SermonsDiscover the Joy of Leaving Laodicea Behind
When we try to determine the exact day that Jesus was crucified, either Friday or Wednesday, we come face to face with an ugly fact about the history of the church. That ugly history shows the depth of the church’s hatred for the Jews during the first and second century, much like the church’s hatred of the Jews today. Church councils were called to try to determine a uniform date for Easter in order for it to not correspond with the Jewish Passover (the 14th of Nisan), even if they are, in reality, intrinsically tied together.
For example, the Council of Nicea (325 BC) unanimously ruled that the Easter festival should be celebrated throughout the Christian world on the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox (March and September); and if the full moon should occur on a Sunday, and thereby coincide with the Passover festival, Easter should be commemorated on the following Sunday.
Why try so hard to make sure no Christian festival corresponds to its Jewish counterpart, even if by accident? Antisemitism. But there’s so much more to this debate. You have the two Passovers during the passion week, the rantings of Emperor Constantine, and the excommunication of the Quartodecimans. Sound intriguing? Do you want to know more? Then keep listening.
If we were honest, we’d have to admit that the picture of life in the church as revealed in Scripture and our own personal church experience are not always the same. In fact, they often seem like polar opposites, night and day. Consider what Paul said about life in the church:
Ephesians 3:20-21 – Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (where) in us, to Him be glory (where) in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
And yet, knowing this, we still struggle with trying to find the answer to the questions that trouble us the most.
Why can’t we keep our children involved in church?
Why can’t our children hold to Biblical morals?
Why can’t our children make Godly decisions?
Why can’t the church make a noticeable difference in our nation, culture and family?
Why can’t we get victory over our own sins?
Why can’t we see Jesus move in our lives like He did in the past?
Is there an answer to these questions? Is what we’re experiencing in church, Sunday after Sunday, all there is? Or is there something missing? And if so, what is it? How do I find it? What can I do?
If you want to know the answer to these important questions, then keep listening.
In the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals to us what life is like in His Kingdom, He contrasts the Old Testament Law with its true intent. And it does this by saying, “You have heard that it was said to those of old… but I say unto you.” Or, to put it another way, “You have an understanding about the Law and what it governs, but I want to show you the true intent of the Law and what it really means.”
The Law governed external actions. Or so it seemed to them and to us. But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus shows us the true intent of the Law by contrasting it to the human understanding of it. In other words, only actions matter in the mind of men. But with God, everything comes from the heart.
“For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Do you want to know more about having a heart that is pleasing to the Lord? Good. Then keep listening.
The baptism of, or with, the Holy Spirit is defined as:
“The Baptism of, or with, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God coming upon the Believer, taking possession of his faculties, imparting to him gifts not naturally his own, but which qualify him for the service to which God has called him.”
But this just raises more questions for us to ponder. For example:
What does it mean to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?
Is it a command from God?
Is it something we should actively seek?
What does it look like?
How is it obtained?
And is it even Biblical?
Want to know more? Then keep listening as we discover the truth about this controversial subject.
Twice in Scripture we are commanded to “pray in the Spirit.” We see this first in Ephesians 6:18 and again in Jude 1:20. We are not told to pray “with” the Spirit or “to” the Spirit, but pray “in” the Spirit.
Have you ever wondered what that means? Is it praying in tongues as Paul referenced in 1 Corinthians 14:15? No. That’s something entirely different.
Is it something that I do or is it something the Holy Spirit does through me? Where does my responsibility end and His activity begin? What is the essence of “praying in the Spirit”? Am I praying for what I want or is the Spirit praying through me according to the will of the Father? And if that’s the case, what’s the content of that prayer? Am I an active participant in my prayer life? Or do I just kick back and let the Spirit take over? And again, if so, to what extent?
Ah, so many questions. Do you want to know the answers? Good. Then keep listening.
Ever since the resurgence of the charismatic movement in the last century, there has been incredible controversy in church on the issue of spiritual gifts, especially the gift of speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 10:8). One faction believes it is a sign of a deeper relationship with the Lord that everyone should seek but only few find. You hear this when statements like this are made: “You must receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues.”
Then there is the other side that throws all the uncomfortable gifts of the Spirit out the window for fear of being called strange, loopy or out of control. And these camps are entrenched, like opposing armies set for war.
But what is the truth? And how can we know from Scripture which side is right?
Simply put, the answer to this great controversy is found in the singular and plural use of the Greek word “glṓssa” – and nothing more. When you get this definition under your belt, the entire controversy vanishes into thin air, like a man-made mirage.
When we look at the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, we are drawn to the fact that some of these gifts are verbal (word of wisdom and knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues) and some are non-verbal (faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles). And within the verbal gifts, we find certain pair that are closely associated with each other. For example, we have the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. Then those who possess the gift of tongues and those who are gifted to interpret tongues. And the gift of prophecy and those who are able to discern the spirit behind the prophecy. It seems one gift is closely related to another.
But a more careful study will show that two of these gifts are directly related to one another, they’re literally different sides of the same coin. “What two gifts?” you ask. Prophecy and tongues. “How can that be?” Keep listening to find out more.
Have you ever wondered why we don’t see the healings and miracles today like they did in the times of the New Testament? Has it left you longing for what obviously the early church had that we, somehow, seem to have lost? Or could it be something else?
We have listened to a litany of theologians try to sell us on the fact that God doesn’t do the cool stuff anymore because we have the completed New Testament in our hands. Or He only did the stuff back then to authenticate the apostles’ preaching and, for some strange reason, our preaching today doesn’t need authenticating. Really? Could’ve fooled me.
But what if the Bible truly means what it says? What if God still does today what He proudly and publicly did back then? What if miracles really happen today, but they are just hiding from us, waiting for us to seek them out? What if the difference between the church in 2017 and the church in the book of Acts is not the way God moves, but the way we believe? What if things could be different?
Are you interested in finding out where miracles hide? Good. Then keep listening.
When we have the desire to know more about the gifts given each of us by the Holy Spirit, and our responsibility in exercising those gifts, we are faced with a couple of questions. Especially when we see that the purpose of those gifts is to give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to manifest or express Himself to others. Consider the following:
1 Corinthians 12:7 – But the manifestation (expression) of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
How does the Holy Spirit manifest or express Himself in the world today?
Does the Holy Spirit give His gifts to everyone that belongs to Christ?
Does that include you?
What gift or gifts has He given you?
And why did He give you His gifts?
So He could express Himself to others through each of us.
Do you realize the reason the Holy Spirit gives us His gifts is to manifest Himself to others through us? Let that sink in for a moment.
Many of us make resolutions this time of year. It just seems natural. Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house. But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual. That also seems natural. So we often resolve something like this:
“I want to read my Bible more.”
“I want to pray more.”
“I want to share my faith more.”
“I want to love more, forgive more, worship more.”
“I want to live more like a Christian.”
“I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son.”
But the key to discovering the “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be. It’s living a life of holiness. It’s practicing sanctification. It’s being set apart or consecrated unto God. After all, we belong to Him.
But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God’s if / then promises work. The promise comes after the condition. The then follows the if. Consider the following: