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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Walrus and the Carpenter Podcast

Listen in to my interview with Garry and Jason at the curiously titled podcast "The Walrus and the Carpenter."

They asked me questions about the 4 year anniversary of the release of Resisting Gossip and about how its teaching relates to prayer requests, pastoral ministry, and a bunch of other things. It was fun to hang out with a couple curious pastors who are passionate about ministry.

They are currently running a contest to win a free copy of Resisting Gossip provided by CLC Publications. Listen to the podcast to find out how to win.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "So You Are No Longer a Slave"

“So You Are No Longer a Slave”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
August 27, 2017 :: Galatians 4:1-11

Galatians is chock-ful of glorious gospel truth. Today, when we get to verses 4, 5, and 6, we are going to read one of the most glorious descriptions of the gospel of Jesus Christ there ever was.

But the problem was that the Christians in the region of Galatia were being tempted to believe a false-gospel, an alternative gospel, a gospel that is really no gospel at all.

Paul has fired up the alarm with this letter and is warning and admonishing the Galatians to not give in to the destructive false teaching that has been spreading like gangrene in their midst.

And here’s what they are being told...that faith in Jesus Christ is not enough.

They are being told that believing in Jesus is fine, but to be truly justified and to stay justified, to be right with God, to be righteous in God’s sight forever, a believer must also do the works of the Law of Moses: circumcision, the Ten Commandments, the dietary restrictions, and the sacred Jewish calendar of days, months, seasons, and years.

It’s not enough to just believe in Christ alone.

You’ve got to also keep the Law.

And we’ve had 3 whole chapters of Paul dismantling that idea.

And there’s a lot more to come.

Last time, Paul took us on quick tour of the whole Old Testament.

And he showed us why justification by faith in God’s promises (like Father Abraham) was so much better than trying to be justified by the law.

I’m not going to go over all of it again, but simply put, the Promise was older than the Law, the Law was only added because of transgression, the Law was only temporary, the Law couldn’t save, the Law had us locked up like a big bad babysitter, and it has it has effectively done its job.

Therefore, we shouldn’t go back to it.

And faith?

Faith has made us sons of God in Christ Jesus!

Do you remember the 3 words that we emphasized at the end of chapter 3?

Sons, One, Heirs.

That’s the results of faith in Jesus Christ!

Those ideas are going to be really key again today as well.

Because really, we stopped in the middle of Paul’s thought. Verse 1 of chapter is Paul still explaining what he just said.

When you read this passage, you can just feel how concerned Paul is about these people, can’t you?

He knows that they are in terrible danger, and it’s tearing him up.

And he’s doing everything he can, guided by the Spirit, to persuade them not to turn to this alternative gospel. He’s used really strong language...and the strongest language is still to come.

He’s doing everything he can to persuade them to not turn to this alternative gospel.

And in these verses for today, he’s doing it by showing them that, in Christ, they are now no longer slaves.

Here’s our sermon title for today. It’s from the first phrase of verse 7.

“So You Are No Longer a Slave...”

Say that to the person next to you.

“So You Are No Longer a Slave...”

That’s a glorious truth with far-reaching implications for our lives today.

“So you are no longer a slave...”

But that means that at one time, you were a slave. At least in some sense.

That’s what he says in verse 1.

“What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.”

Paul is making an analogy from the Greco-Roman world in which he lived.

He says imagine a child who is the rich heir-apparent of a big estate. But he is still a minor, still a child, unable to exercise the rights over that big estate.

In fact, he’s subject to babysitters and bossy bodyguards.

Even though some day, he’s going to own everything, right now, he’s no better than a slave. He has to obey.

He is “under.”

The word “under” keeps cropping up in this letter.

Practically speaking, this child is functionally a slave until the date of his graduation from being a minor.

Every student who is being bundled off back to school this week knows the feeling!

“I have to go school. This is a form of slavery!”

“I can’t wait until I graduate and I can do whatever I want.”

Amen, students, amen?

Well, Paul says that take that idea and apply it to our spiritual condition. V.3

“So also, when we were children [I think that’s the time that the Law of Moses was in effect, when we were children], we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.”

Paul says, “We were as good as slaves, too!”

Now, I’m not exactly sure how this works. I’m not exactly sure what the “basic principles of the world” are. There are three main interpretations, and they all give a different perspective on it, but all have different strengths and weaknesses, too.

The word for “basic principles” can be like the ABC’s of something. Like the basic stuff you learn in school, reading, writing, and arithmetic. ABC, 123.

And that might mean the Jews who were trying to be justified by the Law were enslaved by the basics of doing the Law. ABC, 123, DO-DO-DO.

But the word for “basic principles” was also used for the basic elements in the ancient world, like “earth, wind, fire” that sort of thing.

So that would be saying that they were focusing on earthly, physical things like circumcision, feasting and fasting, sacrifices–really earthy-things, missing the higher, spiritual, substantive point.

And the third view is that the “basic principles of the world” are spiritual forces of evil. Demons. Unclean spirits. The principalities and powers that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6.

And that one makes the most sense to me when this verse is connected to verse 8.

But I’m not really sure how the logic works here in verse 3.

But the big point is clear. We used to be slaves...AND NOT TO GOD.

This isn’t talking about being a slave of God. That’s a good thing!

That’s not something you want freed from!

But Paul says that we used to be in slavery “UNDER the basic principles of the world.”

And that’s NOT good.

But it’s all changed. Because Jesus came. V.4

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

Woohoo!

Isn’t that awesome?

That’s one of the most glorious statements of the truth of gospel, ever.

