Ultimately, Jesus overcame the power and guilt of sin on the cross as the Son of God – the pure and spot Lamb. 

 

Peter goes onto the affirm the believers that they are no longer choosing a sinful lifestyle and that their unbelieving friends or family think it is strange (1 Peter 4:3-4). 

Overcoming Limitations

Peter realizes that amid suffering resources can be limited.  There are times when it feels like there is not enough love to go around, let alone all the practical means that come because of persecution; i.e. - they must take care of their widows and wounds.  So, in 1 Peter 4:7-11 he reminds them that they are to be a godly people by being clear minded and showing self-control so that they can pray.  He then exhorts them to love each other deeply because genuine love covers a multitude of sin.  Love can make all the difference therefore be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless and do so cheerfully.  Hospitality goes a long way during times of suffering and persecution.

 

Then Peter gives a great response to the limitations pressed upon the Body of Christ in tough times.  “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen” (1 Pe 4:10–11).  In other words, there are gifts and resources in believers that can help during times of suffering and persecution. 

Overcoming Satan

Lastly, I see Peter encouraging the believers to overcome Satan who is really behind all their sufferings.  Chapter 5 highlights the importance of godly leadership as being pastoral, servant-hearted, not greedy, but being examples to the flock.  It is noteworthy to highlight in light of our previous sermon on submission, that the young men (leaders) were to submit to their older leaders, humility being a key characteristic; Humility – the disposition of valuing or assessing oneself appropriately.  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Pe 5:6–7).

Amid all the suffering and persecution anxiety would be very high; the word picture for “cast all your anxiety” is this – to throw or hurl the problem away from you onto God.  How encouraging for the believers to know that God cares…   Humility and knowing God cares is a great place to begin overcoming Satan. 

 

Throughout 1 Peter there is an underlying exhortation to overcome sin and being godly.  Now Peter tells them to “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pe 5:8–9).  The believers are to overcome the adversary, accuser, the devil, their opponent, Satan himself.  Why is this important for Peter’s scattered people to understand?  It is because Satan or the devil is the source of evil not people; people can be saved but not Satan.  The devil needs to be resisted and overcome.  Nero was feeding Christians to the lions in Rome.  The scattered believers would understand the importance of what Peter is saying.  Christian hostility – resistance – towards the devil is essential, all the while standing firm in the faith.  This is very similar to Paul’s exhortation in Eph 6:10-18

In Conclusion

You are an overcoming believer.  This is one of the messages of Peter to the church of his day.  There is nothing too difficult for God.  He is able to provide blessings beyond what we can ask or imagine, even in the midst of difficulties and suffering.  We experience God’s blessings when we persevere through the challenges of suffering and trial, in this life and eternally. We experience God’s blessings when we overcome sin; we are no longer under guilt, shame or the power of sin over our lives.  We don’t have to give into sin but can by God’s grace – learn obedience as we suffer.  Suffering often causes our limitations to surface.  It is so good to remind ourselves that the Body of Christ is full of the resources we need to accomplish the plans and purposes of God.  Lastly, Peter reminds us that the real enemy is Satan, not people, and he must be intentionally and forcefully resisted.

 

Peter ends his first letter with great encouragement – “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pe 5:10–11).

In Application

We have all experienced times in our lives of suffering on various levels.  During those circumstances, we experience hurt and pain, we make choices – some good and some bad.  Sometimes we discover God’s hidden blessings along the way.  There are lessons to be learned just as Jesus learned obedience through the things he suffered.

 

Therefore:

·      Let’s take a moment and consider an area of God’s blessing in our lives?

·      What is an area of sin that God wants you to overcome?

·      Take of moment and think about an aspect of your life that is inadequate?  Who can help fill in this limitation?

·      Where do you feel the attack of the enemy?  Discern his strategy and then resist…

 

Let’s say this again to each other.  You are an overcoming believer. 

 

Let’s pray

 

 

 

You are a Godly People

 

Introduction

Last week we looked at 1 Peter 1:2-10 and discovered that we are God’s chosen people and that salvation comes to us as a living hope.  In the midst of all the suffering and persecution God offers us a protection of our faith and the assurance of a heavenly inheritance.  In spite of the trials we face Peter exhorts followers of Jesus to walk in holiness and God is holy.  This leads us to consider that we are to be a godly people in a broken and suffering world. 

 

Peter tells the church of his day abstain from sinful desires amid their struggles, as aliens and strangers in the world.  Even though we live in the world we are not to be engaged in the sinful activities or to come under the control of Satan.  Peter actually commands the believers to live such good lives that the non-believers around them will notice and give praise to God.  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Pe 2:11–12).  This brings us to Peter’s strategy with regards to “How to Live” good lives in broken and suffering times – Submission to authority, masters and in the home.

Submission to Authority

Last week I spoke about the context in which Peter is writing, Nero is the Emperor and Christians are being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake.  It seems like an ideal time to fight back, but Peter speaks to these scattered believers about submission telling them to submit to the unjust authorities in leadership.  This may seem like foolishness but Peter explains his reasoning behind this radical submission.

 

Firstly, submission is directly related to the Lord first, not man.  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men…” 1 Pe 2:13. In other words, submission to God’s authority requires submission to man’s authority.  Just as there is “spiritual” law and order the same is true in a natural sense.  The Apostle Paul also speaks of submission to authority in Rom 13:1-2, saying that “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Ro 13:1–2).  Submission to authority protects believers from engaging in a rebellious attitude towards God.  What does this submission look like for the churches in Peter’s day?  They should not be known for complaining, arguing, or starting protests, but by the beauty of this submission.  King David is a classic example of submission or “not touching the Lord’s anointed”.  David chose to not rebel against God by submitting to King Saul’s authority all the while enduring his assaults and temper tantrums. 

