SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
One of the most frightening truths is the fact that many who claim the name of Christ, who profess salvation, are actually lost and on their way to eternal separation from Him. How can that be? How can someone be so duped into believing they are saved when, in fact, just the opposite is true? The answer is found in our understanding of the difference between regeneration (being born again) and conversion (exercising faith and repentance). Conversion must follow regeneration for true salvation to take place. If the order is reversed, nothing eternal happens.
Often, with good intentions, we focus on getting someone to convert to Christ by emphasizing their need to recite the “sinner’s prayer”— which focuses on faith (Romans 10:9-10) and repentance. But without regeneration (being born again), the converted individual (who prayed a prayer) is not saved. They have made a verbal assent (faith) to a code of ethics or a religion or a way of life, but without a supernatural change in nature. And it is only the change in nature (regeneration) that leads to salvation. Sadly, the converted, yet unregenerate sinner, becomes another unsaved, baptized, deceived, church member.
This is exactly what Jesus spoke of in His Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13) and warned about at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Consider carefully His words:
Matthew 7:21-23 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
So what are we to do?
Peace seems like such an elusive commodity today. After all, it seems we are surrounded by ever-increasing chaos and turmoil with no end in sight. What are believers to do in a climate like we are facing today? We are to strive to experience the peace of God. Note, not peace with God, which is something quite different. But the peace of God. It is a peace that only comes from Him, the peace He also experienced while on earth, the indescribable, supernatural peace of God.
Paul tells us exactly how to find this peace. Consider the following:
Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and (the promise) the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
But what kind of peace is that? And how can I experience that promised peace? Is it something I muster up myself? Or is it something I internalize myself? Or does it, like faith, come from outside of myself? And, if so, how can I obtain this peace of God?
Great questions. But the answer is simple. The peace of God is a gift from our Lord, left to each of us as a part of our inheritance in Him. It is the peace Jesus personally experienced while on earth, facing untold trials, tribulation, betrayals, and spiritual attacks. And He gives us, as a gift, this very peace as a promise— a promise so wonderful it cannot be described or even understood.
When you read anything, including Scripture, there’s something that happens that is called the theater of your mind. It is in the theater of your mind that you take descriptive text and add details to make the story more personal, more alive, more kinetic. For example, consider this simple description: “It was raining. As he walked to the car, he pulled his coat tight around himself and quickened his steps.”
Now, what scene are you seeing in your mind? And what details have you added to make this descriptive statement more descriptive? How hard was it raining? Was this a rural setting or a side street in New York City? Or was the man on his front porch walking across his lawn to his car, or was he coming out of a restaurant or an office building in downtown Chicago? Did this take place in winter, maybe mid-January? Or was it in early Spring, during the first week of May? What was the color of his coat? How old was the man? Was he dressed in a tuxedo like he was heading to a wedding? Or was he tired, in worn-out overalls, on his way home after spending twelve hours in a wheat field on a John Deere Harvester? How do you see this in the theater of your mind?
There is no right or wrong answer. You are the one who adds these secondary elements to what you read and paints black and white text with a pallet of colors you make up in your own mind. We all do this. Everyone does this when we read descriptive text.
In the history of the church, there seems to always be confusion about the Lord’s Supper. What does it mean? Why do we participate? What happens when I do? Let’s be honest, many find the Lord’s Supper somewhat confusing. I often hear people say, “I don’t understand what the Lord’s Supper means.” And, in our narcissistic church culture, where it’s all about us, this is usually followed by “So what’s the point of the Lord’s Supper anyway?” We know it’s something important, really important, but we’re not sure why. And we know it’s something we’re supposed to do because Jesus commanded us to, but again, we’re not sure why. Which presents even more questions.
What does it mean?
Is it really all that important?
Why should I participate?
Are there any reasons why I should not participate?
What happens when I do participate?
And why all the controversy and confusion?
Sometimes the Lord’s Supper is called communion. But communion with who? And how is that communion experienced by taking a sip of juice and eating an unleavened doughball?
In other words, there must be more to this than what many believers have experienced. And, if so, how can I understand what it all means?
