Monthly Archives: April 2012

Our Decisions have Consequences

Peninsula Community Church

April 22, 2012

Displaying the Life of Christ –

Our Decisions have Consequences

 We are continuing to look at 1 John as a means to determine how a passionate follower of Christ should display the life of Christ in their life.

1 John 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

In studying the Bible, one of the keys to understanding a passage is to look for common words that are used. In the passage before us today, there is one word that stands out above any other word. In fact, it is a small word but it is a word that has powerful meaning and adds great depth to our discussion.

The word I am referring to us is the word ‘if.’ The word means “in case that; granting or supposing that; on condition that.” It is in essence a word of condition. It is used throughout Scripture in what is called the “if/then” principle. It means that if you do ‘A’ the result will be ‘B.’

I can remember that my parents would use this if/then principle on us. Perhaps your parents said similar things such as: ‘If’ you don’t clean your room you will be grounded. ‘If’ you miss your curfew you will not be able to go out this weekend. ‘If’ you drink coffee, it will stunt your growth. ‘If’ you don’t stop crying I will give you something to cry for. I am sure that as I just say these illustrative ideas that your mind is filled with some of your own.

Since the word ‘if’ is a word of condition, the thought expressed through the word is the idea that there are consequences to our decisions. As passionate followers of Christ, one will want to display Christ in their lives by recognizing that one’s decisions have consequences. Therefore, one who is passionate for Christ will consider their actions and the results of the actions they take.

In 1John 1:5-10,  John uses five ‘if’ statements that teach us about walking in God’s light as passionate followers of Christ. Let’s take a look at these five statements:

The first of these states: If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. John is stating here that we cannot say that we are in fellowship with Christ and continue to knowingly live in the dark shadows of the past. The reason John is communicating this is that there is a tendency that what we set our attention to we will follow. Barclay the theologian stated “A man’s character will necessarily be determined by the character of the God whom he worships.” Therefore, what we follow will determine who we become.

Thus John is saying that we cannot continue to walk in the ways of darkness and continue to have open fellowship with God because our focus will be on the darkness and not the light. These actions break fellowship with Him. Have you ever tried to hide something from someone?

I love throwing surprise parties and yet I hate them at the same time. Anytime I am a party to such an event I find that I become less communicative which causes the fellowship to be broken.  I remember throwing Michelle a 30th birthday party. My ruse was that we were to attend one of our staff pastor’s surprise parties as his birthday was the same day. The problem was that there was a speaker that was going to be in town that day and Michelle wanted to go to the event rather than what she thought was going to be a boring birthday party. Needless I had to dart and sway around the subject to convince her to go to the pastor’s party. I used guilt and the art of persuasion which did not make for a happy home. Needless to say our fellowship was not very sweet for a couple of days because I was keeping her in the dark.

Paul adds to this discussion on darkness when he states: “Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:7-10)

He continues in Colossians 1:11-14 “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

John in this passage is in essence saying that when we continue to walk in the ways of the past without any regard for our new relationship there are consequences that occur. When we received Christ He delivered us from the ways of darkness and He brought us into the light of His will. But too often we live and act as if we were never redeemed from the darkness and thus we minimize His work in us.

The second ‘if’ is found in verse 7: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. John continues his discussion by giving us the opposite context of living in darkness. In contrast to walking in darkness, if we set our focus on following Christ we will see positive results and will have fellowship with one another and will experience the cleansing that come from God’s washing of our sins. Notice, that our fellowship with God and with others is impacted by our relationship with the dark. The quality of our fellowship will be determined by where we walk. If we walk in the dark our relationships will be negatively affected and if we walk in the light we will have open and honest relationships which result in a quality experience.

The third ‘if’ is:  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. To display the life of Christ we must be honest and open about who we are. God’s relationship with us must be one that is based in truth and not deception. In John 4:24 it is interesting to note that John states that God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. That means we must be honest about who we are and the issues that contradict who we are attempting to be in Christ. The greatest deception is self-deception and the greatest self-deception is to think we can hide our sin without suffering the consequences of such action.

The fourth ‘if’ is: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As we are honest with him he is more than willing to forgive and restore us to the place we need to be and ought to be.

The fifth ‘if’ is: If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. The reason for this is that the Word’s purpose is to lead us into truth. Psalm 119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When we say we have not sinned we are in effect denying the power of the word of God to change and develop who we ought to be.

Notice that in this passage there is a progression:

  1. Walking in darkness breaks fellowship;
  2. Walking in the light restores fellowship and cleanses us;
  3. When we are walking in the light we must be careful not to assume that we never sin;
  4. When we walk in the light we understand that when we do sin there is more than enough forgiveness available to heal and restore us to a proper relationship;
  5. And finally, when we say we have not sinned we make God a liar and his word is not in us because it is the word that brings conviction.

 

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Christ’s Life Displayed in Us

Peninsula Community Church

April 15, 2012

Christ’s Life Displayed

 The goal of the John’s writings is to show believers what it means to display the life of Christ to the community and culture around them. Join us as we take a journey through the pages of 1 John.

1John 1:1-4 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us– that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

The theme of 1 John is walking in fellowship with God’s light and love. In this letter, John deals with how we display the life of Christ through our lives. His focus is on the light of God and the love of God. We receive both of these from God. We do not work for them but we simply receive them as a gift.

As we read through this book we see that John answers some important questions about how to display the life of Christ as we follow Christ:

The first question answered by John is “What does God’s life look like in a true
believer?” In other words, if we are passionate followers of Christ, what should our life look like? If you had asked me that question a number a years ago, I probably would have over emphasized the process of obedience. While this is certainly a key component of living a life that honors God but when that is all that we consider we can begin to live a life that is guided by legalism and control rather than being light and showing love. The result is a concentration checking off the list of duties performed rather than living a life fully dedicated to Christ and His ways. I know have a whole new perspective about God’s love which drives me to do things not to gain His love but to simply accept that He loves me and that is enough. Additionally I do not have to strain at being the light because it is an action that is deposited in us as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit within me. When God’s life is being revealed through me our speech, our attitude and our character will be effected.

The second question answered by John is “How can we recognize falseness in living and teaching that would attempt to lead us astray?” He thereby addresses the issue of do we discern those things that create in us false expectations and attempt to lead us astray from the truth of the Gospel. Have you noticed that the nation as a whole is being dumbed down? It seems that people do have the ability to think critically. There is a tendency to accept things with out discerning the truth within the facts given. We are living in a sound bite world where truth is defined by one-liners and in 30 second discussions on the news hour. John encourages us to discern the spirits and the truth that is at play around us. Without which we are easily deceived and confused. We can become very gullible.

The third significant question addressed by John is “How do we share God’s love horizontally?” It is critical that we learn to not only love God but also live out that love toward others. It has been said that we love best when we loves others and we love even greater when we love those who do not deserve our love.

It was critical for John to address these questions as one of the key issues t affecting the church of the day was a Gnostic belief. Gnostics believed that matter was evil and only the spirit was good. For this reason, they did not believe in the incarnation or the resurrection. They taught that the spirit of God entered Jesus sometime after his birth and then exited before the crucifixion so that he would not suffer. By denying the deity of Christ, led them to deny His atoning sacrifice, His redemption and His offer of reconciliation. To the Gnostics salvation came by way of freedom from the sinful body through mystical knowledge.

Note that John countered this philosophy in the first few verses of his letter. He states that the focus of his writings was on the who was there from the beginning. Christ created all things and brought all things into existence. Rather than being a distant God, He in reality was one who was very close. Notice the words John used to define Christ who was revealed through the Word:

The first three of these reveals the personal encounter that John had with the Savior and the same encounter that is available to us. This revelation does not come from second hand knowledge but from firsthand experience. And finally, this revelation is not a nebulous experience but one that is personal and up close and understandable.

  • We have heard him.
  • We have seen with our eyes
  • We have touched with our hands

The second part of this is what we do with this personal revelation:

  • His life was manifested in such a way that His actions could be seen.
  • We testify to all He had done.
  • We proclaim Him as the way of salvation.