 

Peter carries on to say “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Pe 2:15).  In God’s Kingdom, freedom, respect for everyone, love for the saints, reverence for God and honour to the king are marks of submission. 

Submission to Masters

Peter addresses another aspect of submission to the Christians of his day.  “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh” (1 Pe 2:18).  In the churches of Asia Minor, slaves and servants made up a significant portion of the church.  Peter’s direction to slaves, more accurately, household servants, included two reasons why they should patiently undergo personal injustice. First, this found favour with God, and second, it faithfully followed Jesus Christ’s example.  It is easy to submit when things are going well.  Peter exhorts the believers to passive resistance in the face of injustice reflecting the character of Jesus, who endured the same treatment during his trial and crucifixion.  He does not tell them to run away or break free.  He says submit to them because it is commendable before God.  1 Peter 2:19 - “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.”  The word for commend speaks of favour, good will, gift or kindness; this means as believers submit they receive God’s gift of favour and kindness.  

 

These acts of submission were highly evangelistic to their masters.  It spoke of a value system that was the antithesis to that of the Roman Empire or Jewish thinking.  Submission in the face of suffering opened the door to speak of Jesus Christ who also suffered in his life.  Peter wanted believers to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Pe 3:15–16).

Submission at home

The third aspect of godly living is that of submission in the home.  Peter expands the principles of respect and submission to authority, from Christian conduct in the world to Christian conduct in the family.  He challenged his readers to new behavior as submissive wives (1 Peter 3:1 – “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives”) and considerate husbands (1 Peter 3:7).  Ladies first, submissive character was described earlier as living as free people, servant-hearted, respectful, loving, fearing God and honouring the king.  These characteristics when enacted upon as a wife has great potential to winning an unbelieving husband to God.  Actions speak louder than words.  A submissive wife to her husband, not men in general, carries an inner beauty to which God is attracted as well as her husband.  Submission to authority always involves a surrendered heart to God. 

 

Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Peter 3:7).  In the same way, likewise, similarly to that of submission, husbands are to be considerate and understanding of their wife’s spiritual, mental, emotion needs.  And remember this is all in the context of horrible suffering and persecution, families being torn apart, women being raped, children losing parents.  With this is mind I believe the “weaker partner” comment has to do with showing respect and protection to one’s wife; in other words, the wife is physically weaker and the husbands must understand this because of persecution.

In Conclusion

1 Peter tells believers everywhere that they are chosen by God to be a holy and godly people especially when facing suffering and persecution.  Peter highlights three aspects of godliness that all relate to submission; submission to governmental authority, submission to masters/bosses and then submission in the home.  Submission is not the same as obedience.  A submissive heart to man is the result of a surrendered heart to God.  A surrendered heart to God has as its first priority obedience to God before submission to human authority.  Peter himself disobeyed the direct commands of the Jewish leaders when they told him not to preach about Jesus (Acts 5:17-29).  In the same way Peter was not asking believers to disobey God by submitting human authority and their ungodliness.  But he was asking for them to find a way to display “submission” that would win over the lives of unbelievers.  Some of us may ask the question: how can God have established all authorities if some are unjust like Emperor Nero or someone like Adolf Hitler?  How do we understand this paradox?  God understands that even a bad ruler is better than no ruler at all because then there would be total anarchy.  Sometimes God may give us the leaders we deserve as a judgment.  In the Old Testament, the people had rejected God and asked for a leader just like the other nations and he gave them King Saul who was an oppressive king; this was to humble them and teach them to submit to God. 

 

I have chosen not to address “civil disobedience” in this message.  However, there are times when civil disobedience can be seen in the Scriptures as mentioned before with the life of Peter.  Suffice it to say, that from a Christian perspective, civil disobedience is never to involve rebellious behaviour, violence, or rioting as examples, but to be expressive of an attitude of submission, all the while understanding that our civil disobedience carries with it the consequences of the Laws and Orders of the land.  Why does it seem like submission leads to suffering? 

In Application

Today, we live in a society where people demand their rights, demonstrate for or against a cause, and can do so with displays of rebellion against authority.  The concept of submission is foreign to many and seen as a sign of weakness.  We have all experienced struggles and suffering to some degree and in all these times, there is a need for wisdom and discernment as to how to submit in difficult circumstances.  

 

I believe the believer should practice personal submission to authorities and bosses.  Sometimes these circumstances can be very difficult but we must avoid personal offense and learn how to turn the other cheek and walk in forgiveness.  We must remember that Peter was addressing persecution for one’s faith. 

 

In the case when others are experiencing unfairness for believing in Jesus Christ, I believe that Christians should seek fairness.  Christ turned the other cheek when insulted personally but responded with a righteous anger (not violence) when God was dishonored and others were harmed (John 2:13-17).  We remember that all authority is established by God, therefore, there are times when we should use these authorities; i.e. the police, talking to leadership, writing our politicians, etc.

 

Lastly, let’s remember that Peter describes submission as living in godly freedom, being servants of God, respectful and loving, reverent towards God and honouring towards authority.  

