Prayer as Confession, 22 January 2023

Prayer as Confession
40 Days of Prayer
2 Samuel 11; Matthew 6:12; Psalm 51:1-17

Series Big Idea:
We are beginning the new year on our knees, joining other Alliance churches for 40 Days of Prayer.
Big Idea: Confession is a vital, liberating component of prayer.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Cheery question, right?! You’re in good company. The book of Romans says,
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23, NLT)
Sin is “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1 John 3:4; Rom. 4:15), in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of the life, whether by omission or commission (Rom. 6:12-17; 7:5-24). (Source: Easton’s Bible Dictionary)
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? All sin leads to death. All sin is harmful…to us and/or others. All sin is an offense against God. While any sin is enough to break the intended relationship between us and God, not all sins have equal consequences in this life. Going 61 miles an hour in a 60 will not have the same impact on our lives as going 100 miles an hour and crashing into a church nursery!
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Whatever it is, you’re in good company.
Jacob was a cheater.
Peter had a temper and denied Jesus.
Noah got drunk.
Jonah ran from God.
Paul was responsible for murder.
Miriam was a gossip.
Martha was a worrier.
Samson was a womanizer.
Rahab was a prostitute.
But one of the greatest figures in human history was involved in lust, likely rape, adultery, fathering a child out of wedlock, getting someone drunk, lying, and pre-meditated murder…in one story…and was still forgiven. His name: King David.
The story is epic.
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1, NLT)
Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. 3 He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. 5 Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:2-5, NLT)
This is the second time we’re told David stayed behind in Jerusalem…and plans a cover-up.
Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. 8 Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. 9 But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. (2 Samuel 11:6-9, NLT)
When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?” (2 Samuel 11:10, NLT)
Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.” (2 Samuel 11:11, NLT)
 “Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. (2 Samuel 11:12-13, NLT)
So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. 15 The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” 16 So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. 17 And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. (2 Samuel 11:14-17, NLT)
Lust, likely rape, adultery, fathering a child out of wedlock, getting someone drunk, lying, and pre-meditated murder. What follows—after a confrontation by Nathan the prophet—is confession…and forgiveness.
Have mercy on me, O God,
                        according to your unfailing love;
            according to your great compassion
                        blot out my transgressions.
2          Wash away all my iniquity
                        and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2, NIV)
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? Imagine it is blotted out. Imagine God washes it away. Imagine He no longer even knows what you’re talking about! That’s what King David was seeking. That’s what we all desire, right?
The king (eventually) acknowledged his sin. He confessed it. He came clean.
Do you find confession to be easy? Why or why not? I often find it easier to rationalize, to be defensive, to excuse my sins…it’s not that big of a deal…I didn’t kill anyone…people on TV do worse things…
But there’s freedom when we ‘fess up.
Confession is a vital, liberating component of prayer.
It’s the pathway to forgiveness . One of the most beautiful promises in the Bible says,
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9, NIV)
This is a conditional promise. If we confess. The psalmist offers a brilliant picture of that forgiveness.
as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12, NIV)
Is that good news? It’s why Jesus came, died, and rose.
We all experience the guilt associated with our sins. The number one reason people feel guilty is…because they’re guilty! But there’s hope for the person who has surrendered their life to Jesus Christ, accepted the reality of his life, death, and resurrection. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
I could talk about this for hours! The reason the cross has become the symbol of our faith is because it represents both the incredible sacrifice of Jesus and the incredible hope for us. Hallelujah!
Confession is vital, but there’s more. We must repent, turn, change.
Have you ever heard a parent say to a child, “Say you’re sorry” and the child responded, “Sorry!”?
Have you ever had someone apologize to you for the same thing…over and over?
It’s easy to question the sincerity. “Sorry” is not a magic word. True reconciliation is rooted in authenticity and sincerity. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never do it again, but we must genuinely seek change. This is why we offer Celebrate Recovery on Wednesday nights. It’s usually not enough to try harder. We need help. We need support. We need prayer. We need others. We certainly need the power of God.
In Psalm 51, David doesn’t just say, “Sorry.” A few verses later he says,
10         Create in me a pure heart, O God,
                        and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11         Do not cast me from your presence
                        or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12         Restore to me the joy of your salvation
                        and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
He wants restoration. Our mission is “restoring God’s masterpieces.” He wants the relationship with God that was broken by sin to be mended. He doesn’t stop there. He is changed by forgiveness.
13         Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
                        so that sinners will turn back to you.
He wants others to confess and experience the joy of forgiveness. Good news needs to be shared! If you’ve been forgiven, let others know the same freedom and cleansing is available to them.
David offers praise and worship to God as a result of our forgiveness, and we should, too.
That’s all background for today’s scripture!!!
As we continue our 40 Days of Prayer series on what we call the LORD’s Prayer, out text for today simply says,
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12, NIV)
Another translation says,
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12, NLT)
Debts. Sins. Trespasses. They can generally be used interchangeably.  This is a fascinating verse. We are to ask God to forgive us our sins, but there’s more. There’s an understanding—an assumption— that we have forgiven others. It’s as if Jesus is saying forgiveness is available, but don’t hoard it.
We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:9, NIV)
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.
We’ve been forgiven in order to be able to forgive.
We have a role to play in forgiveness. It begins with confession, but it seems greater than that.
I’ve noticed when it comes to prayer, we often want God to do all of the work. We might pray, “Feed the hungry, LORD” and God says, “You feed the hungry!” We may pray, “LORD, help me ace the exam tomorrow” and He responds, “Did you study?!”
Some of you have bought this lie of what some call cheap grace. It goes something like this: pray this magical prayer and then do whatever you want for the rest of your life. That’s not following Jesus. That’s not true repentance, turning from your sin. That’s not sincere confession.
I am not suggesting we have to walk on eggshells or worry about our salvation, but I am saying the deeper life with Jesus is not passive. We are invited to participate, by loving God, by loving our neighbor as ourselves, by making disciples of all nations, by picking up our cross daily and following Jesus, …and by forgiving. We don’t earn forgiveness by forgiving, but if we have experienced God’s forgiveness, we will be ready to forgive others. One writer notes, “Forgiveness of others is proof that that disciple’s sins are forgiven and he or she possesses salvation.” (NIV Application Commentary) Jesus said,
Matt. 6:14    For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15, NIV)
Wow! Someone said forgiveness is easy…until you have someone to forgive!
“But they don’t deserve to be forgiven.” True. Neither do you.
“But they hurt me.” True. Sin hurts.
“But I don’t have the power to forgive.” True. That’s why you need God and His forgiveness. You can’t give what you don’t have. Forgiven people forgive others.
One of Jesus’ best friends had a remarkable conversation with him.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV)
That doesn’t mean 490. Jesus meant for us to keep forgiving others as long as we want to be forgiven. The rest of Matthew 18 has more of Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness.
So What?
The message of our text is simple, but not easy.
and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. (Matthew 6:12, NLT)
God is quick to forgive, but he wants us to confess, to repent and turn away from sin, and to pass on forgiveness to others. What do you need to do today? Maybe you need to confess, to come clean, to get right with God. Perhaps you’re sick of confessing the same thing over and over and it’s time to take some serious action, to go to Celebrate Recovery, to share your struggle with a friend, to receive prayer from our elders. Some of you simply need to forgive…yourself or others. Jesus died to make that possible. Forgiveness brings freedom.
What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?
Maybe it’s refusing to forgive someone. Refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. They might not even know you’re bitter. Today’s the day to forgive and get free. It doesn’t necessarily mean to trust, nor does it mean to forget, but it means to pass on the forgiveness you’ve received to others.
Maybe the worst thing you’ve ever done is refusing to forgive yourself. Is God a liar?
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9, NLT)
We’ve been forgiven and, therefore, have the power to forgive others and ourselves. Hallelujah!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Faith, 13 March 2022

Series—Faith Works: The Book of James
James 5:13-20
Series Big Idea: Jesus’ half-brother, James, offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life.
Big Idea: Faith works when we pray, praise, profess, and pursue.
Faith works! That’s been the message throughout our series on the book of James which we conclude today.
For centuries there has been a tension between faith and works. Many believe if you have enough good works, they will cancel one’s sins and earn you eternity with God in heaven. Much of the Protestant Reformation was an attack on this “works” heresy, emphasizing Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus:
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, NIV)
Praise the LORD for His amazing grace, His gift, for Jesus. If we are good enough to earn God’s approval, Jesus suffered and died needlessly!
The book of Romans declares,
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. (Romans 3:23-24, NIV)
And yet Jesus’ half-brother, James, boldly states,
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26, NIV)
We are not saved by our works, but they are evidence of genuine faith. So many have misunderstood the “believe” in John 3:16 to mean if they mentally agree with historical statements, they can do whatever they want. James’ response:
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:19, NIV)
Family, that’s one of the most sobering verses in the Bible! To say you believe Jesus died and rose again is not enough, according to James, because satan himself witnessed the events. He knows it’s history, but he has refused Jesus’ simple invitation to “follow me.” Have you?
Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Faith works! Grace works! How? The conclusion of this short yet powerful book offers four action steps. For those of you who like alliteration, this is your day! First,
Pray when you suffer.
Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. (James 5:13a, NLT)
Simple, right…but is that always your first response? When I’m sick, sometimes I go right for the Tylenol. When someone hurts me, I want to lash back—or at the very least tell others about how I’ve been wronged. When I suffer anxiety over the news, I’m prone to panic, strategize, worry, or try to control situations far beyond my control.
Last week, Pastor Mike talked about suffering. It’s a part of life. Dare I say it’s a part of God’s plan, often, to build our character. If you ever hear prosperity heresy saying God wants you happy, healthy, and wealthy at all times, turn them off! Jesus knows suffering. He promised we’d know it, too…yet we’re so shocked when it happens. Gas prices go up and we freak out while people in Ukraine are running for their lives. We bellyache when our favorite brand of toilet paper is sold out at the store or when winter weather is…cold! Many of us have no idea what true suffering is all about—though many of us do. The point is simply this: pray!
Last Sunday at a First Alliance reunion, one person shared of their incredible suffering, calling it both their “high” and “low.” How can suffering be a high? It has drawn them closer to God.
When things are going well, it’s easy to forget God. I believe that’s one of the reasons why the movement of Jesus seems to be in decline in our nation. We haven’t needed God. Yet what message have you seen and heard more than any other during the war overseas? Pray for Ukraine. I’m told 70% of Ukranians are Christians…and I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is growing! They need God! They have nothing else! Their homes are being destroyed. Their valuables are being abandoned as they flee for their lives. I doubt any are calling their Internet provider to complain about slow downloads!
Pray when you suffer. Can we do that now?
The rest of verse thirteen says,
Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. (James 5:13b)
He doesn’t say only praise when you’re happy. God is always worthy of our praise. He is good…all the time! But all of us have moments of suffering and moments of happiness. God wants us to share both—with Him and with one another. Romans again:
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15, NIV)
It’s interesting how Christians seem to be good at the second part, but not the first part! The point is,
Praise when you are happy.
By the way, this is why we sing on Sundays…and elsewhere. It’s a command! Whether you’re a singer or not is beside the point. The word “sing” appears over one hundred times in the Bible. It doesn’t matter if you sing like an angel or can’t carry a tune in a paper bag…make a joyful noise! We sing for the LORD! We sing to the LORD! It's all about Him!
I know a guy in another city who purposely shows up thirty minutes late to his church to skip the music because he says he doesn’t like worship music. But God does!!!
Just to review verse 13,
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Now James circles back to suffering and prayer.
Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. (James 5:14-15, NLT)
We believe in the power of prayer! Each week our elders are available at the conclusion of our gathering to pray for the sick. We’ve seen God heal! Miracles have not ceased! He doesn’t always answer when and how we desired, but as James said earlier,
You do not have because you do not ask God. (James 4:2b, NIV)
Again, when we suffer, when we are sick, pray! God is not a genie offering on-demand responses to our petitions, but He does hear and He always answers…in His perfect timing. I have tons of questions for God. I have doubts, at times. But I know God is good. I know He can be trusted. I’ve suffered for many years with various challenges, yet I am here to declare God’s faithfulness.
Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. (James 5:15, NLT)
Don’t miss the last part. I believe the greatest miracle is not cancer cured or even broken marriages restored, but forgiveness…salvation. If all God ever did for us was send Jesus, that would be more than enough. Family, this life is so short. Followers of Jesus will be with him forever. Forever! How does that compare to 80 or even 100 years? If the sickness is related to sin—which is possible—it can be forgiven.
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16a, NLT)   
It doesn’t say confess to a priest. It doesn’t even say confess to God. He knows! It says confess to and pray for each other…so that you may be healed. Scientists are discovering what the Bible has said for generations: our mind impacts our body. Bitterness can cause physical problems. Buried guilt and shame can make us sick. And let’s not forget sometimes our suffering is the result of our sin. This is not always the case, but many of our ailments and pain are the consequences of sin—ours or those of someone else. This is why God hates sin!
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b, NLT)   
First Alliance is as church of prayer. One of our core values states,
Faithfulness. We are devoted to prayer, the Word of God, and following Jesus.
We have Zoom Prayer each weekday at 9 AM. Elders are available each Sunday morning.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16a, NLT)   
Our Life Groups are perhaps the best prayer gathering we have as people do life together, confessing sins and praying for one another.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. (James 5:16b, NLT)   
I could spend all day telling stories of the prayers of righteous people producing wonderful results. Hallelujah!
James uses Elijah as an example of the power of prayer.
Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. (James 5:17-18, NLT)   
That’s the power of prayer! You can read all about it and other miracles in 1 Kings chapter 18.
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Lastly, James says we are to
Pursue the wanderer.
We live in a culture that seems to be increasingly independent. People don’t want to get involved in the affairs of others, and often for good reason. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of confrontation. But I’m often reminded of a wonderful book title by Lewis Smedes: Caring Enough to Confront. James says,
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:19-20, NLT)
This isn’t about self-righteously judging others, but rather loving…looking out for the best interest of another. It’s not always “nice.” Sometimes love can look rather harsh. It can even inflict pain! Why did I vaccinate my children? Love. Did it hurt? You bet! Did it harm? Quite the opposite.
Nice is not love. Tolerance is not love, either. How would you feel if I sent you a card that said, “I tolerate you!” Love gets involved. Love shows kindness, compassion, and empathy. Love believes in a preferred future and takes risks to protect another. Jesus said,
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. (Matthew 18:15, NIV)
That’s not easy…especially if they don’t listen!
But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:16-17, NIV)
By the way, it never says gossip to others. It never says tell Facebook! The goal is always restoration and reconciliation, and that’s James’ point.
My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. (James 5:19-20, NLT)
This is not easy. It’s risky. You might be misunderstood. Your motives must be checked. James is not condoning condemnation. It is about helping a brother or sister get back on the path. Questions are helpful rather than attacks. One of my favorite tools is, “Help me understand.”
It seems as though people are wandering in record numbers. It’s trendy to “deconstruct” one’s faith, which is fine, so long as it is reconstructed and not abandoned. I recently saw a post which said,
Many people reject Jesus because of bad experiences with religious people. But, here’s the thing…Jesus had bad experiences with religious people, too. In fact, they killed him. People will let you down. Jesus won’t.
I pray that we can lovingly bring back wanderers to the faith. I am praying for several prodigals to return to their first love, Jesus. It’s a thrill to see someone repent of their sins and surrender to Christ.
Pursue the wanderer.
This is how James ends his important book. To summarize,
Pray when you suffer.
Praise when you are happy.
Profess your sins.
Pursue the wanderer.
What is your next step? Do you need to pray? Praise? Confess and profess your sins? Pursue a prodigal?
Throughout this book, Jesus’ half-brother, James, offers us timeless instructions for living a God-honoring life because…faith works!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Repentance, 10 January 2021

Series—40 Days of Prayer with The Alliance
Revelation 1-3

Series Big Idea: We are beginning—and spending—the year on our knees seeking God’s direction, protection, passion, and unity.

Big Idea: “Be holy, for I am holy.” Repentance can help us turn toward holiness.

I’m so grateful to the leaders of the Christian & Missionary Alliance to call us to 40 Days of Prayer to begin 2021. Last year was a challenging year for all of us, and the events of Wednesday in our nation’s capital proved the new year did not magically fix everything. We are broken people desperately in need of a Savior. Some thought our president was that savior. Others have given their allegiance to the next one. The hopes of herd immunity to rid the world of COVID-19 are everywhere. If we can just get those $2000 checks, eliminate racism, stop global warming, develop a source of accurate news, beat Alabama tomorrow night…!!!

Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the fruit in the Garden of Eden, our world has been plagued by sin. We are plagued by sin. It’s easy to point fingers at people on TV, but as the song says, “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with…me.” I can’t control the outcome of elections, the behavior of blasphemers, the attitude of adulterers, the liars, the haters, the murderers, the…

It begins with me. It begins with you. It begins with us…on our knees.

Last Sunday we began our series talking about God’s holiness. Alliance pastor A.W. Tozer said,

God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God's power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot even imagine.

The Tozer Devotional adds…

Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life.

We underestimate God’s power and holiness while overestimating our goodness. He is God…and we are not. We don’t deserve to even gain an audience with Him, yet He loves us, proved it, and invites into an eternal relationship with Him. Jesus models for us what it truly means to be human—and holy.

Do you want to be like Jesus? That’s essentially the definition of
discipleship—becoming like Christ.

We know that’s his desire for us, which is why I get so frustrated when my life—or the lives of others who claim to follow Christ—doesn’t look like Jesus.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Are you holy? It’s sort of a trick question. On the one hand, we are made holy because of the cross. Hebrews tells us about God’s will.

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

We are set apart. We are purified, consecrated, set apart, sanctified.

But on the other hand we’re not perfect. We sin, fail, rebel, and disobey. Our lives do
not always look like Jesus. He is our example, our teacher, our model, our hero. Just because we don’t get it right every time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Dallas Willard said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”

God says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” How do we do that? Repentance is required. Repentance is another one of those religious words we don’t often here in the broader culture and it’s often confused with confession.