“But when the time had fully come...”

God’s timing is perfect.

God had a plan from the beginning, and when the time was ripe, He put it into action.

When the Law had reigned for 1400 years or so, God sent His Son.

I have a friend who says that God is seldom early but never late.

He knows exactly when to do something.

And He knew when to send to Jesus.

“God sent his Son.” That’s interesting, too, because it means that the Son of God was pre-existent. He was eternally God the Son. And God the Father sent His own eternal Son into the world.

This points to His divinity.

And the next phrase points to His humanity–“born of a woman.”

That’s as human as you can get.

Jesus came from out of Mary’s womb.

And she was a virgin!

Jesus is fully God and fully human in one Person, sent by God the Father.

“Born of a woman, born UNDER law.”

Oh! Even Jesus was born under the rule of the Mosaic Law.

But here’s the thing: He fulfilled it! Jesus lived under the Law perfectly and fulfilled it perfectly!

And so when He took our place on the Cross, when He took on the curse of the Law, He didn’t deserve it, so that He could (v.5) “redeem those under law.”

Isn’t that glorious?

It’s it wonderful how God planned it, how God saved us?

John Stott put it this way:

“So the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualified him to be man's redeemer. If He had not been man, He could not have redeemed men. If He had not been a righteous man, He could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if He had not been God's Son, He could not have redeemed men for God or made them the sons of God.”

“He was born under law to redeem those under law.”

How many of us have thanked Jesus recently for being born under law?

Because this is what we get! V.5

“That we might receive the full rights of sons.”

The adoption of sons.

J.I. Packer has called adoption “the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification.”

Justification is wonderful, but it’s leads to something else. It leads to adoption.

Having the full rights of being a Son of God.

And here’s where the Third Person of the Trinity gets in there. V.6

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

By virtue of your spiritual adoption, you have the Spirit of God’s Son in your heart and He calls out, He cries out, “Abba! Father!”

Isn’t that amazing?

Remember Romans 8:16? “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.”

He’s inside of you saying, “Abba! Father!”

Jesus’ own special name for God is now is something that you can say about God through the Spirit that lives in you.

“God is my Abba!”
“God is my Father!”

V.7

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son;”

Let’s make that big point number one.

#1. SON.

So because of Jesus you are no longer a slave, what does that make you?

A SON.

You are a son in the Son.

This is a restatement and reemphasis of what we saw last time.

Think about what that means.

You are not an orphan.

If you are in Christ, you are not an orphan.

You are not alone in this world.

Do you feel alone in this world?

Does this world scare you?

It’s a scary world.

I get scared of all kinds of things.

I worry about all kinds of things.

There are all kinds of things that bother me.

But not when this thought is what is controlling my mind.

“I am not a slave. And I am not an orphan.”

I am a son.

I am a son in the Son.

What do I have to worry about?

I mean, really?

This is why we can pray, you know?

Do you pray?

Do you pray with confidence?

Do you pray to God as your Father?

You’ve got the Spirit of the Son of God living in you crying out, “Abba, Father!”

Do you think God is going to listen to you?

You bet He is.

Verses 4 through 6 should give us great confidence in approaching God in prayer and walking through the minefield that is this world.

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son.”

That’s who you are.

Because Jesus is a Chainbreaker!

You are no longer a slave, but a son.

And that’s not all. V.7

“...and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

#2. HEIR.

That big old estate is yours to enjoy.

You are fabulously rich as an heir of God.

We talked about this last time.

All of the promises are ours. We are heirs! They are coming to us.

Because we are sons in the Son.

Every promise in the book is mine
Every chapter, every verse and every line
All are blessings of His love divine
Every promise in the book is mine.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

This afternoon, read Ephesians chapter 1 to remind yourself of the blessings you have in Christ Jesus.

Not only are you not an orphan but you are one rich kid in Christ!

Chosen
Predestined
Adopted
Redeemed
Forgiven
Included
Sealed
Guaranteed

What more do you want?

That inheritance is all ours.

In part now and still fully to come.

That gives us hope, doesn’t it?

Do you have hope?

So many people live without hope these days.

But we have every good thing to anticipate.

Because we are standing on the promises.

Because “you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

And that’s not all!

You are also known. V.8

#3. KNOWN.

“Formerly, when you [Gentile Galatians] did not know God, you were slaves [there’s that word again] to those who by nature are not gods. [Idols, pagan gods who are not really gods but are empowered by false gods, demons]. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles [same word as v.3]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”

Stop there. And don’t miss those great big words in verse 9.

“You are known by God.”

Paul can’t get over that.

Because not only are we no longer slaves to false gods, but we KNOW GOD and ARE KNOWN BY GOD.

That’s relationship language there.

This being a Son is more than just rights and riches.

It’s relationship.

You know God now, and Paul says, “And it wasn’t from you. It wasn’t from your obedience to God that made you a Son. It’s because God came after you.

You are KNOWN BY GOD.”

That’s the language of relationship.

It’s not just knowing about someone. It’s knowing someone.

Because of what Jesus did, you know and are known by God.

I have a friend who’s been going through a really tough time in his life recently, and this week, he just about got to the end of his rope, he hit the absolute rock bottom.

But you know what he found there?

He found Jesus was already there.

And found forgiveness and peace and joy.

And hope.

And the ability to go on. And not just go on but to make big strides.

Because He knows God and is known by God.

It’s wonderful.

And that’s why it’s so crazy that these people wanted to go back.

Wanted to go back to slavery.

Do you see where Paul is going with this?

You are known by God (v.9) “how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?”