 

Let’s pray…

 

You are a Chosen People

 

Introduction

Peter was one of the first disciples to follow Jesus along with his brother Andrew.  At time of 1 Peter he was one of the leaders of the church in Rome and was writing to Christians who are beginning to suffer and experience persecution.  Peter desires to offer hope to the Christians who are being scattered throughout Asia-Minor (modern day Turkey).  He does so by introducing three main themes in the book; Salvation, Submission and Suffering.  Many Christians have been taught about our salvation in Jesus.  In my experience fewer have been taught about submission and suffering.  There are many important verses to consider in 1 Peter and over the next few weeks we will look at them.  One of my key verses is found in 1 Peter 2:9 - But you 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.  This morning I want to look at this verse especially as it relates to salvation. 

Chosen for Hope

There are difficult times being experienced in the churches of Asia Minor.  Christians are not popular and are seen as enemies of Rome and adversaries to Judaism.  They are suffering and facing serious persecution, from verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions.  Peter begins his letter in the midst of trials and suffering with hope.  He tells them in 1 Peter 1:2 – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.  One of the greatest aspects of Christianity is that of knowing that we are chosen by God.  

 

Do you remember in school being chosen by the teacher because you knew the answer?  Do you remember in school being chosen by your peers to play on a sports team?  These situations bring back memories, some good, some bad, about being selected in front of your classmates. 

 

Peter tells the scattered struggling believers that God has chosen them to be on his team.  Hope begins to fill their hearts.  Peter now describes various expressions of what salvation involves:

·       3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

·       4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you,

·       5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 

 

Hope, inheritance and protection would offer great comfort to the Christians of Peter’s day, even though they must put up with all kinds of trials in the meantime.  The struggles are worth it because their faith is being refined and will result in a glorious salvation. 

Chosen for Holiness

The salvation that Peter describes is more that “fire insurance” amid their fiery ordeal.  The many benefits of salvation were meant to help them live holy lives.  Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13–16).  In other words, hope in their hearts was to be followed by holy actions. 

 

Trials and temptations, pressures and persecution, can bring the best or the worst out in people.  There are Christians who minimize sin because of troubling circumstances or hardened hearts.  There are believers who do not believe, but doubt, that the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to free us from the penalty and the bondage of sin.  In other words, these two groups, are given more over to sin than to holiness.  

 

Peter’s exhortation is this - Jesus will never stop offering hope and the forgiveness of sin.  He sees the torment of their sufferings; he knows every time they fall into sin.  He knows it is not easy and that they truly want to be free.  Peter tells them – “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).   Here we see Peter connecting holiness, purity, obedience and love for one another because of being born again.  Salvation and sanctification go hand in hand.  “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1-3)

You are a Chosen People

Peter reminds the believers once again that they are chosen (as seen in 1 Peter 1:2); they are living stones connected to the cornerstone Jesus Christ and are to present themselves as building stones for the construction of a sanctuary vibrant with life (1 Peter 2:4-5).  They are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation who offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.  This people belonging to God were to declare the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).  In the midst of their suffering they were to report, proclaim, announce and speak about Jesus Christ who offers hope, an inheritance and protection in this troubled world.  They were also to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

In Application

It is important for believers today to understand how to respond to suffering and persecution.  Sometimes when life gets difficult we “cop-out” as Christians.  When push comes to shove, we simply get out of the way.  When confronted with political correctness we give in rather than standing up for God.  It can be a scary thing to be a follower of Jesus when the world around us does not agree with our biblical views, especially about Jesus Christ. 

·       We can take comfort in these passages of Scripture that offer us a living hope, an inheritance that can never fade and protection by God’s power. 

·       We can apply the salvation of Jesus into our lives by living holy lives, forgiven when we fall short of God’s glory, but intentional in obedient living.  

·       We can take every opportunity to proclaim the light and goodness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of a dark world.

 

Let’s pray…

Six Reasons to be Thankful

 

Introduction

Happy Thanksgiving.  There are four main seasons that we celebrate in Canada, and fall is one of them.  It is during this season that we enjoy Thanksgiving.  Historically Martin Frobisher from England was looking for the Northwest Passage in 1578 and was believed to celebrate thanksgiving that year.  During his third voyage, he had the intention of setting us a small settlement in what is now known as the Frobisher Bay area of the Baffin Island.  He brought with him 15 ships that were outfitted with men and supplies but one of the ships was sunk after it was crushed by ice.  Mayster Wolfall joined in this expedition with Her Majesty’s blessings to be their minister.  In one of these difficult times gave preached a godly message about God’s deliverance to those struggling for life.  They celebrated Communion and “The celebration of divine mystery was the first sign, scale, and confirmation of Christ's name, death and passion ever known in all these quarters.” 

 

Thanksgiving is also a theme of harvest celebrations.  Our American neighbours celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday in November.  Indigenous cultures celebrate their version of thanksgiving in the fall as well.  The Feast of Tabernacles (Booths, Ingathering, Sukkot) was the Jewish expression of thanksgiving and is celebrated from late September to late October.  It has a double meaning, one being the celebration of the harvest and the other being the celebration of the exodus and the dependence of the people of Israel on God. 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one the best expressions of a truly passionate and born-again person.  Thanksgiving brings life into perspective because it focuses on God first and the challenges second.  The practice of thanksgiving puts our minds at ease by strengthens our trust in God.  An attitude of thanksgiving releases faith to overcome the schemes and strategies of the enemy.  

The Apostle of Thanksgiving

The Apostle Paul is one of the most prolific and thankful writers of the New Testament.  I believer that because of Saul’s – now Paul – salvation experience, from the worst of sinners to saint, he was an utterly thankful person. 

·      Many of Paul’s letters open with thanks directed towards God (Col 1:12; 2 Tim 1:3; Philemon vs:4). 

·      He gave thanks for the saints - Rom 1:8; Eph 1:16; 1 Thess 1:2 and so on…

·      He tells us “thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57). 

·      In fact, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thess 5:18).

·      Paul taught us to give thinks for all things: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:20).

1 Cor 1:4-9

Paul thanks God for the Corinthian believers despite their divisions, immorality and selfish actions. He is thankful that they’ve come to Christ and are at least staying engaged with the Christian community; this provides the opportunity for God to work in them and through them.

Today I want us to look at 1 Cor 1:4-9 and discover six reasons we can be thankful to God. 

 

I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 

 

1.     God is gracious

We can be thankful because of the grace that has been given to us in Jesus.  We are fully forgiven and have free and open access to God our Father.  We can boldly come into God’s presence, not foolishly or unrepentantly, and discover his forgiving mercy and empowering grace.   Let’s be thankful for grace…

 

2.     God is enriching

We can be thankful because God has made us to enjoy rich and abundant lives.  Riches and wealth have gotten a lot of spiritual publicity over the past years but the enriching here is more than money; riches is more about generosity than acquiring.  There was a large gap in the city of Corinth.  Paul is saying, being enriched mentally, emotionally, spiritually is of equal important for the believer.  Life is full and you are content whatever your circumstances.

 

3.     God is generous

When God’s grace and enriching fill our lives, there is no lack, as Paul tells the Corinthians.  The generosity of God overflows into the lives of the believers “spiritually”, in the sense of spiritual things, especially the Gifts of the Spirit found in Chapters 12-14.  The Body of Christ is full of God’s big-heartedness.  In other words, we too, are meant to be big-hearted in generosity through the spiritual gifts and talents he has given to us.

 

4.     God is revealing

We can be thankful that God chooses to reveal himself in Jesus Christ at the Second Coming of our Saviour as well as through our daily living as a believer.  God is always communicating to us through the Holy Spirit, whether in creation, his still small voice (sometimes loud and clear) and especially through his Word – the Holy Bible. 

 

 

 

 

5.     God is strong

Paul tells the Corinthian believers that God will keep them strong; this strength makes someone settled securely, to cause them to believe without doubting, and to establish an unshakeable inner strength.  This strength leads to being blameless, above the criticism of people and beyond the accusation of the enemy.  I am thankful for this kind of strength that helps me to live in righteousness and honour before God and mankind.

 

6.     God is faithful

Paul ends his thanksgiving with this thought – “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”  Before the Apostle Paul begins to give any instruction or correction, he confesses that God is faithful.  In other words, amid the challenges of life, God is trustworthy, dependable, reliable, steadfast, loyal, unfailing, truthful…  There is a faithfulness of God that completes what he starts (Phil 1:6).  This wonderful spiritual adventure called “faith in Jesus Christ” is surrounded by God’s faithfulness.  He will never give up on us. 

In Conclusion

Happy are those who are thankful…  Happy Thanksgiving.  May we discover more and more each day how we can be thankful for who God is and all that he has done for us.  The main lesson Paul is trying to teach us is this - Look to God first and be thankful because he is Gracious, Enriching, Generous, Revealing, Strong and Faithful...  There is nothing too difficult for God, so let’s practice thanksgiving… 

 

Sometimes life can be challenging just like the church in Corinth.  But the Apostle Paul makes sure he begins by being thankful as an example to the believers there.  The same is true for us today.  We must learn to be grateful and appreciative for all that God does for us.  Occasionally we can find ourselves in difficult circumstances, maybe our health is failing, maybe we are struggling with loneliness, temptations that seem so overpowering, or frustration in some relationship.  One of the biggest strategies of Satan is to take our eyes off God and put them onto our circumstances, weaknesses, insecurities and sinfulness.

In Application

Here are a few practical tips to encourage us in thanksgiving…

 

Keep our eyes focused on Jesus who is the author and perfector of our faith. 

 

We must put thanksgiving into practice daily…

 

Hang around thankful people…

 

 

Our Journey with God

 

Introduction

We are all on a life journey.  One of my favourite pastimes is travelling and watching people on their journeys, whether on the road or at airports.  Everyone is going from point A to point B and experiences life’s twists and turns, sometimes very good and at other times challenging.  I hope to inspire us this morning while we journey with God.  I hope to help us find God’s goodness in our travels, so to speak, and I hope that we will find comfort for those puzzling and perplexing times of life.  Proverbs 3:5-6 is a key passage to meditate on…

“Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams”

Our Mission Statement at Courts of Praise is “Apprehending God’s Heart and Fulfilling His Dreams”.  The idea behind this statement is simple – It is very important in life to know God personally.  Knowing God helps us develop godly identity and intimacy with God and each other.  Knowing God through prayer and worship and discovering our spiritual gifts is a wonderful experience.  However, knowing God is only half of the equation – It is equally important in life to fulfill our God-given destinies.  Fulfilling God’s Dreams is all about serving others, loving people, helping people to know God for themselves personally.  A beautiful verse is found in Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  This reminds me of our Mission Statement – Love him according to his purpose.  The Apostle Paul writes this passage to the Church in Rome during times of trial and hardship.  He goes onto say that he is convinced that if God is for us then I doesn’t really matter who is against us.  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:37–39).