Confession is a statement. Repentance requires action.

Confession is admitting wrongdoing. It might involve remorse and an apology, but at its most basic level, confession is saying, “I did it.”

Repentance is something we do. It’s a verb. Eugene Peterson wrote,
You don’t repent by taking a deep breath and then feel better. You only repent when you turn around and go back or toward God. It doesn’t make any difference how you feel. You can have the feeling, or you don’t have to have the feeling. What’s essential is that you do something. The call to repentance is not a call to feel the remorse of your sins. It’s a call to turn around so that God can do something about them.
Repentance is to do a u-turn, to turn around, to move in a different direction.
I’m grateful for GPS when I drive. Some of us old people remember the days of pulling
maps out of the glove box (did anyone ever have room for their gloves in the glove box?) to get directions. We’d fumble around with this huge piece of paper until we could discover our place, our destination, and the path between them.
Now we just tell Siri where to go and she tells us where to go! Occasionally I find myself disobeying her commands! Recently on the expressway I had to make a pit stop at an exit and she wanted to re-route me. Turn around! You’re going the wrong way! Get back on the right road!
Many of us have been moving in the
wrong direction…and therefore, we’re not in the right place. We’re not experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised. We’re living with anxiety, fear, regret, or guilt. We’re ashamed of where we’ve gone and we don’t know how to turn around.
I need to stop right here and say that’s where Jesus comes in! That’s why God’s grace is so amazing. Forgiveness is always available. It’s never too late to turn around, to repent,
to turn around, to get right with God, to follow Jesus. He said,
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
The good news—the gospel—is that Jesus is LORD, and he invites us to follow him, to experiencing forgiveness and salvation not because of what we do, but because of what he’s done for us on the cross, proving his love and commitment to us by dying for us, for our sins, and reconciling us to our Holy, Heavenly Father.
But we must repent. We must turn. We must change…not by trying harder, but by surrendering to God and letting the Holy Spirit work in and through us.
Jesus didn’t say confess and believe. He didn’t tell us to say a little prayer and go back to normal life. He said repent—turn, change—and believe. The Greek word, pisteuo, for believe means to commit, to put in trust with, to have faith. Like repentance, it involves action.
Why Repent?
You might be asking yourself why we need to repent. If Jesus paid it all, can’t I take my “get out of hell free” card and do it my way? There are several reasons why repentance is essential. The first chapter of the last book of the Bible—Revelation—reveals several. Jesus’ best friend, John, had a revelation from God. He wrote,
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)

I repent because I am blessed.

I have a friend who has a reputation for giving candy to children at his church. It’s not a creepy thing, but a kind gesture that the area dentists love! He’s a magnet for kids who know that turning toward him will result in a blessing. We’ve been blessed by God and it should be natural to want to be with Him, to follow Him.

Two verses later, John greets his readers with grace and peace…

and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (Revelation 1:5)

I repent because I am in awe of Jesus’ work on the cross.

After decades of knowing Jesus, I still am in awe of his sacrifice. Last Sunday we celebrated communion together, remembering the cross and the empty tomb. We turn away from sin, repent, and follow Jesus because of all that he has done for us.

The next verse continues by saying that Jesus
and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:6)
I repent because I am a priest.

I don’t mean a pastor. That’s my job title. But Jesus has made all of his followers to be priests, serving God. I don’t even understand completely what that means, but I know I can’t bring him glory if I’ve wandered away from Him…which leads to a fourth reason to repent.

I repent because I am able to walk away from holiness and need a wake-up call. (Revelation 1:11-3:22)

Sin has consequences, both from God and from everyday life. You reap what you sow. No matter how passionate and sincere you may be today, it’s possible to wander tomorrow. This is why sanctification is both an action and a process. Repentance is not once-and-done, but like driving a car, a constant steering of our lives, making adjustments, and sometimes making significant corrections.

Many students of the book of Revelation love to search for meanings in the symbolism and apocalyptic messages of the book, but the first three chapters require little interpretation. Jesus speaks to seven churches in cities you can visit to this day. Here’s a quick summary:
  1. 1. Ephesus: Repent from Idolatry
“You have forsaken your first love.” (Revelation 2:4)
“Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:5)
  1. 2. Smyrna: No repentance warning; suffering produces holiness
  2. 3. Pergamum: Repent from tolerating false teaching and sexual sin
Following teaching of Balaam (sexual sin) and Nicolaitans (false teaching) (Revelation 2:14–15)
“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:16)
  1. 4. Thyatira: Repent from tolerating sexual immorality and idolatry taught by false prophetess, causing disunity
Gave her time to repent; she is unwilling to repent of sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:21)
“So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Revelation 2:22–23)
  1. 5. Sardis: Repent from dead faith and lack of deeds
“Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Revelation 3:3)
  1. 6. Philadelphia: No repentance warning; suffering produces holiness
  2. 7. Laodicia: Repent from self-sufficiency, materialism, and lukewarm faith
“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
So What?

