Pastor Kirk

Notes from Scio Community Church, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Jesus our Coming King, The Gospel Truth, 29 March 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Coming King.

King

Jesus is a king. He’s THE King! He’s the King of kings. At least three times we are told He is the King of kings and LORD of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

The idea of a king is foreign to us. We enjoy tremendous freedom and independence in our nation, choosing our leaders at local, state and federal levels. Furthermore, no single person possess’ total power. The president and congress must work together in conjunction with the Supreme Court in guiding our society.

A king is different. Often a king is sovereign, in control. There is no vote, no argument, no debate. Obviously a good king is good for the people, able to make swift decisions and ensure the care of the citizens. A bad king, however, can ignore the interests of his subjects.

It’s interesting how in the Old Testament God chose Abraham to be the father of a great nation, Israel, but God remained their King…until the people begged for a human king like their neighbors. Saul wasn’t the best, David was pretty good, Solomon was distracted, and then everything fell apart. The book of 2 Kings is especially filled with the history of good and mostly bad kings that led God’s people. It has been said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Which brings us to Jesus. It’s hard to imagine the oppression of the Jewish people when God became one of us as Emmanuel. Generations had heard the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah, but few recognized Jesus as that Messiah. At one point—a day we celebrate today on Palm Sunday—a group of people desperate for relief from Caesar and the Roman Empire—proclaimed Jesus as king.

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” (Matthew 21:1-3)

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” (Matthew 21:4-5)

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. (Matthew 21:6-8)

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (Matthew 21:9)

Hosanna literally means, “Save now!” The people were desperate. Perhaps they had crowned others as king, hoping they would bring relief to their oppression. So here we see King Jesus, but He’s riding on a donkey, a very unexpected form of transportation.

Imagine the disappointment and horror days later when King Jesus, their greatest hope for a better future, is proclaimed king with a sign that hung above His dying, beaten body. It wasn’t just Jesus who died, but the hopes of the Jews. Although we know the rest of the story, the Good Friday characters must’ve been devastated beyond imagination. Their king is dead. Their hope is dead.

At the risk of spoiling the ending (!), Jesus conquers sin and death, is resurrected, and several weeks later stands on the Mount of Olives.

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus left them twice, once to death and then to the clouds. What must they have been feeling? Loss? Disappointment?

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

I stood on the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven. Our guide told us to look up, since that space was not only where the ascension occurred, but it is also where He will return.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I saw the nearby gate of Jerusalem. As if to keep Him away, the gate has been filled with brick and a cemetery sits in front of it!

The Good News is Jesus. Jesus is LORD. Jesus is King. Jesus is alive!!!

There’s more good news. King Jesus is coming back!

Coming King

Anticipation.
Just speaking the word makes me excited! What are you waiting for? What are you anticipating? Think of a time when you said, “I can’t wait for…”

I’ve had a lifetime of anticipation moments, waiting for Christmas, birthday parties, vacations, graduation, my wedding, the birth of our kids, dates with my wife, big concerts…

Presently, I’m anticipating our son’s graduation, a 25th anniversary cruise my mom is generously providing for us, and our Envision DR mission trip in July, among other things.

The longest I’ve ever waited for anything is…probably the 21 years prior to getting married.

Followers of Jesus have been waiting over 2000 years for His return. Jesus said,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

Jesus promised to return. The physical return of Jesus has been the subject of speculation and controversy since His ascension into the clouds. Admittedly many missed His first visit to our planet, so it should come as no surprise that there is great confusion concerning His return. I’ve probably had people ask about Revelation and the End Times as much as any other subject, and to be honest there’s so much I don’t know or understand. There are a few things I can state boldly, however.

1. Jesus will return

This is what Jesus said:

“At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:26-27)

2. We must be ready


Someday every human will face the judgment seat.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

We need not be afraid of this judgment if we have made Jesus our Savior and LORD.

Someday satan and evil will finally be destroyed.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10)

King Jesus will be vindicated in the eyes of the entire race that saw Him crucified.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds,”
and “every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him”;
and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.”
So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

All of creation will be liberated from the curse of sin.

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21)

As we said last week

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

I can’t wait! Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus! This leaves one simple question unanswered.

When will King Jesus Return?

For generations, people have made predictions, something we were warned to avoid doing. Jesus said

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44)

The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. (Mathew 24:50)

I know one thing for sure: we are one day closer today than yesterday!

Jesus is coming soon, which is obviously not soon to us! In fact, it was said two thousand years ago people would grow impatient. Peter wrote

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)

He continues

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10)

One verse has special meaning to the Christian & Missionary Alliance as we seek to proclaim Jesus to the world. Jesus said,

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

I have more questions than answers about the end times, the return of Christ, and Revelation, but I do know Jesus is our Coming King. The King will return when the task is complete. We are working to bring back the King!

  • Because Christ is coming, we need to be ready. We need to live pure, prayerful lives.
  • Because Christ is coming, we need to finish the task He gave us to do: make disciples of all nations.

Are you ready?

Credits

Some material taken from
The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus our Healer, The Gospel Truth, 22 March 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Healer. He created us and is able to recreate us.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “healer?”

I usually think about the miraculous physical healings Jesus performed. Here are a few mentioned by Matthew:

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24)

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matthew 9:35)

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. (Matthew 12:15)

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14)

Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. (Matthew 15:30)

Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. (Matthew 19:2)

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. (Matthew 21:14)

These are just the general mentions of healing from Matthew. They don’t include any of the specific encounters Jesus had with the sick, blind, lame…or even dead!

Jesus healed. That’s clear to everyone…except those who disbelieve miracles and the Bible!

But our topic today is Jesus
our Healer. Does God still heal today? Does He only do it on TV with wild preachers and people falling down? Why don’t we go to U-M and St. Joe’s hospitals and close them down through prayers of healing?

In The Beginning

In the beginning…God created…and it was good. Sure, it wasn’t good for man to be alone, but God remedied that and therefore Adam and Eve lived in a pain-free, disease-free paradise called Eden.

And then all hell broke loose, quite literally.

The serpent got Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit and God said to Eve,

“…I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)

God said to Adam

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:17)

Pain entered the world that horrific day. It was the consequence of sin. It came under the influence of our enemy, satan, who comes

…only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10a)

As a result, we live in a broken world, a world with broken bodies, broken relationships, broken finances, broken souls, broken governments, broken homes, broken…toilets! You get the idea!

It will not always be like this. Someday…

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

I can’t wait! Maranatha! Come quickly, LORD Jesus!

But what do we do in the meantime? How do we deal with pain and brokenness?

1. First, God does still heal today. I will attempt to prove it shortly! It does not require a televangelist or sending money to help buy a private jet for a faith healer. God heals, but sometimes chooses to say wait or no when we ask.

On the one extreme there are those who do not believe in healing or miracles. There are Christians who believe healing was only for biblical times; we have the Bible so we don’t need the power of God. I’m overstating, somewhat, but the essence is they believe the Holy Spirit is on vacation. There’s plenty of recent and historic evidence to suggest healing is real today. I believe there are many doctors who once believed only medicine could heal, only to experience miracles first-hand with no explanation.

On the other extreme there are those who believe God always heals and any sickness is the result of the person’s personal sin…or lack of faith. This is a common message today in the “name it and claim it” movement that essentially says if you’re not healthy and rich it’s because you need more faith. It’s your fault! This is nothing new.

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:2-3)

The entire book of Job is about a righteous man who experienced horrific pain.

Jesus, the most righteous Person in history, endured the most horrific suffering.

Pain and sickness is the result of sin, but not necessarily the sin of the sick. For example, hospitals are filled with the innocent victims of drunk drivers. It has been alleged that some allergies are caused by man-made chemicals and pollution.

Jesus was a healer and He continues to heal today.

Even during His years on earth Jesus gave others the authority to heal.

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (Matthew 10:1)

Perhaps the most radical statement on healing is found in the fourteenth chapter of John.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

He was going to the Father and would send the Holy Spirit.

2. The power to heal comes from Jesus

We do not believe in faith healing. It’s not from our faith, but from Jesus. Faith is a precious gift from God, but we are not healed by our faith. We are healed by God. Jesus healed in a variety of ways. Sometimes He spoke, sometimes He touched, sometimes He simply announced healing for a person not even in His presence. He still heals in a variety of ways today. In some instances faithless people are healed through the prayers of others praying for them. Healing can occur through the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil. Sometimes it comes through medicine, doctors, and other health care tools.

It should be noted that healing is not always a physical change. Our sinful world has left many of us broken spiritually, emotionally, financially, and relationally. We are blessed to have godly biblical counselors available to help people heal from a variety of pains and struggles, trials that can be every bit as wounding as a car accident or cancer.

3. The purpose of divine healing is to glorify Jesus.

Jesus’ miracles authenticated the message and the Messenger. He also healed to show His compassion. Furthermore, Jesus healed to show salvation now. The Kingdom of God is here now…but we haven’t experienced it all yet. It’s like a down payment on what is to come, the now and the not yet. We have something, but not yet everything that will be ours when Christ returns.

My Story: Rachel Schneemann

When this subject came up, I immediately knew who I wanted to speak on this subject, our daughter Rachel.

What comes to mind when you think of Jesus our Healer?

Has God healed you? How? Have you participated in the healing process?

Why doesn’t God instantly heal every person who asks for healing?

Is sickness the result of sin? Unbelief?

Has God only healed you physically?

What would you say to someone who wants to be healed?

So What?

Do you want to be healed? Why?

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

If you want to be healed,

1. Ask

Jesus’ half brother James wrote,

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2)

He added

Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. (James 5:13-15)

2. Confess.

Some brokenness is the result of sin. Bitterness, for example, has been shown to have physical consequences. The passage from James continues…

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

3. Persevere. Sometimes God says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “Wait.”

As a dad, I don’t instantly give my kids everything they desire. Sometimes I do, but sometimes I say no or later.

Rachel’s story has involved years of prayers.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11)

In discussing prayer, Jesus said

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-10)

4. Trust. Daddy knows best. He can be trusted. His timing is never late but rarely early!

Why Doesn’t God Heal Everyone?

Great question! It’s in my top ten questions for God!

Paul had a thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what it was, perhaps an issue with his eyesight. Three times God said no to his request to have it removed. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10)

The purpose of healing is always about the glory of Christ.

Whether in giving or witholding, it’s about His glory.

Often it’s about His timing. The sisters of Lazarus thought Jesus was 4 days late to the scene, yet the delay facilitated a resurrection that brought greater glory to God than a conventional healing (John 11).

We live in the now and the not yet. There are beautiful moments when heaven touches earth, when God reveals His presence and power in amazing ways, giving us a taste of and a deeper longing for heaven.

Jesus promised us,
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)

He is with us…always. I don’t pretend to understand why He says “no” or “later,” but I know God is good, He is faithful, and
nothing is impossible with our God.

“Healer” (reprise)

Prayer

For Further Reading

Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey

Where Is God When It Hurts?
By Philip Yancey

Credits

Some material taken from
The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus our Sanctifier, The Gospel Truth, 15 March 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Sanctifier, making us increasingly holy like Himself.

Introduction

This week we continue our series
The Gospel Truth. We began last week looking at Jesus as Savior. Today we continue our look at the Fourfold Gospel examining Jesus as Sanctifier.

It’s not uncommon for song lyrics and passages of scripture to contain unusual words. Sanctifier is one of those Christianese words that few outside of the faith understand…and few inside the faith understand! When we say Jesus is our Sanctifier we are expressing that He makes us like Himself. A year ago we said that followers of Jesus are “in Christ.” What can be said of Jesus can be said of us in the eyes of our heavenly Father, not because we are God or perfect like Christ, but because we essentially wear Jesus’ uniform. His blood purifies our sins and we can stand before a holy God who cannot tolerate sin, not because of what we’ve done but because Jesus is our Savior which we studied last week.

Sanctification then is that God wants to make us in reality what we’ve already been declared to be in Christ. In other words, following Jesus is more than praying a prayer to ask Jesus into your heart so you’ll go to heaven when you die. Following Jesus is just that—following Him. Jesus is perfect. We are to be perfect. Jesus is holy. We are to be holy. Jesus has power and authority. We are to have power and authority.

To be sanctified is to be holy, set apart. In one sense it occurs when we surrender our lives to God, yet it is a progressive process in which we become increasingly like Him—separated from sin and evil.

Right about now you may be asking, “Why don’t I look like Jesus?” or “How is it possible for me to be like Christ?” That’s our topic today: sanctification, becoming holy and set apart like Jesus.

Fruit

What is your favorite food? Although my favorite dessert is ice cream, my favorite food is fruit. I love fruit! I’m not sure if it’s because most fruits are sweet or colorful or uniquely shaped or the texture but I love fruit. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a fruit I didn’t enjoy…unless it was bad fruit!

Where does fruit come from? Meijer! Believe it or not, it does not just appear in the produce section!

The Bible is filled with organic metaphors. God created our world, so it should come as no surprise He would use physical things to help us understand spiritual realities.

Gardening is a powerful way to understand life. I’m an expert gardener…in growing weeds! I admire people who understand soil and plants and who can grow things
other than weeds!

Last week I listened to a brilliant podcast interview with Christine Sine in which she described the numerous parallels between the cultivation of her garden and the cultivation of her soul. Producing beautiful fruit requires preparation of the soil, generous fertilizer and water, enough sunlight, protection from hungry creatures, and the eradication of weeds that can choke the plants.

Likewise if we want our lives to bear fruit we must confess our sins, flee temptation, fill our minds with the Word of God, feed upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, receive support from godly brothers and sisters, and pursue a deeper relationship with God and others. Jesus said it plainly in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

How do we become like Jesus? We know Him.
How do we know Jesus? We spend time with Him.
How do we spend time with Jesus? We pray. We study the Bible. We spend time with people who know Jesus.

They say many old couples look alike after years of marriage. They can finish each other’s sentences. They know what the other is thinking. That’s what happens when two people do life together, spend time with one another, know each other, and grow together. That’s what happens when we do life with Jesus—we begin to resemble Him!

It takes time. It requires intentionality. It involves effort.

When I placed a wedding ring on my bride’s finger nearly 25 years ago that wasn’t the end of our relationship. It was a tremendously significant moment, yet it was just the beginning. More than two decades later we’ve both invested in our relationship, and it has produced fruit (including three amazing children!). I didn’t just say vows and then tell her, “Have a nice life!” Over the years I have grown to be like her, and she has grown to be like me. We are both works in process, becoming like one another, but most of all both seeking to be like Jesus.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

It’s great to ask What Would Jesus Do? It’s far better to know Jesus so intimately and be so filled with the Holy Spirit that you don’t stop and ask—you instinctively do it! It’s natural. That’s sanctification. Jesus is our Sanctifier means He wants us to become like Him. He wants us to become Christians—little Christs. He wants us to love Him and love others, re-presenting Him to our desperate world.

Are you connected to the vine? Do know know what God is saying to you? Are you obediently following Him?

If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:6-8)

If you know anything at all about plants, you know every branch must be connected to the trunk which must be connected to the roots. Any disconnect will result in poor or no fruit.

When I was a kid I remember enjoying a pretty substantial tree in our front yard. One day I had the brilliant idea of taking a hatchet and carving my name into the tree. When my parents realized what I had done, they weren’t very pleased! Fortunately I did no permanent damage to the tree, but I could’ve killed it!

Like many of you, I witnessed first-hand the destruction of trees by a very small bug known as the emerald ash borer. The nasty beetle from Asia was first formally identified in Canton, Michigan in 2002, believed to be introduced by overseas shipping materials. They attack ash trees through larval feeding that disrupts the flow of nutrients and water. This small bug is responsible for the destruction of literally tens of millions of ash trees and threatens to kill most of the 8.7 billion ash trees throughout North America.

What a perfect metaphor for sin! Small, unsuspected sins invade our life, slowly disconnecting us from our source of life, Jesus. Sure, robbing a bank or killing your neighbor will damage your relationship with God—and keep you away from others as you sit in prison—but most often it’s small temptations that cause us to drift from our nourishment. We get too busy to pray, too busy to study the Bible, too busy to attend worship and Life Groups, too busy to share Jesus with others. We get greedy, buying things we don’t need until we can no longer be generous and serve those in desperate need. We compromise in small things like taxes, speed limits, truth-telling, and pride until we are able to rationalize the most blatant of sins.

A Healthy Tree

The first words of the Psalms paint an entirely different picture.

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)

That’s what I want my life to depict!

What kind of fruit are you bearing? It could be no fruit, the result of disconnect from Jesus. It could be bad fruit such as

sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. (Mark 7:21-22)

Or it could be the fruit of the Spirit:

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a)

If we abide in Jesus, if we devote ourselves to Him, we will bear much, good fruit.

The Alliance website says it like this:

Many Christians understand God’s promise of salvation but do not experience the ongoing sanctifying work of Jesus Christ in their lives. For those who neither understand nor allow the Holy Spirit's control in their lives, the results have a profound effect.

Unsuccessful struggle against sin and a lack of power in life and ministry frustrate those who have asked Jesus to be their Savior but not their Sanctifier, resulting in a lack of joy in their walk with Christ. At the point when we are born again, we become members of God’s family. We believe He paid the price for our sin and that his followers are—set apart from those are not born again—and are seen as holy because of what Christ has done.

The Bible is filled with biological metaphors. We are a family—brothers and sisters. We are dead in our sins and resurrected with Christ as beautifully illustrated through baptism. In the book of Romans we read these powerful words:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace. (Romans 6:11-14)

Some mistakenly think Christianity is a morality-based religion in which we are supposed to do good and be good. They see Jesus as someone who makes bad people good. Friends, the reality is Jesus came to make dead people come alive! Following Jesus is not merely an exercise in doing the right things. It is a vibrant, joy-filled journey in which possess—and are possessed by—the Holy Spirit. How?

  • We thirst. We desire God, or at least want to want God.
  • We ask. Invite the Holy Spirit to fill you. Daily. Maybe hourly!
  • We surrender. In essence, let go and let God. This means letting go of your time, talents and treasures. It means placing everything on the altar. Open your hands!
  • Abide. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. There are no shortcuts.

Semi-circle

Most of us live busy lives. God created us to work, but also to rest. Most people work hard during the week and crash on the weekend. We are designed to work from a place of rest, not rest from work.

Semi-circle copy

The semi-circle depicts a pendulum moving from rest to work and back. There are daily, weekly, monthly and annual rhythms of rest and work. When Jesus speaks in John 15 of remaining or abiding, He’s speaking of resting in Him. We need times of rest and recreation with Jesus and our our families. If we ignore Sabbath and rest with God, we will eventually crash. If we allow Him to prune us and renew us as we abide with Him during times of rest, we will bear much fruit when we work.

Are you abiding in Christ? Are you resting with Him? Are you spending quality time with Jesus, letting Him invite you into a deeper life of intimacy and faith while challenging you to greater levels of obedience and trust?

When we talk about Jesus as fully God yet fully man, it’s easy to think since Jesus was God He was never really tempted. Sure, Hebrews 4:15 says He was tempted in every way like us, but didn’t He brush it away like a mosquito and then do all of His magic tricks, healing the sick and opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead?

Jesus said no to temptation and did supernatural works because He was filled with the Holy Spirit…the same Holy Spirit available to you and me. If we abide with Jesus, if we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will change. We will grow. We will bear fruit. We will look increasingly like Jesus.

Paul wrote these words to the Church in Corinth:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

That’s remarkable!

Conclusion

Dallas Willard famously referred to those seeking salvation apart from sanctification and lordship as “vampire Christians” who only want a little blood but have no interest in following Jesus now. It’s one thing for Jesus to be our Savior and another to be truly LORD.

A few weeks ago we said one of our family rules is the Make Disciples. Disciples are students or imitators of their discipler. We are to be students and followers and imitators of Jesus.

It’s a life-long process, but if we hunger after God, if we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us, if we confess our sins and surrender our will, and if we abide, He will make us new. He will transform us into new creations like Jesus. He is able to take whatever mess we offer Him and make it beautiful. That’s our Sanctifier!

Credits

Some material taken from
The Fourfold Gospel, a C&MA/DNA publication.

Semi-circle LifeShape from Mike Breen and 3DMovements.com.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Jesus Our Savior, The Gospel Truth, 8 March 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to distinguish between the biblical gospel and the various misunderstandings of the word, specifically the difference between Jesus as Savior and Lord. We will use the Fourfold Gospel as our outline.

Big Idea: Jesus is our Savior, saving us from sin and death.

What is the
gospel? It is good news.

Many have said the gospel is the plan of salvation. It often goes something like this:

  • God loves you.
  • You sinned and are separated from God.
  • Jesus died to reconcile you to God.
  • If you pray to ask Jesus into your heart you’ll go to heaven when you die.

I literally spent years telling a version of that story to students in both the United States and Bolivia. Pray to receive Christ and you’re guaranteed a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card.

That is certainly good news, but the gospel is more. Much more. Pastor Bruxy Cavey defines the gospel with these thirty words:

“The gospel is the good news that God has come to us through Christ to show us His love, save us from sin, set us in community, and shut down religion.”

Last week we noted scholar N.T. Wright’s description of the grand story of history as a play with multiple acts:

Act 1: creation
Act 2: the Fall
Act 3: Israel
Act 4: Jesus
Act 5: New Testament and the people of God (the Church)

Some have suggested we are in Act 6, with Act 7 being the new heaven and new earth mentioned in Revelation.

If we skip Act 3, we miss a huge part of human history. Jesus was, Himself, a Jew, after all.

One of my professors wrote

“…the word gospel was used in the world of Jews at the time of the apostles to
announce something, to declare something as good news — the word evangelion
always means good news. “To gospel” is to herald, to proclaim, and to declare
something about something. To put this together: the gospel is to announce good
news about key events in the life of Jesus Christ. To gospel for Paul was to tell,
announce, declare, and shout aloud the Story of Jesus Christ as the saving news of
God.” (Scot McKnight,
King Jesus Gospel)

In three words, the gospel is Jesus is Lord. In one word, the gospel is Jesus.

Today we begin a new series, The Gospel Truth, looking at Jesus.

The Fourfold Gospel

Last week I mentioned A.B. Simpson, the founder of The Christian & Missionary Alliance, our denomination. After doing some research on his life a few years ago I was surprised to learn his influence not only in the C&MA but also the founding of the Assemblies of God and Foursquare denominations.

The Fourfold Gospel is the Christological summary on which the core values of The Alliance is based. Simpson saw Jesus as not only Savior—our focus today—but also his Sanctifier and Healer and Coming King. As we saw in the video earlier, it’s all about Jesus.

Who Is Jesus?

Last Sunday CNN began a series called Finding Jesus. I was pleasantly surprised at both its research and results. Part 2 will be shown tonight at 9 PM and you can view episodes at CNN.com.

Our faith is built upon Jesus—not a dream, not an idea…not even a book. It’s built upon a Person. I realize most of you are familiar with Jesus. If you’re like me you might be overly familiar with Him. This is a huge danger in any relationship. We can become so familiar and so comfortable with someone—a parent, spouse, child, friend—that we take them for granted and forget just how unique and special they are to us. That’s why we remember them by celebrating their birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, or some other occasion.

Who is Jesus? So much can be said about Jesus. In fact, John concluded his biography of Jesus by saying

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21:25)

There are, in fact, four biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. We refer to them as the four gospels because they are good news. They are about Jesus.

Savior

This week I was talking with our daughter about her favorite names for children. People name their kids after movie stars, athletes, biblical characters, and for a host of other reasons. Ancient Hebrews chose names that would speak prophecy about the mission or character of their children.

When my parents named me Kirk, they liked the sound of the name, but also its meaning: “church dweller.” They were quite prophetic!

In a similar way Jesus was not simply a name Mary and Joseph liked, but one carefully chosen to convey His mission. An angel of the LORD came to Joseph and said of Mary:

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

He is our Savior, saving us from our sins. Luke expressed this, as well, quoting Jesus:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Romans 3:21-26

The third chapter of Romans provides us with one of the clearest portraits of Jesus as Savior.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

God loves us. We all sin and fall short of His standard of perfection. Jesus shed His blood and died on the cross to save us, to forgive us, to enable us to be reconciled to a perfect and holy God.

Because Jesus is our Savior.

  • Our sins have been forgiven. (Colossians 1:14)
  • We have peace with God. (Romans 5:1)
  • We have been declared righteous. (Romans 5:19)
  • We are new creatures. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • We have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • We have been adopted by God. (Ephesians 1:5)
  • His Holy Spirit lives in us. (Galatians 4:6)
  • Jesus is our advocate. (1 John 2:1)
  • Nothing can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:35)
  • Death has no more power over us. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
  • We have an inheritance that can never perish. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

That’s quite a list! Which is the most meaningful to you?

Universal and Exclusive

Jesus is both a universal Savior and an exclusive Savior. John 3:16 says

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God loves the whole world and died for the whole world, but salvation is for those who believe in Jesus.

By the way, believe is not something simply done in your head, like you might believe in the Easter Bunny or that the Detroit Lions will win the next Super Bowl. Biblical belief requires action. It’s like believing a parachute will work and therefore you jump out of the airplane. You believe the odd-looking food is nourishing so you eat it. Faith is never passive.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Contrary to what contemporary culture tells us, there are not multiple paths to God. There is only one—Jesus Christ. Only One died for us. Only One conquered sin and death. Only One is alive thousands of years later!

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

This is, admittedly, politically incorrect. It can be downright offensive, except for the fact that Jesus died of all. He offers Himself as a gift to all…who receive the gift.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13)

In his book
Radical, David Platt tells of a conversation outside a Buddhist temple in Indonesia with a Buddhist leader and a Muslim leader. One said, “We may have different views about small issues, but when it comes down to essential issues, each of our religions is the same.” Platt said, “It sounds as though you both picture God (or whatever you call god) at the top of a mountain. It seems as if you believe that we are all at the bottom of the mountain, and I may take one route up the mountain, you may take another, and in the end we will all end up in the same place.” They smiled as I spoke. Happily they replied, “Exactly! You understand!” Then I leaned in and said, “Now let me ask you a question. What would you think if I told you that the God at the top of the mountain actually came down to where we are? What would you think if I told you that God doesn’t wait for people to find their way to him, but instead he comes to us?” They thought for a moment and then responded, “That would be great.” I replied, “Let me introduce you to Jesus.”

This is the gospel. The gospel is Jesus. He is our Savior who lived and died and rose for us. He offers each of us Himself as the greatest gift, a gift we can reject or receive.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We don’t deserve it; that’s grace, unmerited favor. It’s amazing!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Always Remember, Family rules, 1 March 2015

Big Idea: A healthy church family remembers its history…and His story.

Introduction

Every year Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, announces a “word of the year.” For example, in 2005 it was “podcast.” 2009’s word was “unfriend.” The 2013 word of the year was “selfie.”

Have you ever taken a selfie? Why?

We take pictures for one primary reason—to capture a moment and remember an event. I remember when my dad borrowed the first Sony video camera from a friend. We saw ourselves in black and white on our television and would later fill literally hundreds of videotapes (remember those?) with events recorded for future viewing. In fact, it’s not uncommon when we visit my mom to see our younger selves on her TV!

Imagine a world without video or even photography. How would we record an event? Primal cultures often drew pictures or used hieroglyphics. The most common tool we have is letters and books. Folk songs and folk tales have been popular oral traditions of remembering the past.

Know Thyself
Be Real
Welcome Strangers
Resolve Conflict
Serve Together
Celebrate Diversity
Make Disciples

Today’s rule is “always remember.”

Always remember. Like the others, it’s simple. Two words. Always remember. The opposite would be…never forget!

Why do remember…or why do we forget?

There’s a prominent subject in school dedicate to remembrance: history.

Do you like history?

Here are a few famous history quotes:

“The more you know of you history, the more liberated you are.” - Maya Angelou

“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” - Edmund Burke

“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” - Winston Churchill

Of course no quotes are more important than those from God. Did you know God remembers? “Of course,” you say, “He never forgets.” In the ninth chapter of Genesis he speaks to Noah following the flood.

I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:15-16)

Often the English word “remember” is a command to us. Why? Because we forget!

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. (Exodus 20:8)

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deuteronomy 5:15a)

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, (1 Chronicles 16:12)

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (Psalm 77:11)

This morning, family, there are three things I want us to always remember.

Scio’s History

First, our church family history. We began as the Ypsilanti Gospel Tabernacle in 1934. You may recall we celebrated our 80th anniversary last year.

The name was changed to the Alliance Bible Fellowship in 1984 when it moved to Carpenter School in Ann Arbor.

In 1988, this building was completed and our family became known as Scio Community Church.

(If the westward migration continues, we’ll eventually be called the Chicago Alliance Church!).

Many great pastors have guided our family over these 81 years and I’m humbled to serve today.

As we did last year, we celebrate God’s faithfulness over more than eight decades. A lot has changed since 1934, but our family remains together following Jesus.

The Alliance

Our church’s history doesn’t actually begin in Ypsilanti in 1934, but rather in New York City in the late 1800’s with a Canadian named A.B. Simpson. He established the New York Gospel Tabernacle “to bring likeminded people together into an organization that could facilitate outreach ministries.” This included the first team of missionaries to the Congo in 1994. Although the Christian & Missionary Alliance did not officially become a denomination until 1974, mission has literally been our middle name. We have brothers and sisters in 70 countries planing churches, training national church leaders, providing relief and development assistance, medical and dental care, and microenterprise projects. We have nearly 2000 churches in the USA, about 600 of which are intercultural. Globally, there are over 3 million people in our Alliance family

The Church

The third thing I want us to remember is the Church of Jesus Christ. It began about two thousand years ago from Jewish roots dating back to a covenant made between God and Abraham.

Theologian N.T. Wright views the Bible as a 5 Act Play.

Act 1: creation
Acts 2: the Fall
Act 3: Israel
Act 4: Jesus
Act 5: New Testament and the people of God (the Church)

Some have suggested we are in Act 6, with Act 7 being the new heaven and new earth mentioned in Revelation.

If indeed there are seven acts, Jesus is at the center in Act 4. His life, death and resurrection were not intended to begin a new religion, but rather pave the way for us to reconcile with our heavenly Father, discover what it means to be truly human, and experience the kingdom of God.

Perhaps you’ve looked at our
list of family rules and thought we should include “love God” or “love others,” but those two basic commands of Jesus have been interwoven throughout, and today we remember our Messiah who faithfully modeled those two simple yet challenging commands.

Communion

For centuries our brothers and sisters have remembered Jesus through an act known as the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or communion. It’s obedience to a command of Jesus.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Sometimes we are tempted to go through the motions, eating a tiny cracker and drinking a taste of grape juice. The context was actually supper. It was a meal. Perhaps we should do communion during our potlucks.

Paul continues to the people of Corinth

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Paul adds…

That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:30-32)

So What?

Throughout the scriptures we are told by God to remember. Without understanding the past we will struggle to understand the present and we will surely repeat mistakes.

Some want to live in the past. This is extremely dangerous. The rear view mirror helps us see where we’ve been and how we’ve got here, but if we stare too long in the rear view mirror we’ll have a tragic future!

We must remember the past. We can even celebrate the past. But we must never live in the past. God is always doing a new thing.

You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you. (Isaiah 48:6)

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. (Luke 5:37-38)

We are in Act 6 of the 7 act play God is producing. Many fear the future, but I’ve got great news for you: Jesus is already there! He’s in 2016. He’s in 2017. He’s in 3017! Every generation experiences things better and worse than previous generations, but God is with us…always. He is gradually unveiling His plans for humanity that will eventually lead to a new heaven and a new earth—an eternity with Him! I’ve read the end of the book.
The best is yet to come!

In the meantime, let’s remember the past, fully embrace the present, and co-create the future with Jesus until He returns.

Conclusion

Selfies are fun ways to capture ourselves in various places. Perhaps even better than a selfie is a group photo that shows us with family, in community. We were created for relationships—with God and others—and often our best memories come from shared experiences with others.

One More Thing

One more thing…join the family! You know our history. You know our mission. You know our rules. All that’s left is for you to briefly share your story with the elders.

Some people have told me they don’t need a piece of paper in order to be married, but a marriage certificate has meaning. It formally declares one’s commitment to another.

Church membership is similar. Perhaps you’ve thought, “This is my family, but why do I need to become a member?” Unlike American Express, membership is not loaded with privileges, but it does make a statement to the rest of the family that you’re committed to us. You want to be more than a roommate or spectator.

If you’re not yet a member of Scio, I urge to speak with an elder about formally joining our family. It really matters. Every Sunday is a family reunion, and you’re invited to join our family!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

E13U796O04I5BEO0