To translate this in modern terms John shares some key information about the work of Christ in our lives:

  • The work of Christ is relevant and current.
  • The work of Christ is trustworthy.
  • The work of Christ is applicable to every experience.
  • The Work of Christ affects our whole being.

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The Power of Hope

Peninsula Community Church

The Power of Hope

April 8, 2012

1 Peter 1:3-5Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

As we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, I recognize that one of the greatest issues facing people today is fear. Fear is one of those emotions that can bind us and hold us back from accomplishing what we need to do and it negates our joy and peace.

Fear is generated when there is a concern that our happiness, our health or our future will be negatively affected. One of the ways that I can illustrate this is one of the adventures I had with my car as a teenager. I admit that I drove much faster than I should have. This included one evening that we were headed to the local high school’s baseball game. I was following a group of cars in front of me (and they were all clipping at a good deal of speed) when a car pulled out in front of me suddenly stopped because the light had turned red. I immediately locked up the brakes and slid through a gas station. In fact, I slid all the way past the service station and stopped on the road that was perpendicular to the service station. When I looked up the light was green, I put on blinker, turn right and kept going for about a mile when I had to pull over and gather myself. In that moment, my thoughts were that my future had been at risk and that I was very fortunate that I had not hit one of the gas pumps. Needless to say, the rest of the trip I drove at a reasonable speed. So fear can be a good thing but too often fear can be something that binds us and holds us back from accomplishing what we need to.

I would suggest that there are four fears that can drive us to either go into neutral or do things that only serve to hurt and hinder us:

The first of these is financial fear. As we look around us there are certainly enough issues to cause us fear. Rising gas prices (now $3.93 per gallon), devalued home prices, decreased wages, and increased cost of living are bringing fears about what the future will hold. What we once trusted financially cannot longer be trusted to bring about happiness and that might be a good thing.

Secondly, many are filled with political fear. Many are fearful about the future of this nation as so many of the freedoms that we held dear are being eroded. Congress and state legislatures are attempting to control what we eat, what we drive, and so on and so on. People, today, do not trust the government to protect them and to assure the pursuit of happiness which by the way cannot be legislated although they may try. This is borne out best by the fact that the current congress has less than a 12% approval rating and an 85% disapproval rating (this includes both democrats and republicans). But the fact is that people have allowed this to occur because they have turned to the government to do what only God can do. They now expect the government to provide their every need.

Thirdly, many are filled will physical fear. We are afraid because of the doctor’s reports that gave us bad news. We are afraid that we will be sick in the future. We are fearful about a negative report on crime or that a sexual offender is loose in Selbyville.

Fourthly, we have relational fears as we do not know if our friendships will be intact in the future. We no longer trust another person’s words because we are no longer people of our word. We are afraid that contracts will be broken and our marriages will disintegrate.

As I was preparing this Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote about fear at his first inaugural address, came to mind. He stated: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” What he was saying is that we will not allow fear to cause us to retreat rather than advance and succeed.

Enough on fear as I propose to you that the answer to fear is hope. And today, we celebrate that hope in the person of Jesus. I propose to you that one of the problems we face is that we don’t fully understand what hope means to us.

Our definition or definition of hope is too often founded in “a desire for some future thing which we are uncertain about?” When we speak of hope we are hoping that something will occur such as we hope that our favorite baseball team will play well this year (the Orioles, the Phillies, the Nationals, the Yankees and yes even the Red Sox’s) and go to the World Series. You may hope that relative you are having a problem will change…. You hope you will have enough money to retire.

But, the New Testament’s definition of hope is “a full assurance, or strong confidence that God is going to do good to us in the future.” Any other words this hope is not based on physical things but on a promise from the Lord. At least a couple of scriptures come to mind here:

  • I know the plans I have for you…. Is a common verse that is quoted but there is more to the verse. Listen to the entire passage in Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
  • Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)

This definition of hope makes the resurrection even more important. What does the Resurrection teach us about hope? If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). The Resurrection brings with it a full assurance and confidence that God is going to do good for us in the future.

You see no matter what happens today there is a tomorrow on the horizon. “We can know that all things will work out for our good because God is in control” (Romans 8:28). The problem with fear is, when we fear what will happen tomorrow, we will subconsciously what to satisfy the pleasures of the self without regard to consequences of those decisions. We will begin to live by the motto: “Eat, Drink and Be happy because tomorrow I die.”

  • The trials we face now cannot be compared to what is in store for us in heaven.Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)
  • Christ through his death and resurrection has defeated every foe and has conquered death for us all.

The assurance of hope comes only to those who have a relationship with Christ.


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The Triumphant Entry of Christ

Peninsula Community Church

The Triumphant Entry of Christ

April 1, 2012

Text – Luke 19:28-40

The story of the Triumphant Entry of Christ is found in every one of the gospels of the New Testament. Each story adds a dynamic to the story by looking at the story from a different perspective (Matthew 21:1-16; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44 and John 12:9-19). Since the story is found in every New Testament Gospel it must be an important story.

As we read these various accounts it is interesting to note that there are several key components to the story. Understanding each of these will add a depth to the story which gives a clearer picture of what transpired on the particular day.

The first of these components is the donkey. This may seem like a non-important aspect of the story but there is much to be said about the donkey.

It is not a coincidence that Jesus was riding on a donkey as it was a fulfillment of prophesy. In Zechariah 9:9 where the prophet says: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

This was also interesting as most wanted Jesus to come as a warrior and not a man of peace. This goes back to the Romans and Greeks who would either use a donkey or a horse when they entered a town. When a King would enter a town and he wanted to show that he was coming in peace he would ride a small horse or a donkey. However, when the king wanted to show that he was coming to conquer the town He would ride a white stallion or horse. It is noteworthy that in Revelation 7:9 that Jesus returns to do battle on a white stallion.

The second component of the story is the palms themselves. The crowd did not just through palm branches but they also threw down their outer garments and other branches they could find. This act was one of honoring Jesus as a King, as this was one mode of honor given to a king or a general of the army who was returning from battle.

The third component was the term Hosanna which means to “Save Us Now.” The people of the day were looking for a Savior not to save them from their sins but from the weight of the government of the day. Taxes were high, unemployment was high and the government could do just about what they wanted to without any accountability. (Sound familiar).

The fourth and final component is the crowd itself which actually is made up of four different groups which included the disciples, the group who saw Lazarus raised from the dead, the group who heard about Lazarus being raised and the Pharisees and the religious leaders. Each one of this is interesting in themselves.

The disciples had been with Jesus and knew him better than anyone else. They had been with him through the good times and the bad. It is especially interesting to note that while the disciples where with him that day but only one week later most of the disciples were nowhere to be found. When Jesus needed them they were not there. According to the gospel story the only disciple that we see near Jesus is John. Peter denied Him. Thomas doubted Him. They all left. What happens to you when it seems that Jesus falls short of what we think He promised? Do we retreat? Do we focus on other things to take His place?

The second group was the crowd that was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The question I always have with those following Him was their motivation. Were they there because of who he was or for what they hoped they could get from Him. Why do we follow Him? Is it because we think of Him as a genie or a Santa Clause that will give us whatever we want. Even as believers we can be guilty of following Jesus for all of the wrong reasons.

The third group was the crowd who had only heard about Jesus and his miracles. They had not experienced his grace but they wanted to see who He was and what he was about. They were curious about what Christ had done but they didn’t know Him. Some people will follow Christ not because they really know Him but they have heard about him.

The fourth group was the Pharisees and the spiritual leaders who rejected Jesus and his disciples. In fact they wanted to shut them up. They felt they were being a nuisance by worshiping Him the way they were. There will always be someone in your life that will try to discourage you and try to turn you away from worshiping and following Jesus with your whole heart. Sometimes it is not a matter of getting you to reject Him but just to not be as exuberant. In other words compromise just a little. But a little compromise can go a long way to rejecting Jesus.


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