Let’s cut to the chase. We are living in troubling times. Right now in California, for example, pastors are being threatened with fines and imprisonment for holding church services indoors. Yet, riots and demonstrations are not restricted but encouraged. How is that possible in our nation? And many Christians, who should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder for the truth, are scattered like autumn leaves afraid of their own shadows. Is this what following Jesus is all about? And what does following Jesus in real-time mean today?
Is it an emotional decision we make one time that lets Jesus season our life for the better?
Or is it, like Bonhoeffer said, a “call to come and die”?
Or maybe something in-between these two extremes?
Whatever it means, those following Jesus in the Scriptures seemed to have different lives than we do today. And why is that?
In this message, we will look at the accounts in Matthew where Jesus invited those He encountered to “follow Him” and see what that actually meant. And I think you’ll find it is more than a simple mental assent to a moral code or set of personal principles. No, following Jesus is a life-altering event that literally changes everything— about everything.
Consider the following:
Matthew 4:18-20 – And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Does this sound like what happens when we decide to follow Jesus? But there’s more…
Matthew 4:21-22 – Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
And there are dozens of more examples that show us clearly what following Jesus in real-time meant back then, and also means today. So join with us as we discover more about this life with Christ and the joy that comes from following Him.
In the 1930s, if you were a Jew in Germany, you would be faced with unforeseen challenges, that would only get worse. And if you were a Christian during the same period, you would have to make the same choices many of those brave men made, to follow Christ or the Reich. This choice is now thrust upon each of us who are called by the name of Christ. Will we follow His commands or cower to the oppressive power of the State? And just like Bonhoeffer and the members of the Confessing Church, we must stand or fall together. So yes, we are living in Bonhoeffer’s Germany.
Recently, the Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, denied an appeal for a Nevada church to allow additional worshipers to join in-person services based on building capacity during the virus. Nevada has placed a 50-person cap on all places of worship, no matter the capacity of the building. But that cap doesn’t apply to casinos, movie theaters, and restaurants. Does something seem amiss?
And in California, churches must meet outdoors and limit the number of participants. Plus, there are no potlucks or fellowship dinners allowed. No singing, even in small, home groups. And all of this is happening while riots and demonstrations are permitted and encouraged by the same government officials, yet ordinary citizens must comply with Covid19 restrictions. Why? Because our governmental officials state the demonstrations are “too important” to regulate. So how are we to respond to this hypocrisy?
Our response is simply saying, “Enough!” This is exactly what some churches, including Grace Community Church in California and their pastor John MacArthur, have done. They have publically said, “Enough!” But they have said it with grace and respect. And they have not said it quietly or behind closed doors. Boldness seems to be the great need for the church today.
Remember the poem found in the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem that speaks of the times in which we live. It is titled “First They Came.”
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Grace Community Church published a position paper on why they will not adhere to the Governor of California’s decrees to limit worship and curtail freedom of religion. It is a paper that communicates the rationale behind civil disobedience from a Scriptural perspective. We, at the Church Without Walls, have modified and adopted this statement as our official position. In this message, we will talk about the ramifications of standing for Him alone, even if you have to do it alone.
Join us as we stand in faith together.
One of the four requirements found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is a cryptic command to “seek” God’s face. Note, not His hand, nor His blessings or grace, but simply to seek God’s face. What does that mean? And how is that done?
Think, how do we begin the process of seeking God’s face? What does the Scripture say about that? Is it something I should be doing? Are there any requirements or things we first must do to be ushered into the presence of God? What is it like to “behold the face of God”? Is that even possible? If I do seek God’s face, won’t I die? And if I actually do experience the presence of God, how will that experience change my life?
It’s maybe not as simple as we were led to believe.
In Psalm 24, we find the requirements God demands to have unhindered intimacy with Him, or to seek His face. These are not suggestions, but are aspects of our sanctification that allow us to “be holy, for I am Holy” by experience (1 Peter 1:16), and not just theologically or positionally in Christ.
Note the question and answer in Psalm 24:3-4:
Question: Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place?
Answer: He who has clean hands (outward holiness) and a pure heart (inward holiness), who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully.
Also, note the distinction between outward and inward holiness. It’s the same distinction we find in the Sermon on the Mount. For example, let’s look at Matthew 5:21-22:
Outward: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'”
Inward: “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”
And there is so much more we can learn about God’s requirements or standards that must be met to have the kind of intimacy with Him described as “seeking His face” and finding it.
Often the church chooses to let go and forget the disciplines that served her so well in the past. We feel they have served their purpose and then callously throw them aside for something more trendy, modern, and popular. And this is especially true of the forgotten discipline of fasting.
I mean, who really wants to fast? And isn’t fasting some Medevial Christian ritual that we stopped doing centuries ago? Plus, if I fast, won’t it mark me as some sort of fanatic or Christian extremist? If I fast, won’t I really be just starving myself? That can’t be healthy. And I’m not sure there are any real-time benefits for fasting (other than losing weight). Why? Because I don’t know anyone who fasts. In fact, I don’t know anyone who knows anyone who fasts.
So what’s the big deal?
Jesus expected His disciples to pray. He said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “when” you pray, and not “if”.
Matthew 6:5 – “And when (not, if) you pray…”
Matthew 6:6 – “But you, when (not, if) you pray…”
Matthew 6:7 – “And when (not, if) you pray…”
But look at what the Lord says about fasting. He assumes it is something His disciples would do, like praying, and not something that was optional.
Matthew 6:16 – Moreover, when (not, if) you fast…”
Matthew 6:17 – “But you, when (not, if) you fast…”
And, like with His teaching on prayer, Jesus speaks about the motives behind fasting and not if His disciples should practice it. That was a given. It was assumed.
There is much to learn about this all-important forgotten Christian discipline called fasting. Join us today as we dig deeper into the amazing world of fasting.
As we look deeper into the relationship between the disciples of Jesus and John the Baptist, a few questions come to the surface. Why did John still have disciples after he proclaimed Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:34)? And why is there a perceived tension between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of John? In fact, you can almost feel the tension when John’s disciples confront Jesus and chastise Him for not doing what they, and the Pharisees, were doing regarding fasting.
Matthew 9:14 – Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”
Or, to put it another way, “Why are we doing things right, and You are not teaching Your disciples to follow us?”
But there is more here than meets the eye. When John proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God, only two of John’s disciples followed Jesus. The rest, it appears, remained loyal to John and continued with him in the ministry of baptism. How is that even possible?
John 1:35-37 – Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
We will also see the blessings that come from following Jesus into the great faith adventure, like these two did, rather than remaining in our comfort zone with John. There is much to learn about the difference between the good, and the best, for each of us.
So join us today as we seek to follow Jesus more.
We have been looking at the four conditions/requirements found in 2 Chronicles 7:14 to have God forgive our national sin and heal our land. The first of these conditions is for God’s people to humble themselves. And the second, equally as difficult as the first, is to pray. But what kind of prayer satisfies the condition? And what is the content of that prayer? Can it be a short prayer or does it have to be long and intense? Can we pray with our eyes open, sitting down, all alone? Or do we have to agonize in prayer, on our knees, among a great throng of people? There are so many questions the text doesn’t answer. So, to find what we are looking for, we will look at the prayer life of Jesus and see what we can learn from HIm.
I can’t think of a better teacher, can you?
There is much we can learn about Jesus’ commitment to prayer. Much we can incorporate in our own lives. For example:
Jesus got up early to pray, way before dawn (Mark 1:35).
He separated Himself from distractions and went away from everyone to a secluded place to pray (Mark 1:35).
Jesus often prayed to be able to know His Father’s will. Just like us (Mark 14:36).
Often, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer (Luke 6:12).
The focus of Jesus’ prayers, on many occasions, was the welfare of those He loved (John 7:15).
Jesus agonized in prayer (Luke 22:44).
And Jesus often prayed alone (Matthew 14:23).
And finally, Jesus offered to His disciples then, and to us today, a lesson on how to pray. We find this in Matthew 6:9-15. It is known as the Lord’s Prayer but it is much more than that. Infinitely more.
Remember again, the passage from 2 Chronicles 7:14 with both the conditions and promises:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
So join with us as we learn about the prayer life of Jesus.