We are becoming…

We have a saying at Courts of Praise – “We are becoming a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”  I have mentioned this phrase over and over because it describes the journey we are on together.  Several weeks ago, I spoke out of 2 Peter 1:3-11.  One of the keys thoughts was this – “make every effort to add to your faith…”  In other words, we are on a journey of becoming a follower of Jesus.  Sometimes it is a point of trial where we make every effort to overcome in our faith, add to our faith – we are more than conquerors as we make certain our destiny. 

 

·      Grace-full -  I love this word picture.  When I think of grace-full I picture the Holy Spirit coming upon the lives of people.  Oftentimes graceful is seen a pretty and feminine; this is good and attractive, but is not the full picture of grace.  The picture of God’s grace touching Caleb’s life is awesome.  “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Nu 14:24).  There were twelve spies, two of which responded with a good report.  Caleb chose the perspective with which he defined life's events; ‎High tide verses low tide, Optimist verses pessimist, God verses circumstance, Faith verses doubt, Opportunity verses obstacles.  Can do it verses can't do it.  We must learn how to live in a godly spirit with God's perspective.  

‎            -Constantly correct your perception of yourself by seeing yourself as God sees you.  

‎            -The perception of your past, learn from your history.  Jesus covers your past.  

‎            -The perception of your future, learn to be inspired.  Jesus gives us a future and a hope.

Choose the measure of difficulty you will assign to... The greater the reward the greater the difficulty.  The same is true in gymnastics; the greater the difficulty the greater the score.  The ten spies had a measure of difficulty in entering the promised land, it is going to be a ten, we will die...  Joshua and Caleb has a measure of difficulty in entering the promised land, it is going to be a one or maybe two.  With God, we will win.  We cannot lose with God on our side.  

·      Loving and accepting and forgiving – This is foundational to our Christian faith.  Jerry Cook wrote the book, Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness: Being Christian in a Non-Christian World.  One of the questions Jerry considered is this - How can the church be a healing force in the world?  The answer is simple - it is only when believers admit their own brokenness that they can love, accept, and forgive those who are hurting around them and put out the welcome mat to their church community.  We must first receive God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness personally, before we can effectively offer this to the world.  God’s church is not broken, but it is the broken people within who can change the world through love and acceptance and forgiveness.

·      Community of believers from all nations who celebrate each other.  I recommend the movie “All Saints”.  It is a true story of an Episcopalian Church in Smyrna Tennessee.  In the movie Karin believers from Burma come to join a struggling little church.  These believers begin to know each other, experience the differences of their cultures, work side-by-side, and celebrate each other’s achievements they form a close-knit community.  This is just like Acts 2:42-45.

·      Who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.  One of the primary dreams of God is the redemption of mankind; friendship to God is very important.  It is interesting to note that when gathering of the saints is grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving that God adds to their number (Acts 2:46-47).  It is our desire to continue to be committed to sharing our faith in Jesus through a variety of means; Stephen’s Backpacks, community outreach, Prairie Light Christian Fellowship… 

In Conclusion

We are on a journey, whether personally or corporately, in our faith relationship with God.  Salvation is a free gift as we choose to believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, but is a journey of genuine and growing pursuit of God.  We grow in our faith the best when we are a part of a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers.  This is a new season, so to speak, as we gather together seeking to see God glorified in our midst.  Let’s pray…

Living Victoriously In Shaky Times - Part 6

 

Introduction

I have some thoughts I want to share with us this morning that I trust will bring us into greater love for God and each other.  I want to start with a Scripture that can help us to center on the King we love and serve.  In Hebrews 12:28-29 the writer tells us, Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”  There are a lot of things being shaken right now in the world and in the church, but the Kingdom of God is not one of them.  God’s Kingdom is enduring, unchangeable, immovable.  However, many people are shaken over disasters that are confronting them; fires, hurricanes, earthquakes etc.  We look at the news, which mostly tells us “bad reports”, which is unbiblical.  We are confronted with wars and rumors of wars and politics, all of which clamor for our undivided attention.  Believers and unbelievers are prophesying about why these things are happening.  In the midst of all of this what kind of people are we to be.  There are four kinds of people that I want to identify this morning; Kingdom people, thankful people, worship people, obedient people etc. 

Kingdom People

The Gospel Matthew is a “Kingdom Gospel”.  From the beginning of Matthew Jesus preached and taught on the Kingdom of Heaven; Matt 4:17; Matt 5 – 7; Matt 10:7; the Parables of Matt 13, 18, 20, 21,22, 25; Matt 16:19; Matt 19:14; Matt 24 – “what will be the signs of your coming and the end of the age”; Matt 26:29; and Matt 28:18.  There are many things transpiring in our country and the world around us which can lead to question what is going on.  There are prophets prophesying – remember to make sure that no one deceives you…  There is fear and insecurity…  There is persecution… Love growing cold…  Israel in the news…  “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken’” (Mt 24:29).  There is a lot of shaking going “in the last days” in which we live. 

 

In the midst of all this shaking there is a counter culture aspect that distinguishes Kingdom People.  In other words, we are to be different than the world around us.  We stay true to God’s Word and make sure there is no deception, we understand that persecution and suffering are part of being followers of Jesus.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Mt 24:42).  In other words, pray and then pray some more.