It can be interesting to read the accounts of others and their sins, but what about you? At this moment, do you need to repent? Fill in the blank:

I need to repent from ______________

Maybe it’s idolatry. You’ve given more of your time, talents, treasures, and love to something or someone other than God. It might be a good thing like family or a destructive habit like drugs. Politics has clearly become an idol for many in our day. The church in Ephesus had lost their first love, Jesus. Have you?

Maybe it’s sexual sin like those in Pergamum. Porn, adultery, …any sexual activity that isn’t between a husband and wife. Our culture says it’s no big deal, even celebrating it, but it’s unholy. It’s settling. It’s sin.

Maybe it’s something related to disunity like the Thyatirans. Gossip, slander, criticism, half-truths, judging others, divisiveness.

Maybe it’s a dead faith like the church in Sardis. Maybe it’s not your actions but your inaction that needs to change. When is the last time you really prayed, studied the Bible, shared your faith, gave sacrificially of your time or talents or treasure? You say you believe, but is there evidence…or do you just go through the motions on Sunday morning?

Maybe it’s the self-sufficiency and materialism of the Laodician church. This is especially common among many in our nation who think they don’t need God. We have money, hospitals, cars, the Internet…who has time or need for God? Do you really trust God…or your bank account, career, or power?

Where do you need to repent, to turn, to change? Again, the good news—the great news—is that God offers forgiveness and grace to all of us. Nothing you can do can make God love you more, and nothing you can do can make God love you less.

But until you repent, you won’t be following Jesus. Until you turn away from your sins, you won’t experience true peace. Until you choose to make Jesus LORD and not just Savior, you will never know true intimacy with your Creator and the fruit of the Spirit.
Where do we need to repent as a church? What sin are we tolerating? Where do we exalt wrong teaching or worldly philosophy? Where are we allowing division to creep in? Where have we started to become dead or lukewarm in caring about our community and the world? Where have we become confident in our own wealth and power? Are we even able to suffer?
LORD, Have Mercy

Credits: some ideas taken from Amy Roedding and The Alliance

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Pure in Heart, 16 August 2020

Blessed are the Pure in Heart
Blessed: The Beatitudes
Matthew 5:8

Series Big Idea: The greatest sermon in history is radical, revolutionary, and relevant.

Big Idea: God is on your side when you’re pure in heart, when you stop playing games and come clean with the real you.

NIV: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

The Message: “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. (Matthew 5:8)

When I was a little boy, one of my favorite things to do at my grandma’s house was take a bath. I know, some kids like to get dirty. It’s not that I didn’t like to get dirty, but grandma always played this little game where she’d put a wet washrag on my back and I had to reach back and try to get it off.

I can vaguely remember the sights and sounds of those interactions, but I’ve been told the most triggering sense is smell. To this day, whenever I smell Ivory soap, I’m transported back twenty—thirty—ok, more than forty years ago to time with my grandma.

It seems like everyone in my generation had a grandma that used Ivory soap. Oddly enough, I never remember it in my house growing up, but it was grandma’s soap. Developed in 1879 by Harley Proctor (who started a little business with his friend Mr. Gamble!) it still floats and boasts that it is 99.44% pure.

What does it mean to be pure? As we continue our series on the Beatitudes or blessings announced by Jesus in Matthew chapter five, we read these words,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

I love God! I really love God. There’s one significant challenge to a relationship with God: we cannot experience Him with our senses.

You can’t smell God, though I love to smell the beautiful flowers He has created.

You can’t touch God, though you can touch a human created in His image.

You can’t taste God, even though the scriptures metaphorically say, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8)

You can’t hear God, though He speaks through the Bible and, occasionally, in other ways.

You can’t see God, though according to this verse those who are pure in heart will see God.

Would you like to see God? People saw God the Son, Jesus Christ, for thirty-three years. The glory of the Father, however, is more than our eyes could behold.

There’s a great story in the Old Testament book of Exodus where God is pleased with Moses.

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23)

We cannot see God’s face in these bodies, with these eyes. I’ve often thought it would be like staring at the sun. You can physically do it, but it will have terrible consequences.

Someday, we will have new, resurrected bodies that will be able to experience God in new ways. That’s part of our hope for the next life, a deeper, more sensory encounter with our Creator.

Job, in the midst of his terrible suffering in what many consider to be the oldest book in the Bible, said,

I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I
will see God;
I myself will see him
with my own eyes—I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

He wants to see God. He yearns for deeper intimacy with the Almighty. Do you? If you do, pay attention to this announcement from Jesus, this declaration of reality:

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

Let’s go back to pure. One dictionary defines purity as, “not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material.” The Greek word used here, katharos, means clean or clear or pure.

Not long ago we started hearing about “clean eating.” The idea behind it is avoiding artificial ingredients and processed foods, instead eating real foods, things you can pronounce! If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients in convenience store snacks, it sounds more like a science experiment than body fuel! I must confess after exposure to clean eating, I occasionally want to nibble on some “dirty” food!

I think that leads to Jesus’ point here. It’s not always easy or natural to be clean and pure. Temptation comes our way each day, seemingly each moment. We are not perfect. We’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), His standard of perfection found only in Jesus. As we’ve noted previously, this left us hopeless until Jesus came, lived a perfect life, died for us offering forgiveness, and rose from the dead, conquering sin and death.

We cannot be pure on our own efforts. I’m not perfect. I’m not pure. But because of Jesus, we can be clean. Natalie Grant sings in her recent song, “Clean,”

There's nothing too dirty That You can't make worthy You wash me in mercy I am clean Washed in the blood of Your sacrifice Your blood flowed red and made me white My dirty rags are purified I am clean

Being clean is good. The people around us generally prefer us to be clean! We know the importance of clean hands, especially during COVID-19. We wash our cars, brush our teeth, and even bathe our pets because we want them clean.

But sometimes things—or people—appear to be clean, but they’re not pure. They’re not the same inside as outside. They have a divided heart. A divided heart can never be pure.

I love children. I loved being daddy to three little people who are now grown up and having their own little people. I really love being Papa! Our grandson is due to arrive this fall, just weeks before our granddaughter turns two.

Perhaps the best and worst thing about children is their lack of filters. You always know how they feel! They don’t censor themselves…even when you wish they would! If they’re angry, their whole body will declare it to the world! If they are sad, it’s time to find a box of Kleenex! When they are happy, they fill their environment with joy. What you see on the outside reflects what is going on inside. There are no masks or edits. They have an undivided heart. They have no false self…only their true self.

Jesus was a friend of sinners, yet he was an enemy to many of the religious. This is a very sobering reality for me as a pastor! Once when Jesus was talking to a group of pious Pharisees, he said,

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26)

Have you ever opened a cupboard and grabbed a mug or bowl…only to find leftover food inside? It might look great on the outside, but you put it in the sink and find a clean vessel.

We often think of purity as living a set of rules perfectly. C.S. Lewis said,

“If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. . . . According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”

The thing about pride, of course, is it can be masked. For literally thousands of years, religious people have found ways to look good on the outside…while being dirty inside. Since we can’t see someone’s heart, we assess based upon what we can see…clothing, church attendance, moral behavior, etc. There’s nothing wrong with righteous living, of course, but if we are not consistent—our clean presentation is actually deceitful. We live a lie.

Dr. Michael Wilkin notes,

Purity or cleanliness was an important religious theme in Jesus’ day. Observing all the Old Testament laws of being clean could bypass the most important purity of all, purity of the heart. Jesus declares here that a pure heart is what produces external purity, not vice versa.”

Who is the most authentic person in your life? Who’s brutally honest? Who refuses to sugar-coat, to pretend, to cover up and get defensive?

I mentioned children and their transparency, but often the most consistent adults are those who have been broken—by addiction, grief, loss,…life!—and experienced grace, healing, and forgiveness. The masks no longer fit. What you see is what you get. It’s not that they boast of their sins and failures, but they’ve gotten past guilt and shame, pretending and hiding. They see themselves as a broken masterpiece in the midst of restoration. It’s messy, hopeful, and beautiful.

Some people can’t deal with uncomfortable. They’d rather pretend everything’s ok than expose their true self. Their pride leads them toward independence rather than humbly acknowledging we need one another. Wearing a mask can be exhausting…and lonely. We weren’t created to be autonomous. We were made for community.

Life Groups

This has been especially clear during the pandemic. Several of you have expressed your desire for deeper relationships. You recognize an hour on Sunday staring at the back of someone’s head is not enough. We call ourselves a family, but if family is nothing more than a weekly gathering, is it really functional?

Celebrate Recovery meets each Wednesday at 7 PM in our Fellowship Hall. It’s designed to be a safe place where you can share your hurts, hangups, and habits. Every one of you would find it beneficial. I’ve been! It is filled with some of the most authentic, honest people you will ever meet.

This fall, I’d love to see community expand beyond Sunday morning and Celebrate Recovery. I believe the most effective churches through COVID-19 have been the ones doing life together. They are not churches with small groups, but churches of small groups. They view church not as a building or gathering, but a 24/7/365 family on mission together, doing life together.

You’ll be hearing more about new Life Groups in the coming weeks. For now, if you’re interested in a small group of people doing life together—not just a weekly Bible study, but a small group committed to meeting together, serving together, growing together, and being family together, would you text your name to 419.381.2066? You’re not signing up for a class. This is for people who want to connect with others this fall, ideally once a week, but then available for one another the rest of the week. Life Groups. (Real) life together.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

The pure in heart have an undivided heart. Like Ivory soap, they are the same on the inside and outside.

Religion is concerned about externals, making a good impression, putting on a show, looking the part. Jesus constantly spoke of the heart. It was the center of his teaching. He never said, “Blessed are the intellectuals.” He didn’t say, “Blessed are the achievers.” His declaration was not, “Blessed are the impressive or those who look good on the surface.” He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart.”

Perhaps when you hear “pure in heart” you feel dirty. We’ve all messed up, which is why we need Jesus. He doesn’t just power wash our exterior. He cleans us up from the inside out. We can’t do it on our own. If we could be good enough, Jesus never needed to die.

No matter who you are or what you’ve done, you can be pure. You can be forgiven. You can be clean!

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

But we don’t stop there. We repent. We turn. We change. We cry out to God for help. We let Him take control. We surrender. We’re all a work in progress. The Holy Spirit lives inside every follower of Jesus. We simply need to let go and let God…take over.

If this is new to you, that’s another reason to get in a Life Group this fall. There are people in our family that would love to help you take next steps on your journey.

Please understand, I’m not perfectly pure. None of us is. But we’ve been forgiven, we’ve been cleansed, we’ve received mercy, …and as we do life with Jesus, we become like Jesus. You are your friends. Choose wisely.

As we are drawn away from our sinful flesh and toward Jesus, we will want to do what pleases him. We will want to obey. As we grow and submit to the Holy Spirit, we will be sanctified, becoming like Jesus. It’s a journey…a lifelong process. We will fail. Rather than covering up like Adam and Eve in the Garden, we can be real. We can acknowledge our sins, get clean, and try again. The worst thing we can do is be overcome by pride, pretend it didn’t happen, fake it, and try to impress people. God sees it all!

Family, I hope we’re a community that’s real. There’s no need to impress…me or anyone else. The sooner we admit our flaws, the sooner we can fix them, grow, and experience the freedom of forgiveness.

D.A. Carson writes, ”You can start trying to clean your heart, but at the end of your long life it will be as black as it was at the beginning, perhaps blacker. No! It is God alone who can do it, and , thank God, He has promised to do it. The only way in which we can have a clean heart is for the Holy Spirit to enter into us and to cleanse it for us. Only his indwelling and working within can purify the heart and He does it by working in us ‘both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’” This doesn’t mean we ignore our sin. Rather, it reminds us of our need for a Savior, our dependency upon God, …and that we haven’t arrived!

The Message translates our verse,

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
(Matthew 5:8, The Message)

Jesus announces that God is on your side when you’re pure in heart, when you stop playing games and come clean with the real you. We need to return to childlike wonder, admit the reality of our brokenness, and reach out to Jesus for healing, for wholeness, for shalom, for forgiveness, for cleansing. The psalmist wrote,

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)

Although I rarely take a bath, there’s nothing like a hot shower on a cold winter morning…or a cool one after a workout in the summer. There’s something refreshing about being clean…for your sake and those around you! But the most important clean—the most important purity—is a pure heart. A consistent heart. An undivided heart.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)

As followers of Jesus, we see God in nature. We see God throughout history. We see God at work transforming people to become like Jesus. And yes, one day we will see Him face to face as we enjoy Him forever. Hallelujah!

Credits: Some ideas from The Beatitudes Project and D.A. Carson

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

You can watch this video and others at the First Alliance Church Video Library

Come, Holy Spirit, 31 May 2020

Come, Holy Spirit
Acts 2

Big Idea: We must be filled with and led by the Holy Spirit.

Video: Holy Spirit (The Bible Project)

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we remember the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church in Acts 2 as found in today’s scripture reading. It’s a profoundly important moment in history.

Today is significant to First Alliance Church because it’s the first time many of you have been able to see each other face to face. