Monthly Archives: May 2016

Freedom Received and Freedom Given

Peninsula Community Church

Freedom Received and Freedom Given

May 27, 2016

Galatians 5:1,13For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day. For many, it is a day to barbecue and head to the beach. It is a time for families and friends to enjoy time together. It is also a time to relax and enjoy some down time. But the reality is that while it is a weekend to enjoy it is also a to pause to remember those who have given their lives so we could have the freedom we experience today. Unfortunately, too many have forgotten the purpose and value of Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day we are reminded that so many of our men and women in the armed forces have died fighting for our freedom. As we look down the halls of history we are reminded that our freedom as a nation was not cheap. In fact, it was priceless. Our freedom has come at the expense of the blood of young men and women who chose to give themselves to gain our freedom. Listen to these numbers. During the revolution war, 4500 people gave there life to acquire our initial freedom as a nation. The Civil War was the bloodiest campaign on American soil. 498,000 Northern soldiers were killed and 133,000 soldiers from the South died. That is a total of 631,000 men killed. In World War One, 116,000 American soldiers died and in World War Two that number increased to 407,000 American soldiers who died on our behalf. In the Korean conflict there were nearly 40,000 who gave their life for our freedom. The Korean conflict was followed by the Vietnam conflict where 58,000 died. Then most recently we have seen the Middle Eastern conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq which together have claimed more than 7000 lives. In total more than 1.2 million Americans have died to gain and keep the freedom we enjoy in this country. Let me put this into perspective. In our day, this would include every man, woman and child who live in Delaware, Somerset county, Dorchester county, Wicomico County, and Worcester County.

So today as Americans, Memorial Day is more than a picnic or family gathering, it is an opportunity to remember those brave soldiers who have sacrificed their lives defending our country and our freedom. Jesus understood this great feat when He stated that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for friends” (John 15:13). These men and women who loved this country and loved the freedom we possess laid down their life for us. Our freedom through the years has run crimson red with the blood of those who gave themselves sacrificially. This does not even include those who were maimed and who suffered the mental diminishment that comes from battle. The fact is these men sacrificed so we could live free.

I am so glad to be an American and live in the freedom that is ours but there is another freedom that I would like to talk about today. We find this freedom referenced in our passage. It is here that we discover that as believers we have a great freedom provided for us. This freedom was paid by the blood of one man, Jesus Christ. Many gave themselves so we could have national freedom, but He gave Himself so we could have personal spiritual freedom.

Paul states that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free. If you want to know the will of God, it is here. God wants us to be free. It is His will. It is His desire that we live free from the power of sin and from the past which tends to bind us and control our future. He wants us to live free from the emotional bondage that dictates our present circumstances and future experiences. Pauls is saying you are free so live as freemen.

In preparing for this study, I was reminded about a conversation I had with a pastor who had faithfully served God behind the iron curtain. Right after the wall, in the Soviet Union, had fallen I had the privilege of getting to know this pastor. As I was talking to him about this new found freedom he made an interesting observation. He stated that the people of the Soviet Union had lived under the thumb of communism for so long they did not know how to live in freedom. He went on to say that they had to be taught in many cases what that meant. He even gave me an illustration to explain what he was trying to communicate. He stated that a baker in his town use to have the government tell him what time he was to open and close, because he was subsidized by the government. The problem is after the wall fell, he continued to close at odd times. He would have a line of people with plenty of bread left over and he would just close because he decided it was time to close. He was so used to being controlled by the government that he did not know how to live without their control. That is why the Scripture tells us that we have been given freedom so we must live as free men.

This brings me to a second idea presented in our text. In our freedom we cannot be yoked with slavery again. Paul gives us a clear and unqualified command here. Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. He desires uncompromising, unrelenting and indomitable freedom. It is for this that He died. It is for this that He rose. You see the problem is that too often we so easily want to go back to what is comfortable and easy rather than what is right. The problem is that too often we fall back on the things that cause us to be yoked again to slavery. Freedom is not easy and it is not cheap. We must fight for it whatever the cost.

There is a second idea to be considered here. The problem is that too often we are set free but we become constrained by legalism. We are saved to freedom but we begin to live in bondage to the rules and regulations more than to the person of Christ. It is noteworthy that there are some who purport to be free but they still live under the thumb of legalism similar to the Russians who had been freed from Communism but still lived as if communism still reigend. Legalism is understood as the act and art of adding to what Christ has done for us. The fact is there is a tendency for all of us to have a bit of legalism in us. To understand this we must look at what controls us? Is it legalism or is it our freedom in Christ? Do we live as free men or do we live like Russian citizens?

One of the things Paul is communicating is that our freedom is always being tested and it is always under attack. The enemy does not want us to live in freedom, in fact it is the opposite, he wants us to be yoked and hindered in our walk. He does not have to stop us he just has to get us to compromise. We see this from a national prospective today. The enemy has lulled us into allowing our freedoms as a nation to be eroded one step at a time. We are on a slippery slope of sin and compromise. Step by step we have seen our freedom eroded and sin being elevated to a position of acceptability and as being natural.

We are also reminded that Jesus did not come to replace our chains with more chains. He came to set us free. We must remember that we do not lose our free will when we choose to follow Christ. We are urged to lay aside our wills in exchange for His. We do this not because He is a mean God that simply wants to control us, but because He knows what is best for us. When we choose to follow Jesus we are presented with a life full of freedom, but we must choose to live it. It’s up to us to refuse to become re-enslaved by the Law, by rules, and by sin. Jesus came to bring love and freedom. Let us not trade these precious gifts in for duty and slavery. As a nation, we have been given freedom as a precious gift. We must be so careful that we protect that freedom and do all we can to keep our freedom safe.

The third idea presented here is that we are not to use our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh. What is Paul saying? Paul is saying that while we are free in Christ we must never use our freedom in a way that allows the flesh to have authority over us. Notice what is happening in our nation today. We are using our freedom that was paid for by the blood of men and women who freely served to allow sin to reign. That is Paul’s warning here!

Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing or debating the issues that we are discussing today. Many of those who gave themselves for us are rolling over in their graves to know that the freedom they fought for is being abused. Who would have ever thought that we would be discussing the right of men to use the women’s restroom and vice versus just because one identifies as a man or a woman and not as God has created them. In our walk before the Lord, we must never use our freedom to allow the flesh to reign in us. Here is the problem that must be addressed. Our freedom never gives us permission to allow sin to reign in us or for us to do anything we want without boundaries. Your freedom is not license to sin. Freedom means taking responsibility and doing what is right. That is so lacking in our nation today.

Finally, in these passages Paul instructs us to love and serve others. We are to walk in freedom. Through love we are to serve others. There is a distinct link between the work of Christ in our life and the work of love that we are to give those around us. Too often we forget all that God has done for us. Too often we forget the freedom we have. In so doing we hold others to a higher accountability than we ourselves want to hold. Here is amazing fact, freedom allows me to love. Freedom makes love possible for me. Too often we attempt to walk in freedom but we put others in bondage because of our own condemnation and judgmental attitudes. Without spiritual freedom we are constrained by what makes us look good and not by the power of God. This applies to our church family, our personal family, and the community in which we live. Our service to others must be motivated by love.

So what do we do? First, we must realize that freedom not used is freedom abused. We are seeing our freedoms being eroded and I question whether or not it is because we have taken our freedom for granted. This applies to us as a citizen of the United States but it also applies to those who are passionate followers of Christ. We must never take our freedom for granted.

Secondly, we must realize that freedom abused is not freedom at all. We live as free men or we are not free at all. True freedom is not a right to allow us too see how much we can get away with but rather it is the opposite. True freedom gives us the strength and wisdom to follow after God’s heart and His will.

Thirdly, we must act with purpose. The question we must ask is do we settle or do we act with a purpose. Do we value our freedom? Do we do “the right things” for Jesus because you have to or because you want to. Ask yourself, why you are doing the “Christian things” that you do? Is it out of love or is it out of obligation? Love must always rule over obligation.

Fourth and finally, we need to celebrate our freedom by being a people that lives in appreciation of what we have been given. We must live with thankful hearts and gracious hearts. By having thankful and gracious hearts we will never take the freedom we have for granted. Nor will take those around is for granted either. Remember it is for freedom that we are free.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What is Righteousness?

Peninsula Community Church

What is Righteousness?

May 22, 2016

Today we will look at the question of what is righteousness? To do so we will look at the one of the great fathers of our faith, Abraham. The Bible tells us that Abraham receive righteousness not by working for it but as an act of faith when he believed and acted on God’s word. Look at this pasta with me.

Romans 4:22-25 – That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

As we begin, let me ask you a question this morning? How good are you? How righteous is your righteousness? Are you holy? If so, how holy are you? If righteous, then what makes you righteous? Is it your works or your actions? When it comes to sin, how many sins do you have to commit to be no longer righteous? Is it one, or two, or three? Does the level of the sin or the kind of sin we commit make a difference in whether or not we are righteous?

These might be questions you have asked or at least have considered at some point in time. In fact, I would suggest that one of the big issues we face as Christians is the question of how good is good enough. In attempting to deal with this question, there is a tendency to strive and work hard at being good as if our works make us righteous. I know the struggle as I have attempted to be good enough to please God and gain His favor. There is a problem however when I attempt to be good by my own works and by my own efforts. You see, I can believe that if I act right, do right, and keep all of the rules, I will be accepted by God but the problem is that too often I strive to become something I already am. I am not righteous by my works, I am righteous because of the work of Christ in me.

The question of righteousness and good works is not just an issue in the church but it also an issue in the communities we live. Many around us believe that if they are only good enough they will be accepted by God. They believe that if somehow, at the end of their life, that if they have more checkmarks in their good deeds column and less in their bad deeds column they will end up in heaven. They do not realize what is needed is a relationship with Christ to enter Heaven. Sometimes, we are at fault here in that we do not intend to but we put church attendance above a relationship with Christ. We present a gospel that says if you only go to church or if you do the right things then you will be good enough. But the question has to be asked, how many times do you have to go to church to be righteous? Once a month, twice a month, or every Sunday. What if I miss a Sunday? Does that mean that I am no longer good enough?

In its purest form, the word righteousness means being presentable or good enough to please. It means to be in right standing and and to do the right thing. As believers in Christ, righteousness is not just about doing right or wrong, it is about our position in Christ and what Christ has done for us. You see, we are presentable and good through the work of Christ. Am I perfect? No! But I am growing in grace and in the knowledge of God. The problem too often is that apart from the work of Christ we struggle to do right and be right, but God considers us to be righteous and holy because of His work on the cross and our corresponding faith in Him. It is not what we do that makes us righteous. We are righteous because He has made us that way through salvation.

To understand righteousness let me make a couple of observations about what the Bible has to say about self-righteousness. First of all, we have to know that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6.) The problem with filthy rags is that there is not much to be done with them other than to throw them out or burn them. Here is the point that is being made; no matter how good our acts or actions might be they cannot be compared to the work of grace in our hearts. The problem is that when we compare our righteousness to the righteousness of Christ we all fall short. But that is the very reason why we have to see ourselves righteous in His eyes. We are all sinners, the only difference is that we have been given the gift of righteousness so that we can live in freedom from sin and the power of sin over us.

Secondly, the Bible tells us that none are righteous. Listen to Romans 3:10-12. “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” When we are left to our own devices the tendency is to live life by our own measure of righteousness. When left to our vices we have a huge inclination toward sin because we are motivated by the carnal nature that is alive and well in us. Apart from God it is impossible to live godly and righteous lives. Without the drawing of the Holy Spirit we cannot possibly be righteous.

Thirdly, we must understand that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all sin and we have all sinned, past tense. There is no-one that is perfect but that does not mean that we do not live righteously. We have all come short of manifesting God’s presence in our life. We may not commit one of the big sins of life but we do sin when we respond to people with a bad attitude or heart that is motivated by anything but God’s word. When it comes to those in our community we cannot approach them with pride but with a humility that bows before our God who has graciously saved us and redeemed us. Except for the grace of God, we would be right where they are spiritually.

Even though we fall short, and fail so often, the Bible reminds us that 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. We are also reminded that we can say we have no sin but that makes us a liar. Here is the beauty of this passage. While we might sin, he does not cast us off but rather He accepts us through the work of the cross. The community around us needs this message. No sin, no wrong keeps us from Christ’s grace and His love and the best way to share this is is by way of our personal testimony.

With that said let us now look at the Biblical description of Godly Righteousness. First, Godly righteousness is an act of faith. We find that Abraham’s faith was the channel by which righteousness came to him. He acted on what God commanded by faith and then righteousness was imparted or given to him by faith. His righteousness was not based on his works but on his faith. While circumcision was important to Abraham, his righteousness was imparted to him before he was circumcised. This is important because it was not the act of circumcision that made Abraham righteous, it was his faith in God. In Romans 4, listen to what Paul said. For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

Secondly, Godly righteousness is a gift of God. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17). While death came as a result of one man’s transgression grace and righteousness came through the gift of God. Just as His grace is a gift so is His righteousness. We don’t deserve it but He makes us righteous because He loves us and because of who He is. Our acts do not make us righteous we are righteous because of the gift of God. Listen again to Paul’s words.

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: – Romans 4:1-6. Righteousness is a free gift from God.

Thirdly, Godly righteousness is a guide to keep the law. He gives righteousness so we can live free and holy. The teaching of righteousness in the book of Romans served to give a blow to the Jewish the way of thinking. They were living under the false pretense that by living right they were made right. The key here is the order of things. We do not do acts of righteousness to be righteousness but rather we do acts of righteousness because we are righteous. There is a difference. When we do things to become righteous we begin to live a lifestyle oriented toward works and pleasing others. The result is that we find ourselves striving for results and doing things solely so that we will look good. With that said we must understand that while the law does not make us righteous, we do need to follow the law and its commands. Otherwise, we end up doing whatever we choose rather than basing our life in the truth of the gospel.

So what is the application of this? First, we need to accept God’s gift of righteousness. Just as we received God’s gift of grace we must also accept the gift of righteousness. Don’t strive to be righteous. Rest in the work that has already been done on our behalf. Secondly, we must grasp the fact that we are already righteous as believers. We do not work for righteousness, it is a free gift. Because it is a gift we stand righteous because of Christ. Therefore, we don’t work for righteousness we are already righteous through the work of Christ in us.

Thirdly, we must obey and follow God’s commands. To show our love and respect for God’s work in our life we obey and follow God’s commands. We do so because we are righteous and not the other away around. You see we live righteously because we are righteous. This means that we go to the Lord with those areas in our life where we are falling short and failing to keep His commands. He forgives and we are renewed in holiness and righteousness.

Finally, we need to share the power of righteousness with those around us. Remember people can never be good enough they simply need to receive the righteousness of God and His gift of grace. We do that by accepting Christ as our Savior.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Is Grace?

Peninsula Community Church

What Is Grace? 

May 15, 2016

This morning I would like to look at the subject of what is grace. We talk about grace. We sing about grace. We read about grace but what is grace really. Let’s read this passage together.

Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What a powerful scripture. As we begin I ask that you notice a couple of things about this passage. First, God who is rich in mercy did not give us what we deserve. You see we deserved death. Because of our sin we deserved the penalty that was laid upon the back of Christ. Instead of the penalty of death, through mercy we received life. Secondly, notice that Paul says that we are saved by grace. Through mercy we did not receive what we deserved and through grace we received what we did not deserve. But notice a third thing in this passage, it takes faith to believe that Christ has given us eternal life. This acceptance is not because we deserve it but it is just the opposite. We did not deserve it but because of Christ’s love for us He has saved us. That is Paul’s message to us.

To fully understand grace let us look at three distinctive qualities found in grace. First of all grace is unmerited. Paul stated that “It is by grace that we are saved and not by our works.” I heard Robert Morris, senior pastor of Gateway church, tell the story of a pastor who was questioned about what grace is. After the pastor thought for some time he described grace like being in a row boat. He described the boat itself as grace and the river as being life. He described the Christian life as placing the oars into one’s hands and then rowing like crazy against the current of life. If successful and if he maintained his strength he believed he would make it to the end and he would receive his reward. But here is the problem. Being fully dependent on the one doing the rowing is tiring, exasperating, and not very joyous. The pastor’s idea was that if he was good enough and strong enough he would make it to the end but that is so far from the truth. And that is certainly not grace. We cannot work for grace and we cannot work to maintain grace.

The second observation about grace is that it is undeserved. Look at what Paul had to say in Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… We must understand that our sin disqualified us for redemption because our sin had separated us from a holy God. But because of God’s grace the very thing we did not deserve God gave us. We deserved death but God gave us life. He gave us life regardless of what we have done. The grace of God is not measured by our sin but by His gift of love.

The third aspect of grace is that it is unearned. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Please note this, there is a big difference between free and earned. If it is free then it is not earned and if it is earned then it cannot be free. It is either or but it cannot be both. Can you imagine getting a birthday gift and the person giving you the gift saying here is my gift but I need $89.52? That is not grace.

To understand grace we need to understand the meaning of the Greek word for “grace.” The word is CHARIS. Before CHARIS was used by the Christian community the word originally was used by the Greek culture. The word represented a superior who gave a gift to one that is inferior. We would assume that there were two people involved but in the Greek culture there were often three people involved. The first person was the one providing the gift. The second person is the one receiving the gift. The third person was the broker. The role of the broker was to survey the needs of the community and then approach those with the ability to give to satisfy the need. The gift giver would be asked to donate or provide for the need. But here is the amazing thing. While the broker would connect the patron and the client together, it was the broker who paid for the gift. Imagine with me for a moment as we apply this spiritually. God was the one with a great gift of grace to give. But grace was beyond our ability to pay. So Christ brought us together with God and as the third party Christ paid the price with His life. He connected us to God through grace and He paid the price. That is unearned grace.

So what is grace? Grace is the dimension of divine activity that enables God to confront human indifference and rebellion with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and to bless. Grace is the divine activity of God enabling humankind with an inexhaustible capacity to forgive and bless. How powerful is that? His love and forgiveness is tireless and beyond measure. This means that there is no sin or wrong that is too big to be covered by God’s grace. That is grace.

While we see what grace is let me give you a couple of things that grace is not. First of all grace does not negate the law. The law was given to show us sin and to bring Godly conviction when we disobey God’s purpose or plan. The problem with the law is that we can be deceived into believing that we are followers of Christ by keeping the rules. We are deceived into believing that a good relationship with Christ is based on what we do or what we do not do. The result is that we feel that by keeping the rules we are accepted and loved by God. Grace however speaks to who I am and not what I do. Through grace the law is actually fulfilled and here is why. It is much easier to follow the rules when we are in a relationship where we are given love unconditionally. Through grace we know that we are accepted by Christ and I am more about being than doing. I keep the law because I am righteous and I am whole, not because I have to, that I want to be accepted by God, or that I want to be loved more by Him.

This brings me to the second the concept. Grace is not a license to do whatever we want to do. The argument against a grace teaching often centers on the idea that there is an emphasis on giving people a license to sin or do whatever they want. Paul addressed this in Romans 5:19-21-6:4. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Many of the Romans believed that because of grace they were free to do whatever they wanted to do. The word here for “increased” speaks of sin growing larger and being more expansive with the passing of time. This describes the growing nature of unrestrained sin. So Paul is not saying that we should sin more so that grace is expanded but rather true grace frees us from sin. Because of the Roman view on grace Paul continues in Romans 6 by asking if we should continue in sin so that grace would abound. While grace covers sin and produces righteousness in us we do not sin more so that grace is revealed more. That is circular thinking and is an error. Here is the fact. Grace covers sin but more sin does not increase the value of grace. No! Grace is a free gift of God so what we do or don’t do never impacts grace. Grace is grace because it is a free gift.

John Piper made this observation about sin and grace. No matter how deep in the power of sin we have sunk, God’s grace is deeper still. No matter how deep into the power of sin we have sunk in the rebelliousness of our lives, Christ’s grace abounded all the more in order that righteousness, rather than sin and life, rather than death, might have the final word.

Grace does not remove our responsibility. We must receive the gift of grace. The action we are to take is to receive God’s gift. God is offering a free gift that has been paid in full by Christ’s death and resurrection. While it is free we must receive the gift that He is giving. And then we must apply the work of grace into our life. We can try to obey all of the law and keep all of the rules so we feel accepted or we can receive His grace which covers all of sin and removes the guilt of striving to be loved and accepted. How freeing grace is? How freeing it is to know His love?

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Moses’ Mom: A Story of Faith and Courage

Peninsula Community Church

May 8, 2016

Moses’ Mom: A Story of Faith and Courage

Exodus 2:1-4 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him.

Today is Mothers Day! What a great day to celebrate all that mothers do and who they are as a person. In preparing for this message I looked at a number of mothers in the Bible but I was especially moved by the story of Moses’ mom. We will see that she was a mother who had great faith and trust in God’s plan for her life and the life of her son. We will also see that her faith was tested and her trust in God was certainly stretched.

The story of Moses is a compelling story of a mother’s love, her trust in God, and her faith in God’s story being written for her and for her son. She trusted and loved God in the midst of some very difficult situations. She did this against all odds. She lived in a time where Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, had made an edict that all boys born to Hebrew families were to be killed. His motivation was out of fear that the children of Israel were growing so fast that if Egypt were to go to war they might side with the enemies of Egypt.

To understand this we must go back about 350 years or so before the story before us today was written. If you remember, Joseph had been sold into slavery which led his family to move to Egypt. This eventually led the children of Israel into captivity to the Egyptians. For thirty plus years Israel and Egypt had a great relationship. But once Joseph had died and a new Pharaoh was raised to power the cordial relationship soon turned to one that was antagonistic. Listen to what Moses wrote about this. Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens (Exodus 1:8-11).

The more time that past Pharaoh began to put his thumb on them more and more. But the reality is that while they were under the thumb of Pharaoh they were still in the hand of God and God had a greater plan for them. For 300 plus years Israel suffered the suppressive demonic strangulation by the Egyptians. Their plight was so rough they began to cry out for a deliverer. They wanted, they needed a deliverer that could stand against the power of Pharaoh. While things seem bleak, God was at work and He was orchestrating and He was writing Israel’s story.

This is where we pick up our story for today. We find that Moses is born to two loving parents who knew God and served God graciously and magnificently. Little did they know that this little boy would be a great leader. But the odds were against him. With that said let me make a few observations about this story and let me make a few key points that will help us when the world seems to be against us as well.

First of all Moses’ mom was specifically chosen for the task of raising Moses. God purposely placed Moses into her hands. He saw something in her that qualified her for the task. He saw her faith and her trust in God. It is noteworthy that she did not know the story that God was writing. She did not know that he was to be the leader of Israel. She did not know that he would be the deliverer of her people. Never in her wildest dreams did she imagine that he would be the one that God was going to use in such powerful ways.

This morning I want you to know something very special. You have been chosen as the mother of your children. God saw something in you that qualified you for this great task. You may not always feel it nor will you always believe it but it is true. You have been called to nurture, protect, and disciple those who have been given to you. You are called to be a mother and your children have been chosen by God to be your children.

Secondly, Moses’ mom chose life over her child being killed. Moses’ mom was definitely pro-life. She could have chosen to take the child and have him killed at birth. This would have been the easy thing to do but she chose life. Rather than follow the law of man she followed the law of God. She knew that He would protect them. She knew that He had a plan. Some of you here today against great odds have chosen life and that is honorable. For some, the events leading up to the birth of your child may not have been the best but you chose life and that is commendable and it is to be honored.

Let me make a side note here. I am aware that some have made the decision to abort a child but God wants you to know that there is grace and forgiveness at the cross. There is hope for you and it begins by forgiving yourself as God has forgiven you. Too often we allow the guilt of a past decision to rule our lives in the present.

Thirdly, in this story her name is omitted. It is interesting that God chose not to reveal her name here. Sometimes we feel that we have lost our identity but God never forgets us because He calls us by name. Let me ask you “Do you ever feel that you are not recognized for what you do as a mom?” “Do you ever feel that you are just a shadow in your home?” “Do you feel under appreciated?” “Do you feel that you have lost your identity as a person?”

I do not know if this ever happened to you but as my kids got older I was no longer Bob Odom but I was Kate and Joshua’s dad. I lost my identity. But let me remind you that though you feel that you have lost your identity, God knows you and God knows you by name. The fact is she had a name and it was Jochebed. The name Jochebed means “Jehovah is glorious.” She lived up to her name as she was one who trusted Jehovah no matter what the circumstances of life might bring or what the leaders of Egypt required. She trusted in God because He was God.

Fourthly, Moses’ mom had a courageous faith. Even under difficult odds she walked in faith. She trusted God. After all the edict to have the new born males killed had been pronounced before she became pregnant with Moses. When Moses was born rather than have him killed she hid him until he was over three months old. Can you imagine the fear and the stress she experienced every day? I am sure that she would worry everyday that the door of her home would be opened and in would walk the Egyptian police to arrest her and to kill her son. Even with her fear she still trusted God. Her faith in God was stronger than the fear of the edict that had been made.

Finally, she put her faith into action. This is most vividly seen in the steps that she took. After hiding Moses for three months, she took a basket and place insulation around it so it would be protected from the water and from the effects of the river. She placed Moses into the basket and then she walked to the Nile were she placed the basket in the bulrushes. I am sure that she had tears flowing down her face as she pushed the little ark into the water.

This was an amazing step of faith in that the river itself was a source of death. There were crocodiles and other animals in or near the water that could easily destroy him. Even today National Geographic has reported that 200 plus people are killed every year in the Nile by crocodiles alone. Not only did she worry about the crocodiles but this was also a place where the women of Egypt would come to bathe. This in itself was a threat to Moses because if the wrong person came to the water’s edge she could have had Moses killed.

It is noteworthy that the word used here for the basket is in essence the same word used for Noah’s ark. It was a place of safety and protection. When she pushed the ark into the water I believe that her faith was revealed more in what she did not do than in what she did. Notice something in this story. When she approached the water she placed the basket into the water and pushed it into the river. As I have read this story one thing stands out to me. No where in the story do I see that she tied a rope to the basket. She released the ark with her son inside to God.

This leads me to the final point I would like to make. When we walk in God’s faith and love there is a time where we have to let go and let God control the outcome of our children’s lives. She did not tie a rope to the basket because she trusted God to protect him and keep him safe. Here is the issue for us, too often as our kids grow we want to hold onto the them and try to control the outcome of their life. But as we all know there is a point that we have to push the ark into the water and let go. In letting go, we are saying that we trust God fully and completely. This does not mean that we don’t worry. Even Jochebed worried and was concerned. We see that she had her daughter stand by the river to watch over Moses. But, nonetheless she released Moses into God’s hand.

The problem too often is that we have a snapshot of our children at a certain age and that picture is them as little children. We struggle to let go because we still envision them as kids who need our guidance and our decision making prowess. In this process sometimes we try to control only what God can control. I love what Michelle says, “Control is an allusion.” And yet we live our life being controlled and trying to control others. Our faith in God is measured best when we let go of things that we cannot control anyway.

We need to know that our children will make mistakes. Too often their mistakes come as they test the boundaries that we have set for them all of their life. They test the waters because they want to make the truths they were raised with their truths. Sometimes we will find that our kids will try to do the right thing but they will do it the wrong way. They will fail but that does not mean that we are failures as parents. That is a lie from the enemy.

Finally and this is most important. God loves your children more than you ever will. This is where trust comes in. We must surrender our children to the God who loves them more than we ever could. That is what Jochebed did. She trusted God. She loved God and she loved Moses. But she had resigned in her heart that God loved Moses more than she ever could. That is why she could push the ark into the water and let go. That is faith. That is courage.

How about you this morning? Do you have enough faith to let go? Do you have enough trust in God to give your children to God? It is not easy but it is right. We can still pray for them. We can still intercede on their behalf but we still need to let go.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – The Finish

Peninsula Community Church

May 1, 2016

Strongholds – The Finish 

Ephesians 6:10-13 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

As we come to the end of this series, I trust you have been encouraged and challenged to allow God to bring change into your life. No matter where you have come from or the events that you have faced, God can bring victory to you today and for the future. The goal of this series has been to help us in our journey and in our growth in Christ. The desire from the beginning has been to assist you in knowing what strongholds might be in your life and to give you the tools you need to live as free people in Christ. While we might be wrapping up the series we will continue to discuss the freedom that is ours in Christ. This discussion will continue to be a element of every message we share.

Paul understood the need for freedom and release from the strongholds of life. He understood the work that needed to be done in a person’s life. For that reason he encouraged and challenged the church at Ephesus to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. The idea presented by the word strong is to be empowered with strength. It is a power that is resident within us. Just as in a stick of dynamite there is power but it is not revealed until the fuse is lit. We are empowered by the work of Christ in us and that power is revealed when we need it.

This morning I would like to look at nine things we can do to assure that we are dealing with the strongholds we face. I will call these the 9 R’s*. Let me say from the onset that this is not some secret formula but rather it is an ongoing process of walking and living in freedom. I would also suggest that we need to apply all of these in our life so that we are fully and completely free. Acting on a part of these would be like leaving out key parts of a building process. For example, the building process will not be what it should be if you leave off the doors and windows. Without doors and windows the thief has easy access to our home. I would also suggest that applying these nine principles separates those who want to go through the motions of life as a believer and those who mean business about their freedom. I am not sure about you but I mean business today.

The first “R” is relationship. To truly be set free we must begin with a relationship. You see the one true relationship we need more than any other is a relationship with Christ (John 1:12-13). To know Christ is to know real freedom. This is critical because we know that religious acts alone will not set us free. We know that just keeping the rules will not bring freedom. The one thing that sets us free is our personal ongoing relationship with Christ. By having a relationship with Christ we live without condemnation (Romans 8:1). I shared with you a couple of weeks ago my personal journey with the strongholds I faced and continue to face at times. I can tell you today that my life radically changed the more I found myself in relationship with Christ and I accepted the fact that I do not have to be condemned by my past.

The second “R” is recognize. We must recognize and thus admit that we have a problem. The fact is we cannot change what we do not admit to or accept as a problem. We cannot trust completely in Christ to save us until we come to some awareness that we are helplessly, hopelessly lost, and unable to save ourselves by our own good works. In this case, we must admit that we have been living with a spirit of anger, self-pity, bitterness, being wounded, guilt, regrets, abandonment, lust, and so on. We must admit that we have allowed these negative emotions to control our life and that they have reduced our effectiveness to live life to the fullest.

The third “R” is responsibility. We must then take responsibility for our actions and for allowing the strongholds to control us. By allowing these things to control us, we in essence become a servant to the stronghold. But to be free we cannot blame others. We cannot blame our circumstances. We must however take responsibility for our actions and for allowing such things to dominate our lives. Refusing to lay blame means we come to the place where we accept the need to change and begin to take a course of action to change. That brings us to the next ‘R’.

The fourth “R” is repent. It is here that we must ask for forgiveness (1 John 1:9-10). True repentance means there is a change of heart which leads to a change of action. Through repentance the heart is changed which leads us to change the way we act and the way we respond to the issues we face. By repenting we take a stand where we no longer allow these things to control us or to define us. When we take responsibility for our actions and for being controlled by false standards we will repent. Let me add one caveat here. Our repentance must be in the name of Jesus who brings life, hope, and the promise of a new day. So, what does repenting in Jesus’ Name mean for us? It means that we accept Christ’s authority and all that His name represents. In essence we are inviting the authority of Christ into our lives to assist us in overcoming the obstacles we face.

The fifth “R” is renounce. Not only do we repent but we must renounce these things so that they can no longer control our life. The term renounce is defined as to “formally declare one’s abandonment of a claim, right, or possession.” By renouncing these things in our life we are saying that we will no longer claim a right to these strongholds. We renounce their power to control us or to define us. By allowing them to continue to exist we are in essence allowing sin to dominate us. And in so doing, we will never experience full freedom.

The sixth “R” is remove. We must cast the work of the enemy from our life. How do we do this? Jesus who is our example. He spoke to the demons that existed and He commanded them to go in His name (Matthew 10:8, 12:28). We must remove the work of the enemy from our heart but we must fill it with Christ and a new way of thinking. Without doing so it will be too easy to fall back on what is natural or common for us. Without a new way of thinking or living we will be tempted to fall back to the way we use to respond or think about things. In so doing we will find ourselves trapped again.

The seventh “R” is resist. While it is important to repent, renounce, and remove these elements from our life; the fact is we can be tempted by the thing that we have dealt with. Once free we must continue to resist the enemy’s work in us because it is an ongoing battle. Continue to resist the devil and he will flee from you. Don’t give in and don’t surrender your new way of thinking to an old way of thinking. Refuse to go back to the way things were. The problem is illustrated by the Children of Israel who were delivered from Egypt and the ways of Egypt and yet they continued to want to go back to their old way of living. They desired the leeks and the garlic of Egypt more than the water of life that God was offering (Numbers 11:4-6, Exodus 14). It was a comfortable place of them as that is the place they knew and even though it was a horrible place they found comfort in that place. Don’t go back. Resist the devil’s temptation to recapture your thinking.

The eighth “R” is rejoice. We must give God praise and thanks for what He is doing and what He has done in us and through us. We praise God for our freedom and we praise God for giving us the wisdom to see that we need Him. We must give thanks for all that God has done in us and that we have the ability and the opportunity to live in freedom. The joy of the Lord is our strength and as we learn to rejoice in Him we are more likely to be free from the power of the strongholds that we face (Habakkuk 3:18-19, .

The ninth “R” is restore. We pray for restoration for ourselves but we also begin a ministry of restoration to others. We emulate the work done in our hearts and we promote the good work of Christ in others. We share what Christ has given us. Here is the beauty of this. Healed people will heal people. That is our goal and purpose. We are to experience the healing of God so that we can bring God’s healing to others.

As we close let me say this. While most of the statements that have been made today seem to imply that the success of breaking the strongholds in our lives is dependent on our actions but that could not be further from the truth. We must take advantage of the power of the Holy Spirit that is ready and willing to help us overcome. We must partner with and invite the Holy Spirit to break us free from those things that hold us bound. After all, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty and freedom. To be free, we must invite the Holy Spirt to reside in us.

Finally, we must take action. I would like to close today by having us take a particular step toward being free and delivered. I would ask that you take one of the small sheets of paper that we are now distributing. On the page I ask that you write down one or more of the strongholds you face. After you have done that I invite you to come here to the altar and present it to God. We do this through repentance where we turn this over to God and we take steps to resist the work of the enemy in us. As you do this I ask that you go through the steps that we have shared here today. Start with your relationship with God. Recognize that you have a problem. Take responsibility for the problem and then repent, renounce, and remove that stinking thinking from your thought processes. Then once you have surrendered this to Christ continue to resist the enemy’s attempt to recapture your heart. Finally, begin a life of rejoicing and one of restoration where we celebrate what God has done and we begin to share this work with others. Are you ready? Let’s do it.

  • Adapted from Kim Karlson’s 9 “r’s” of freedom.

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Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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