 

How can we be counter cultural in the midst of so much shaking and fear?   Do not fear is repeated over and over in the owners Manuel.  Therefore, we need to take notice.  Whenever God says, “Do not fear” he is giving us the understanding that his grace, empowering and ability are available to carry us through.  We are to be strong and courageous.  We are to be loving and kind.  We are to be pure and holy.  We are to be anxious about nothing but praying for everyone. 

Thankful People

One of the best solutions for all this terrible shaking is thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving takes our minds off the problem onto the solution.  So many people today are trapped in the troubles that they have no time to be thankful to God for all that he has done for us.  Psalm 107 is a wonderful Psalm about troubles and thanksgiving.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men… (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, and 31).

·      Psalm 107:4-9 – wandering, hungry and thirsty followed by thanks equals provision.

·      Psalm 107:10-16 – darkness, prison, rebellion followed by thanks equals freedom.

·      Psalm 107:17-22 – foolish, sinful and dying followed by thanks equals sacrifice and joy.

·      Psalm 107:23-32 – hard work with challenges followed by thanks equals praise.

 

The world around us needs to see a counter cultural display of gratitude and thanksgiving empowered by God not followers of Jesus who engage in the spirits of this world.  Thanksgiving opens the door to God’s grace and kindness being demonstrated through our lives.

Worship People

We all understand the importance of being worshipful towards God, showing him our desire to honour him and have no others gods before him.  The word used here for worship carries with it another aspect of our worship towards God – service.  In others words, Worship People in the midst of a world that is being shaken are servants to God but especially towards those struggling in their calamities.  Worship is more than the songs we sing on Sunday; it is about being selfless and caring for others.  Oftentimes when trials and tribulations assault people they tend to lose their footing, their sure foundation becomes a little shaky, and those things they trust in become questionable.  It is in those times that true Worship People can offer service; food, clothing, safety, and the reason of their love and kindness. 

Obedient People

Lastly, I want to focus on what is means to worship acceptably with reverence and awe before our consuming fire.  The Fear of God is clearly a biblical theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.  It is a knowing of who God is in his love and holiness, his power and majesty, righteousness and justice (and so much more) and then living appropriately and obediently before him and our fellowman.  Obedience is one of the greatest weapons we can use in our resistance before whatever challenges, circumstances or especially the attacks of the enemy.

In Conclusion                                    

How do we live victoriously in challenging times?  We need to remember that our citizenship as be believers in Jesus is in an unshakeable Kingdom.  We are Kingdom People that must ask these questions - What am I doing?  What am I thinking?  What am I saying?  I hope that our actions, thoughts and words accurately represent Kingdom truth.  Thanksgiving needs to be an intentional aspect of our walk with Jesus.  We must worship God appropriately while serving those in trouble.  All of this is followed up by followers of Jesus who live righteous and obedient lives before God and our neighbour.   

Let’s pray…

Victorious Christian Living – Part 5

Review

We have looked at various keys for Victorious Christian Living as related to our personal relationship with Holy Spirit; regeneration, being empowered, being guided, being unified, and being prayed for…  We know from the Scripture that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pe 1:3).  In other words, we can live as more than conquerors in this life – IF – we choose to connect with and abide in Jesus Christ, but also Holy Spirit.  As we surrender to Holy Spirit moment by moment we begin to overcome challenges and the temptation to sin.  This means that we can be genuine and growing in our faith, from glory to glory, enjoying our victorious Christian life and living to the fullness that God has intended.  This morning we will look at two more aspects needed in relation to the Holy Spirit that will enable us to live in the success that God has planned for each of us. 

The Holy Spirit Is Our Refiner

On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the Spirit came upon the 120 disciples in the Upper Room.  There were two significant signs that came with the Spirit being poured out, wind and fire.  I often this of a nice breeze or sitting by a warm fire, and yet wind and fire can be very devastating as well, tornadoes and wild fire.  However, both with and fire speak of God is different ways relating to character and abilities.  Wind relates to the life in the sense of creation, spirit is referred to as wind or pneuma, and when combined with the Spirit of God wind denotes holiness.  Fire is the other manifestation that touched the disciples on Pentecost.  It was not a physical fire because they were not burned up.  However, the fire was noticeable and seen coming upon their individual heads and we know that this fire represented the Holy Spirit.  There are many references to fire in the Scripture; angels with fiery swords protected the entrance to the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24), Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:1-5), the pillar of fire by night, the fiery furnace (Dan 3), and fire and judgement is a biblical theme. 

 

A key thought with regards to fire is that of holiness or refining – “These have come (referring to challenges and trials of life) so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pe 1:7).  The certainty of Victorious Christian Living involves the refining work of the Holy Spirit.  The question is - are you willing to allow God to purify you, even in hidden areas?  House cleaning can be a dirty business… 

 

As we surrender to the refiner’s fire, we must remember the character of God is not to shame or blame or embarrass his children.  The refining of the Holy Spirit is always unto restoration.  Our Mission Statement states, “We are becoming a grace-full, loving, accepting and forgiving community of believers from all nations that celebrate each other and who are committed to bringing souls into God’s kingdom.”  Loving, accepting and forgiving is the attitude we must have while the Holy Spirit is refining us personally or another follower of Jesus. 

It can be very intimidating when God comes to “clean his temple”; secret sins, ugly attitudes, unforgiveness etc…  He moves the furniture around, so to speak, to purify us of gossip, resentments, pride, anger, shame, addictive behaviours so that we can be restored to Victorious Christian Living. I encourage you to open your heart to the Spirit’s fire.