Raise your hand if you’d rather be a slave.

I didn’t think so!

But that’s what you are doing if you add lawkeeping to the gospel of grace. V.10

“You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!”

Like it’s the Law or something.

Like you have to do that to please God.

Like you are earning your justification by obeying the Law of Moses. Sabbath, New Moon, Feast of Tabernacles, Day of Atonement.

That’s going backwards.

And in fact, it’s the same thing as paganism.

That’s a shocking thing for Paul to say.

Because those things are not bad and were gifts of God to the Jewish people.

But if they were being placed on the Galatians as a stipulation of their justification, Paul says, that’s basically the same thing as being a slave to a false god.

It’s just another kind of idolatry.

Don’t turn back!

Don’t go back to slavery. V.11

“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”

What a scary thing for him to say.

And he’s got a lot more to say. We’ll pick it up here next week.

But do you get it?

If you are in Christ Jesus and trusting in Christ alone then you are no longer a slave, you’re a son, you’re an heir, you are known.

So why would you want to go back?

Don’t go there.

Relish what you have in adoption, inheritance, and your relationship with God.

Because that’s enough live on from here to eternity.

Don’t add anything else. Don’t go back to slavery.

Live out of sonship, live out of your inheritance, live out of your own personal relationship with God.

Because you are no longer a slave.


***

Messages in this Series:
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!
08. You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sunday, August 20, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Not in Vain"

“Not In Vain”
Gospel Roots (1892-2017)
August 20, 2017 :: 1 Corinthians 15:58

To celebrate our 125th anniversary, we are looking back at the foundational values and practices that have shaped our church family for a century and a quarter. The root system that has fed us and formed us for all of these many years.

We call them “gospel roots” because that’s we’re all about–knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We sing the gospel in worship, we take the gospel to the lost in evangelism, we pray about the gospel, we find the gospel in God’s Word (“Where Stands It Written?”), we send missionaries to take the gospel around the world, and we point to the gospel in the caring fellowship of our church, as we love one another we show Jesus love to others.

We exist to glorify God by bringing people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ through worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism....and which one haven’t we talked about yet?

SERVICE.

That’s our key word for today.

I want to encourage us to think about all of the acts of service that have made this church what it has been for the last 125 years of ministry.

Another word for “service” is “ministry.”

And today, I don’t want to talk so much about the ministry of the word or the ministry of prayer. We did that already this year.

Today, I want to talk more about the sacrificial acts of service that often go unnoticed and behind the scenes.

The work, the labor, the volunteering–serving in all of the more hidden areas of church ministry.

And of course, this is an appropriate day to do that following our sixth annual Good News Cruise, one of our biggest events of the year and one that requires a lot of volunteer labor.

How many people helped put on the Good News Cruise this year?

I don’t have any idea.

People taking pictures, people setting up tents, people serving hotdogs and chips, people taking out the trash, people gathering door prizes, writing a word of encouragement on a door prize, carrying a cooler from here to there, setting up a table, plugging in an extension cord.

Which of those were the important things?

They were all important!

As we said last week, the Good News Cruise is an “all hands on deck” kind of ministry, and it takes a big team to pull it off.

And there’s a cost to that!

We can give it away to our community because we give our time away to the Lord.

How many acts of service happened just this last week to put on the Good News Cruise?

I have no idea.

Now, multiply that times 125 years.

How many acts of service have been done to carry on the work of the ministry of Lanse Evangelical Free Church since 1892?

Only God knows!

But here’s what we do know:

It’s all worth it.

Each one of all of those acts of service whether they are known and counted by others or not are not done in vain.

God sees every one of them, values every one of them, and promises to use every single one of them for our good and for His glory.

That’s the message of 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 58. Have you found it? Pew Bible Page #1140.

It’s one of my all time favorite verses. It’s the one that I quote whenever I sign a copy of my book. I almost always write, “Stand Firm! 1 Corinthians 15:58, Matthew Mitchell.”

It’s been one of my key life verses, and it’s glorious.

1 Corinthians 15:58 is the very last verse of the Resurrection Chapter. The Corinthians had a bunch of questions about the Resurrection, and Paul takes up an entire chapter answering those questions and proclaiming the certainty and centrality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our resurrection still to come.

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

Alright. I know you’re wondering what I’ve got here in the mystery box.

What artifact could we use to stand for all of the working and serving and giving and volunteering for the last 125 years?

Well, I could pull out this water bottle. It wasn’t just donated to the church by a generous vendor, but somebody took a picture of a classic car, somebody designed our Good News Cruise logo for the year, somebody uploaded the pictures to a label and printed it out, and somebody else wrapped it on the bottle. Our team did over 800 of these just this week.

How about this one. What is this? General Electric lightbulb. 60 watts. Here’s the kind we put up now. Only 13 watts, eco-friendly and supposed to last 10,000 hours.

This is one of the 300 watts ones that go up there in the ceiling.

Do you know what it takes to change one of those?

It’s work!

How many lightbulbs have been changed at Lanse Evangelical Free since 1892?

That’s something you don’t think about every week.

You only notice it when it doesn’t work, right?

Like our video projector system. When it’s working, you don’t think about it, but if the bulb goes out or other “technical difficulties” happen, everybody’s craning their neck to see what’s going on back there.

How many hours have gone into volunteering to run the tech stuff around here? The sound board, the video projection, keeping the computers running.

John Kristofits has been our IT department for like 19 years now! Thank you, John!

How about this? Anybody ever held on of these?

I stole this from the furnace room.

Anybody every painted anything here on our campus?  Raise your hand.

I know a lot of you have.

Thank you!

How about this one?

Here’s a story for you. I went 18 years as the pastor of this church without knowing where we kept the plunger!

Now, I’m glad to know where it is and (yes, I do know how to use it, I know very well where the one is at home), but I think it’s a wonderful testimony to the kind of servants that we have at this church that I went 18 years without having to know where this tool lives!

Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who knows where this lives and has used it for the church and for our Lord.

And let me say this to you.

It’s no fun to use this, but if you do it in faith, it is incredibly important ministry seen by the Lord, valued by the Lord, and promised by the Lord to be eternally worthwhile!

That’s the point of 1 Corinthians 15:58.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, [because of the resurrection] stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Too often we think that the “the work of the Lord” is the work that some religious professionals do. Like me. Like professional pastors and professional missionaries.

And I hope that our work is the work of the Lord, too.

But 1 Corinthians 15:58 is not written to a group of pastors and missionaries.

To whom is it written?

“Therefore...my dear brothers,”  This is written to the whole church family.

And it’s about every kind of work and labor we do for the Lord.

A couple of years ago we talked about how it applies to our work life in our daily vocations.

But I think the primary application is whatever you’re doing for the mission of the gospel and that includes all of your volunteer service to the local church and our shared gospel mission.

There are a lot of passages that I considered preaching on this Sunday, especially all of the ones about using your gifts in ministry. Romans 12 like Donnie preached on a couple of weeks ago. 1 Corinthians 12 with the body analogy. Ephesians 4. I got real close to preaching 1 Peter 4:10 and 11 which says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms [it doesn’t look the same from one person to another]. 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.”

Water bottles, lightbulbs, paintbrushes, plungers.

Vacuum cleaners, ladders, computers, carpet-cleaners, brooms, snow shovels, lawn-mowers, chain-saws, skid-steers, front-end loaders.

Did anybody notice the brush cleaned up across the street for the Good News Cruise.  Bob Gisewhite and Joey Matthew cleaned up a bunch one day and then Dave & Shane Michaels brought down their front-end loader and scooped it right out of there.

That’s ministry!

How many hours do our Facilities Team guys have in fixing stuff around here?

I think of all of the things I’ve called Charlie Weaver to do. Could fix my desk? Could you change the batteries in this? I can’t get my door open. There’s air coming in the cracks of my door.

And Lonnie, and Bryan, and Wally, and George, and Blair, and Art, and Alan.

And Cindy. And Anita. And Nesta. And Ruth.

And Vera. And Marilynn.

And we could go and on. I could go around this room and tell a story about just about every person here and something they did to serve the Lord, the work of the Lord at Lanse Free Church.

And I could go all day and not get the half of it!

One of the things I love about this sermon series is that I just get to brag on you. I get to brag on the Lord and brag on His people.

You folks live this out to a tee. We have a church full of servants.

They say there is an 80/20 rule for ministry. 80 percent of the ministry gets done by 20 percent of the people. But those numbers have never held true for this church in my experience.

This church is full of people who know how to give themselves to the work of the ministry.

And you know how to give.

Here’s another artifact that makes it all possible.

An offering plate.

How many times have we passed the plate over the last 125 years?

How many people have given, not just from their time and talents, but from their treasures?

And that’s enabled us to do so much ministry.

Thank you.

And speaking as the staff person whom you spend the most of those offerings on, I am very grateful and my family is very grateful for your generous giving. Thank you for giving to the Lord and His Church. We who serve you on the ministry staff here are very grateful for your ongoing generosity.

I know it’s a sacrifice. And I don’t take it lightly.

One of the things you’re giving and serving has enabled us to do is to sit in this very room.

Right?

The church is not a building, it’s a group of people.

But the church building is an important tool.

Our church has had 4 buildings in the last 125 years.

This is not the first one. It’s the second one. I don’t think there is a picture of the first one.

The first building was built in the first year of the church 1892.

Bea Johnson writes in our church history book, “Mr. Lansing Snyder donated an acre of ground to this little band of Swedish believers on which they could erect a building that would serve as a place to conduct their services. The tract of land was a wooded area, but by the spring and summer of 1892, the men had cleared land on which to construct a building” (pg. 5).

And I doubt that they used Husqvarna or Stihl saws!

“As soon as the land was cleared construction began. The building was 20 by 30 feet (600 square feet, smaller than our fellowship hall). The cost of the building materials was $100.00 and the moderator of the church, Alexander Gustafson, offered to construct the building for $27.00. The first meeting held in the new ‘edifice’ was on July 4, 1892.”

And Matt Modzel loves this little fact.

“Mr. Danielson offered to ‘landscape’ the new church plot–he planted rye on the yard with the condition that he could harvest the crop in the fall of the year–for two consecutive years the church lawn was a rye field.”

This church building was the second one from 1900, the turn of the century. They tore down the old building, and built the new one on the same location. 28 feet by 38 feet 400 hundred square feet larger. $300.

And like I said in June, the church spent more on missions that year than they did on the building!

Now, do you all know where that building was?  Over there Lanse proper, right? It’s now an apartment building.

And that’s not the one here.

This is. In 1930, they tore down that building and built this one.

It was during the Depression and nobody had jobs but they had lots of extra time, so they built the third building. $4,038, and they moved in on Thanksgiving day 1930.

In 1972, they put an addition on it. A number of you will remember that.

(The picture looks better in the history book.)

And then the church just grew and grew.

And in 1974, the church purchased the campus of the Cooper Township High School for $15,000. That’s why that road over there is called “COTOHISC.” It stands for “Cooper Township High School.”

And they broke ground on June 20, 1976.

And the church moved into this facility in November of 1977.

And I’ll bet we’ll hear some stories about all of that from you all in October.

Some of you were here doing the work, some of you were running around watching while others of you were doing the work. And many of us weren’t here yet.

In July of 1994, there was as mortgage burning ceremony when this building got paid off for good. There’s a picture of it in the church scrapbook.

How many dollars?

How many hours?

How much labor and hard work has gone into building and maintaining these excellent facilities?

Think about the Good News Cruise! Isn’t it wonderful that we have this beautiful campus with acres of land for people to park their cars and trucks and bikes and tractors on?!

You know what though?

I’ll bet that at many times it didn’t seem worth it.

It didn’t seem worth all of the trouble and all of the cost and all of time.

I’ll bet everybody here who has served this church in some ways have hit a wall from time to time.

You got to the point where you were wondering if it was worth it to come to Kids for Christ...again...on a Wednesday night...in the Winter.

You wondered if anybody cared that you stayed after the family meal and meeting to wash dishes, put up the tables, vacuum the floor, take out the trash.

You wondered if made any difference if you showed up to be a greeter or to shovel the walk or lock up.

Yes, somebody had to do it or it wouldn’t have gotten done, but was it worth it for you to take that time?

Or yesterday, if the rain had come at 1pm instead of 6pm and we'd wrapped all of those water bottles and then NOBODY had showed up? Would it have been worth it?

Well, 1 Corinthians 15:58 says that is most definitely worth it. It’s not in vain.

Paul gives it to us in three simple steps.

#1. STAND FIRM!

Look again at our verse.

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”

That’s a call to be perseverance.

The King James translate it, “Be ye stedfast, unmoveable...”

Stand firm. Don’t leave your post.

Don’t quit. Don’t give up.

Like we said yesterday, “Stay on the Smooth Route!”

Don’t take a detour.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to stay in whatever ministry you have for the rest of your life.

I love it how we share around the ministries here. Nobody is the church chairman forever. Nobody is the treasurer forever. Nobody is on the facilities team forever. Nobody has to teach Kids for Christ forever. Nobody is the historian forever. Nobody is even the pastor forever. I’m like the 26th pastor or something like that. And someday you’ll have another one if the Lord tarries.

This is not saying that we have to stay in the same ministry for our whole life.

It’s saying that we have to stay IN MINISTRY for our whole life.

Stand firm.

Stand on the gospel. Don’t swerve to the right or to the left.

Why? He says, “therefore” that’s because of the certainty and centrality of the resurrection. Because Jesus lives and so shall we, we are called to stand firm.

Do you need to hear that today?

Have you been thinking about bailing out?

Bailing out on Christ?

Bailing out on the church?

Bailing out on serving the Lord, doing the work of the Lord?

Don’t do it. Stand firm. Let nothing move you.

#2. SERVE HARD!

Work hard. Throw yourself into ministry. Look again.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord...”

The King James says, “always abounding in the work of the Lord...”

That word “abounding” is a word that means “overflowing.”

It’s the root form of the word that I’ve illustrated before by pouring water all over this stage.

The NIV says, “give yourselves fully”

In other words, pour yourself out in the work of the Lord.

Don’t hold back. Don’t play it close to the chest.

Yes, that will mean sacrifices.

That’s what this means. Pouring yourself out in the work of the Lord has a cost to it.

Whenever you give something, whether it is time, talents, or treasures, you aren’t holding that thing back. You are giving it. And that costs something.

But the Bibles says that’s a good thing. That’s exactly what you should do.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”

Don’t do it because somebody twists your arm.

I love it that there is very little arm-twisting in this church family.

Every once in a while, I’ve had to call in a favor or two [!], but we don’t twist arms.

But do open yourself up to being used by the Lord in service.

Pouring yourself out in the work.

The Greek word for “work” here in is “ergo” from which we get our “ergonomics” the shape of our work. It means “work, deed, action, task, undertaking.”

It’s those things we do for the church, for the mission of the church.

Maybe here on our campus or maybe out there in the world.

What ministries do you have?

What “ergos” are you involved in?

I know that I’ve missed some. I’ve tried to think of a whole bunch of ministries at this church, ways that people have served, but there are just too many for me to come up with them all.

In your bulletin, we used to call the Church Family News, the “Opportunities for Ministry.” Remember that?

The bulletin says we need workers for Kids for Christ at Family Bible Night. Heather Dobo needs you! There is a meeting this Wednesday at 8pm. Is that your ministry?

We need folks to join the Prayer Room Ministry, the Greeter Ministry, the Coffee Ministry, Children’s Ministry, MOPPETS. We have lots of places for people use their gifts and to serve.

Are you giving yourself fully to the work of the Lord?

Stand Firm. Serve Hard!

Because #3. IT’S WORTH IT!

Last phrase.

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

That’s a different word that is translated “labor.”

It’s the word “kopos,” and it indicates the hardness of work.

Toil, sorrow, work tinged with grief and sadness.

One dictionary says that “kopos” is “intense labour united with trouble and toil.”

Have you ever served on a ministry team like that?

Sometimes it’s a lot of “kopos.”

It’s not always fun.

It’s not always appreciated.

But it’s always worth it.

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Now, for the Corinthians, they were wondering if they died and the Lord didn’t return, did they miss it? Did they miss the kingdom?

And did all of their hard work for the kingdom go to waste?

What if we die?

And so many of our Lanse Free Church people have died.

How many have died since 1892?

We have no founders left.

We were re-founded in the late 60's. Only a handful of them are left with us.

How many have we had to say goodbye to in the last 5 years?

Ann Kyler
Ann Neidrick
Lloyd & Dora Hampton
Brenda Plisco
Beatrice Johnson
Blair Murray

What about them? What about their labors in the Lord?

Are they in vain?

No way!  Because of the resurrection!

Because Jesus is alive again and because He has promised that we will be, too!

Because of the resurrection, we KNOW, we KNOW that our labors in the Lord are not in vain.

Do you KNOW that?

I love the implication of this.

It means that we can literally die doing ministry and nothing can stop us from seeing the return on our investment.

I mean, what’s the worst that can happen to us?  We can die, right?

We can have our heads cut off for doing the work of the Lord.

We can be shot for doing the work of the Lord.

So what?!

Is that the worst that Satan can do?

I’m coming back to life.

Kill me, I’m coming back.

So I can stand firm.

And I can through myself into ministry.

Because I cannot lose.

That’s what this verse teaches.

We cannot lose.

Now, that only applies to our work done “in the Lord.”

If you are not “in the Lord” then you yourself will not live a blessed resurrection.

Your work, your strivings will achieve nothing more than whatever you can grasp in this life.

If you are “outside of the Lord,” then I fear for you and I invite you to come in by faith to His salvation and His service.

And even for Christians, the things we do that are not “of” or “for” the Lord are spurious at best and sinful at worst.

We need to be asking ourselves about everything we do, why do we do it. Do we do it for the glory of God?

Missionary statesmen C.T. Studd wrote a little poem that has been quoted many times in the last hundred years.

It says, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Of course, he means only one short life in this fallen world.

Because there is a second life coming in the resurrection and what we do now will reverberate into eternity.

What we do now, for Christ will last.

Stand Firm!
Serve Hard!

“...because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus”

“You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
August 13, 2017 :: Galatians 3:15-29

There was trouble brewing.

Paul was writing to these churches that he loved and cared about in the region of Galatia. Many of these of churches, he and Barnabas had founded on their missionary journeys.

But some bad guys with a false gospel had infiltrated these churches and cast doubt on Paul and Paul’s gospel and began convincing the Galatians to believe their alternate gospel which is really no gospel at all. Remember this?

That’s trouble.

So Paul picked up his pen and wrote what one commentator called “a tornado warning” of a letter.

Paul wrote to try to stop them from doing something very foolish and damnable–abandoning the truth of the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ.

This chapter began with the words, “O Foolish Galatians!

Paul was so concerned that these people would leave the truth of the gospel and end up imperiled in spiritual danger.

What was the error of the false gospel?

What did the false teachers want the Galatians to put their faith in?

It was the Mosaic Law, wasn’t it?

They didn’t have a problem with Jesus Christ and putting your faith in Him. They agreed that Jesus was the Messiah.

But they said you may start that way putting your faith in Jesus but that’s not enough. Faith in Jesus is not enough. You also have to begin obeying the Law. And doing the works of the Law.

You might get right with God by faith in Jesus, but you stay right with God by doing the works of the Law.

Is that the gospel?

Is that how you get right with God?
Is that how you stay right with God?

Is that how justification works?

That’s what Paul asked them in verse 2 of this chapter.

“Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?”

Paul is writing this letter to convince the Galatians once again of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Not through the law. Verse 11, “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because ‘The righteous will live by faith.”

Faith alone.

And last time, he brought up the person of Abraham.

Remember that?

Was Abraham famous for observing the Law or for his faith?

For faith, right?

The Law had not even been given when Abraham was already famous for faith.

Well, that’s what he’s going to talk about today in the last half of this chapter, verses 15 through 29.

There’s a lot here in this section and it gets kind of complicated. There are a few things here I just don’t understand or can’t explain very well.

But just keep this in mind. What Paul is trying to do, through all of this deep history and theology, is to convince the Galatians to NOT ADD LAWKEEPING AS THE BASIS OF THEIR JUSTIFICATION BEFORE GOD.

Not circumcision, not Sabbath keeping, not the kosher diet, not even the Ten Commandments.

Do not add works of the law as the basis of your justification.

That is a false gospel, and it is damnable because it sets aside the grace of God and basically says that Jesus died for nothing.

Everything we’re going to read this week and next time and probably the time after that has the same goal of stopping the Galatians in their tracks to keep them from going off the cliff. To keep them from making that fatal wrong gospel mistake.

But you can see why they might. Can’t you?

I mean the Law of Moses was a big important thing for the Jews, wasn’t it?

And rightfully so.

God gave them the Law at Mount Sinai. It wasn’t something that Moses made up.

We call it the Law of Moses because he was the leader at the time. He was the mediator of the Law Covenant.

But the Law was from God.

It was big and important for the Jews.

So you can see why they might have thought it was all important and important enough to impose on new Gentile, non-Jewish, believers.

So Paul has to explain to them why the Law should not take the place that they are tempted to assign it.

And how does he do that? He reaches back to something bigger than the Law and more permanent the Law.

And that’s the promise.

What is bigger and more fundamental than the Law of Moses? The promises of God given to Abraham.

Does anybody remember 2003?

2003 seems like a long time ago to me. That was 14 years ago.

That was the year that my son Peter was born.

That was also the year that I preached through the book of Genesis. Anybody remember that? That was the year that we met this person Abraham. We called him the best supporting actor in the book of Genesis.

Father Abraham.

And we learned back in 2003 that God had made certain promises to Father Abraham.

Do you remember what those were? There used to be a Pop Quiz every week about them.

What are the 3 main promises of the Abrahamic Covenant?

Offspring, Land, and Blessing.

Very good, class!

Back in 2003, we learned that our God is a promise-making God.

And we also learned that He is a promise-keeping God.

God Always Keeps His Promises.

I don’t know how many times we’ve said that and seen that.

Since 2003, we’ve trekked our way through a lot of the rest of the story, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, the Books of Kings.

And one of the key truths we’ve seen again and again and again is that God is keeping these promises He made to Father Abraham.

Offspring, land, blessing.

Do you see how that’s the Big Story of the Old Testament?

Well, that’s what Paul is talking about in this last half of Galatians 3.

In verse 14, he said that Jesus, by dying on the Cross, “redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to Gentiles (like the Galatians and like us here in this room) through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

But how does that relate to the Law?

That’s the question. So Paul answers it. Verse 15.

“Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.”

He means the case of the Abrahamic Covenant.

If two people make a binding agreement with one another and agree on all of the terms, can somebody else or something else come along and break up that agreement, change it on the two parties?

No. Not legally.

Or take the example of a last will and testament. Because this word for covenant could also be used for a will.

If I die, and my will leaves all of my money (both of my dollars) to Heather Joy, can the executor of my will, say my brother, come out and say, “I don’t like that idea. I’m going to give Matt’s two dollars to the Society of Coconut and Pineapple Lovers.” Can he do that?

Not legally.

How about God? Can God say, “I don’t feel like keeping these promises that I’ve made to Abraham? I’m tired of coming through with offspring, land, and blessing to that guy and his dumb children. I’ll just ignore those promises.”

Will God do that?

Not and stay God.

God is faithful. God always keeps His promises.

Now, whom did He make those promises to? To whom need He be faithful? V.16

“The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed [“sperma, offspring”]. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Now, that’s tricky.

I’m not sure I understand it completely. Because “seed” can be a collective singular and often is. In fact, Paul’s going to use it like that in just a few verses!

But he’s got a point he wants to make.

The promises were made to Abraham and most deeply, most fully, most ultimately to Abraham’s ONE SEED, his chief offspring, the God/Man Jesus Christ.

All of the promises of God find their fullest fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

God always keeps His promises IN JESUS.

And TO JESUS!

Isn’t that interesting?

But what does this have to do with the Law?

Where does the Law come in?

Answer? Much later! And it doesn’t change anything in the Abrahamic Covenant. V.17

“What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.”

Yes, the Law was big, but it wasn’t that big!

The PROMISE is what’s big!

And the promise doesn’t change. V.18

“For if the inheritance [receiving the promises] depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”

The Law was never the point.
The Law was never the big story.

The Law didn’t fundamentally change the big story.

It just got added to the story.

It’s like when you have your computer on and you have a window open with one program or app and then you open another app without closing the first one.

Does the second app stop the first one?

No.

Maybe it’d be better to say, does opening an app close down your Operating System?

It might, but it’s not supposed to! And it crashes the app, too, if does.

The promises of the Abrahamic Covenant were (and are!) the operating system of the big storyline of the Bible, and the Law was just an app that was opened for a time alongside the promises.

The Mosaic Law was another temporary covenant set up run for a time during the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Why? V.19

“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.”

Now, that’s complicated.

I’m not sure I get it all or can explain it well.

But notice what is clear. The Law had a good purpose, but it was temporary.

“Until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.”  Who’s that? That’s Jesus.

The Law had an expiration date.

If you pulled it out of the fridge and smelled it to see if you wanted to eat it, you would check the expiration date on it, and it would say, “Use only as your covenant until the Seed had come.”

And if the Seed had come? Should you use it as your covenant? No!

Why would you?

Why would you when you have a better covenant being enacted right before you very eyes?

Paul says it’s better because it’s older and because it’s more direct.

The Law (v.19) “was put into effect through angels by a mediator (Moses).”

But the Abrahamic Covenant was direct from God to Abraham and to his Seed.

I think that’s what he means by v.20.

He might be pointing out that the Abrahamic Covenant was unconditional.

The Mosaic Covenant had lots of conditions in it. “Do this and this will happen.”

But the Abrahamic Covenant was really one-sided, wasn’t it?

What was Abraham doing when God made His promises to Abraham?

He was sleeping!

Remember that? He arranged the path through the sacrifices and instead of both of walking through the carcasses on God did, so to speak.

God made these promises unilaterally and will keep them no matter what.

All according to His grace.

Yes, Abraham was to obey God, but the promises were all of grace and not conditional on that obedience. They were all taken by faith.

The promises are HUGE!

So the Law is, relatively, pretty small.

And it didn’t save. Did you see why the Law was added? V.19 says, “because of transgressions,” and I think that actually means to increase transgressions.

The Law was given to show God’s people how sinful they really are and how much they needed a Savior. But it didn’t save. V.21

“Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? [Paul you sound like you think they are against one another. But Paul says...] Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.”

The promises are bigger than the Law, but they are not antithetical to the Law.

It’s just that the Law was never meant to save.

The Law wasn’t strong enough to save because of sin. V.22

“But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

There he goes again with the faith thing!

We saw this point back in Romans, you might remember.

I talked about a plate of brownies.

If Heather makes a plate of brownies, and then says to me, “Do not eat the plate of brownies,” what do I now want to do?

I want to eat the plate of brownies.

And what if I did eat the plate of brownies?

Did her law make me a transgressor?

Is there something wrong with her law if I broke it?

No, there was something wrong with me.

And her law just revealed it. It just showed me what a glutton I am and what a thief I am.

The Mosaic Law did the same thing. It showed that people are prisoners of sin and a need a spiritual jailbreak. V.23

“Before this faith [in Christ] came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”

That “put in charge” in verse 23 is literally that the Law was a “pedagogos” a guardian or a nanny or a big bad babysitter.

The pedagogos was a family slave or employee that was put in charge of the little kids to keep them out of trouble and make sure they made it to adulthood.

They were the big bad bodyguards and babysitters that went everywhere with the kids to make sure they made it from being minors to being adults.

Paul says that’s what the Mosaic Law was doing it. It was getting God’s people from childhood to adulthood. Showing them that they needed a Savior.

Remember how the Law functioned in the Books of Kings?

It told them whether the kings were thumbs up or thumbs down, right?

And it showed them again and again how thumbs down they were and how much they needed the Savior to come.

But now the Savior has come!  V.25

“Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. [What are we? Here’s the good stuff. Verse 26] You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...”

So why would you want to go back to the Law?

Do you see how his logic is working?

Is the Law a bad thing? No way.

It was wonderful and did its job.

But we don’t need it as our covenant any more.

It’s not in force any more.

It’s not our law.

And it’s certainly not our basis for being right with God!

The Law did not set aside the promise (v.17)
The Law was added because of transgression (v.19).
The Law was temporary.
The Law couldn’t save.
The Law had us locked up.
The Law was a big bad babysitter.

It did its job!

But I don’t want a babysitter any more. Do you?

I don’t want training wheels any more. Do you?

And I certainly don’t want to put my faith in my law-keeping.

That’s just folly in every way.

Because Jesus has come and faith in Jesus changes everything.

In the last four verses Paul tells us that us about three things that we are because we are in Christ Jesus. And they are glorious. And they are so much better than trying to keep the Law.

#1. WE ARE SONS.

V.26 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus...”

That is an amazing sentence.

Memorize it. Take it to heart. Repeat it to yourself every day.

I am a son of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

I know, ladies, that it might be a little difficult to think of yourself as a son.

So you can switch in “daughter” there, if it helps.

But don’t totally abandon the language either because in the cultural context, the sons were those that inherited from the Father and it reminds us that we are sons IN CHRIST JESUS who is The Son par excellence.

So when God looks at you and me, He sees us in the His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

Think about this. God is your Father.

God is your Father.
God is your Father.
God is your Father.
God is your Father.

Not by law-keeping but by faith in Christ Jesus.

God is your Father.

Think about all of what that means in terms of your standing, your acceptance, how God sees you, what God thinks of you, how God feels about you.

This why the Kerlin’s motorcycle group has that name, because it’s just that amazing!

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus [v.27] for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”

When you put your faith in Christ and you publicly symbolized it by going down into the waters of baptism identifying yourself with Jesus’ death and coming up out of the waters identifying yourself with Jesus’ resurrection, you were, in effect, putting on Christ Jesus like new clothing.

And now God sees you in His beloved Son!

Just think about that!

Isn’t that enough?

Isn’t that better than the Law?

We are sons of God.

And we are one.

#2. WE ARE ONE.

In Christ Jesus. V.28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So much has changed!

Now it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Greek (a Gentile), if you have faith in Christ Jesus you’re in! Circumcised or uncircumcised.

It doesn’t matter your social situation. Whether you are a slave or a freeman.

Your sex doesn’t matter. Only males could get circumcised but male or female can trust in Christ!

These distinctions do not define our salvation.

They still exist. These differences don’t disappear. It isn’t saying that there is no such thing as Jewish. Or no such thing as a freeman. Or no such thing as male or female.

Those things still exist. But they are not ultimate!

They don’t determine our worth or our value before God.

And they don’t keep us from being united to one another.

“You are all ONE in Christ Jesus.”

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, [American or Mexican, White or Black] for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.

And we ought to act like it.

We should never allow ourselves to think of ourselves as better than any other Christian.

And we should do everything we can to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Because we are ONE.

Not on our own but IN CHRIST JESUS.

And law-keeping certainly didn’t do that!

We are sons. We one in the Son. And because of that, we are heirs.

#3. WE ARE HEIRS. V.29

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

I love that!

In verse 16, Paul made it clear that the Seed of Abraham was ultimately Jesus Christ.

But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t the seed of Abraham in Him!

We are.

If we belong to Christ (by faith!), then we are in Abraham’s seed and are Abraham’s seed. Father Abraham is our father because we are in Christ.

And that means that we inherit every one of the promises that God made to Abraham.

Did you know that?

Did you know that you all kind of blessing guaranteed to come your way not because of anything you have ever earned or done but just because you belong to Jesus Christ?

Heirs!

“Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod.”

The spiritual offspring of Abraham because we are in Christ Jesus.

“And heirs according to the promise.”

It doesn’t get better than that.

The application, I hope, is obvious.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ and don’t add law-keeping to the basis of your justification.

If you haven’t put your faith in Christ Jesus, why not?!

Look what you’re missing!

Sons of God, One in the Son, Heirs according to the promise.

Why would you want to miss out on that?

And why would you want to add works of the Law to the deal when the Law has already done its job and there are promises to take hold of by faith?!

And if you are trusting in Jesus Christ then revel in it!

Meditate on those words, “Sons, One, Heirs.”  Every day.

Center your life on Christ Jesus because that’s where the blessing is!

If you have Christ, then you have everything.

“If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

And God always keeps His promises!


***

Messages in this Series:
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017