The Holy Spirit Is Our Comforter

I have been through the refiner’s fire a few times in my life, it was intense and somewhat terrifying.  However challenging the refining process can be, the comfort of the Holy Spirit is never far off.  In the case of the disciples, as Jesus approached the cross things became more confusing and troubling for them.  Prior to his death Jesus told them in John 14:16–18“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (Jn 14:16–18).  Jesus knew that his crucifixion would cause them to lose all hope and confidence.  The disciple’s faith was tested and they came up short of God’s glory. 

Here are some thoughts from these verses:

·      Another Counselor – Jesus was the first Counselor, Advocate or Helper...  “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 Jn 2:1–2).

·      The Spirit of Truth describes the Comforter; Holy Spirit is our “teacher and reminder” (John 14:26) and Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus (John 16:7) which causes our faith to grow.  As well, Holy Spirit is described as the “spirit of grace” (Hebr 10:29).

·      Holy Spirit comfort lives in us…  There is never a moment when we are separate from the potential experience of our comforter. 

·      We are the children of God, take comfort in this fact.

 

These are a few of the amazing blessings of the Comforter.  When the Spirit brought regeneration to you, He brought the eternal life of God.  Now we have been given the very Presence of God to comfort and counsel us in the various circumstances of life, in all the trials and testing’s.  The Spirit supports us with supernatural strength and joy, and hope and faith, in the midst of life so that we can be full of victory.

In Conclusion

There are times in our Christian walk when the fire of God touches our lives to make us holy; Conviction… Confession… Repentance…  We know what it is like to experience spring cleaning, the same can be true when we surrender our lives to the Holy Spirit.  He comes to make sure our faith in God and walk with God are congruent, in other words, righteous…  These times can be challenging but we must never forget that the Holy Spirit as our comforter is far off.  In fact, the very help and encouragement we need for Victorious Christian living lives inside of us.  We need to again consider the importance of surrendering our lives to God so that we can fulfill his plans and purposes for our lives.  We are created as winners in God’s image.  Let’s live so…  Let’s pray…

Victorious Christian Living Part 4

 

Review

In the beginning of this sermon series we came to understand that everyone has the potential for greatness, believer or unbeliever, because we are all created in the image of God.  In other words, winning and success were to be a part of his sons and daughters.  Mankind’s disobedience created a horrible separation between a holy God and a sinful mankind.  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. 6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir (Gal 4:4–7).  Jesus does not offer to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive - Ravi Zacharias; the first is religious and the other is called regeneration – born-again…  Being made alive “in Christ” is the beginning of the journey towards victorious Christian living.  Victorious Christian Living then moves towards a personal relationship with the Spirit of Jesus in our hearts and leads us towards the fullness of our inheritance.  Once on the road of faith in Jesus, the person of Holy Spirit, empowers us to be and do like Jesus while he was on earth; naturally supernatural.  As well as the Holy Spirit guides the children of God, like an internal spiritual GPS, into moral and wise decisions for life and living. 

Holy Spirit brings Unity

The “empowering and guidance of the Holy Spirit” began in Acts 2.  Later, in the same chapter we see the beginning of the apostles and disciples meeting – 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42–47).  We often focus of the disciple’s devotion to the apostles teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.  And yet one of the key aspects of the Holy Spirit is that of unity or togetherness as seen in Verse 44.  This commonness comes from a Greek word “koinos” and when joined together with people forms fellowship or “koinonia”.  This unity of the Spirit is mentioned 18 times throughout the New Testament; in other words, the ekklesia was filled with partnership and love for one another.  It was the unity of Holy Spirit that held the early Christians together in the face of persecution and caused them to lay down their lives for one another; this was victorious Christian living.  You can’t fake this kind of success; it is not event driven or programed.  It is the result of believers giving themselves over to the Holy Spirit and turning away from sin which is a disruptive force, always dividing, and separating. 

 

I believe that is why Jesus prayed for unity in the Body of Christ (John 17) or why the Apostle Paul spoke of “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).  So, the unity that we have in Christ is part of the God’s grand design. Therefore, one of the distinguishing marks of the Victorious Christian Life is to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; this is especially practical between God’s sons and daughters. 

The Holy Spirit Is Our Intercessor

The second point today with regards to Victorious Christian Living is the Holy Spirit as our “intercessor”.  Both Jesus and the Spirit intercede for the saints of God.  Hebrews 7:25 tells us of Jesus – “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebr 7:25).  The apostle Paul told us that the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, “helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Rom 8:26–27).  The help the Spirit offers is the same help Mary was looking for in Luke 10:40; Martha was distracted and Mary needed help.  In other words, she was tired, weak, needed extra strength.  In our moments of weakness, not sinfulness, whatever they are, when we don’t know what to do or how to pray, the Spirit is there to intercede for us bringing us into God’s will.  Sometimes in our times of uncertainty we may find ourselves “groaning in prayer”.  Oh, God help…  We may feel faithless and not very spiritual.  This is where the Spirit of God comes to intercede for us.  The Holy Spirit petitions and prays to the Father on our behalf. He is an advocate who pleads for us according to the will of the Father. The Spirit can intercede according to the will of God because He knows the things of God. 

 

There is an amazing point to consider here.  The Spirit of God, who knows our spirit and mind and emotions intimately, sympathizes with whatever weakness is upon us and then prayer for God’s will to be done in our situation.  No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit travails for us until we literally come into God’s light and freedom.

In Conclusion

Victorious Christian Living is all about a genuine and growing relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus invites us into the family of God, making us one with God and each other.  This unity is empowered by the Holy Spirit and is organic, not programmed, it is diversity, not uniformity. The Holy Spirit is committed to ensuring unity is present in the Body of Christ because that is where we discover our calling and step into ministry.  In addition, the Spirit helps us by interceding for us.  It is like spiritual childbirth (until Christ is formed in you – Gal 4:19).  This is how we grow spiritually.  We encounter challenges and at times find ourselves weak, that’s when the Holy Spirit helps us through these situations.  He prays for God’s children with groanings too deep for words until faith gives birth to the answer we are waiting for. 

 

I trust that the more we study and think of our relationship with Holy Spirit, the more we are encountering Victorious Christian life and living.  Let’s Pray…

Victorious Christian Living – Part 3

Review

We have all been given the opportunity to live a Victorious Christian Life.  Because we are created in the image of God we have the potential for great love and goodness.  The Fall of Mankind into sin produced great sin and struggle into the world.  And yet in God’s plan his own Son Jesus Christ became the Saviour of All who call and believe on him.  The potential to live in victory is not possible within our own choices, but only when one receives Jesus as Lord and Saviour and comes into the reality of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  The wonderful miracle of “new birth” is just the beginning of our journey towards a victorious Christian life.  This morning we will look at two aspects of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of a follower of Jesus. 

Holy Spirit Empowers

I woke up the other day not feeling well, tired and looking towards a busy day.  I was not too enthusiastic about my new day where the mercies of God await.  I wish that I could have put on a new attitude or maybe some new clothes to make me feel better.  This reminded me of Jesus telling his disciples that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  This baptism was not to be a tame experience but being “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).  I remember washing my clothes in London England when I reached down to steady the portable washing machine.  Needless to say, some of the wiring was touching the water and I received the shock of my life, my arms flying in the air, my heart racing and the colour draining from my face.  Power from on high sounds to me like “heaven was about to shake the world”!  In other words, we, the regenerated Body of Christ, are empowered by the Spirit who changes people into radical lovers of God and people.  He gives them the power to preach boldly, heal sick people, even raise the dead.

 

Last week I shared about Ezekiel’s vision about a new heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone.  This vision of the Spirit being poured out was hundreds of years before the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the early church on the Day of Pentecost as seen in Acts 2.  The Book of Ezekiel begins with fantastic visions of storms and wind and a cloud glowing with fire, lightning and thunder, and extraordinary living creatures with four faces.  The vision continues to a throne and figure that looked like a man glowing with fire and dazzling in light.  Ezekiel then pens these words, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking” (Ezekiel 1:28).   This is power from on high…  I believe that God was showing Ezekiel power from on high and one day God would clothe his people with power on Pentecost.  The early disciples experienced this empowering - the sound of a rushing wind and flames of fire descending on every believer’s head.  But the Holy Spirit didn’t stop with just a good half time show, but also filled, imparted and empowered the followers of Jesus with super-natural power from on high.  What does this power look like?  Just look through the rest of the Book of Acts; supernatural healing, fierce courage, boldness, willing martyrs, dreams and visions to name a few.  

The empowering of the Holy Spirit was life changing and far from comfortable for the early church.  The Holy Spirit gives the power to Jesus’ statement that “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18).  This empowering of the Spirit is life transforming and in some sense, brings radical change but not chaos.  We need to allow the freedom of the Spirit to move in our lives and corporate gatherings.  We need to be careful to “not put out the Spirit’s fire” (1 Thess 5:18).  We need to be careful that we do not try to control the “power from on high” so we can keep our church services safe and without unexpected Holy Spirit interruptions.  I love Peters words to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38–39).

Holy Spirit Guides

GPS is something we rely on in our day and age, 20 to 30 years ago we would use maps and a compass and many years ago a sextant and the stars.  Everyone desires how to get from A to B without a lot of hassles.  The same is true spiritually or morally in life.  The Holy Spirit is like our internal GPS, except that he never gets confused or offers wrong information – “re-routing” … 

 

We briefly mentioned some of the characteristics of God last week, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  Omniscience has to do with God not lacking in wisdom or knowledge, past, present or future.  The Holy Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of God; in other words, he makes a great guide no matter what the situation of life.  Several Scriptures come to mind when I think of the Spirit as my guide. 

·      Romans 8:14 tells us: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”  If you are a child of God, you have access to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

·      Ga 5:18 - But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.  Christians do not find their righteousness through the Law but through Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  In other words, the Spirit knows how to led us into righteous victorious living.  

·      1 John 2:27 - He is our teacher and those who depend on Holy Spirit will know where to go and what to do because they are following his heavenly directions.

 

But if you want to know the Holy Spirit’s guidance, you must learn to discern His voice and His subtle nudgings.  We must learn to abide in the Spirit and the Word of God. 

In Conclusion

The world we live in is looking for genuine expressions of God’s Holy Spirit power, not religion that has denied God’s power.  The challenge for the followers of Jesus today is to surrender to this power from on high and let the Spirit of God fully direct your life.  All too often we play it safe spiritually and do not press in beyond our comfort levels. However, power without direction can be a little scary, therefore we also need Holy Spirit to be our leader and guide.  He will direct us through life in wise and knowledgeable ways.  There is a world out there to win for Jesus and we need Holy Spirit empowering and guidance to be victorious Christians. 

Let’s pray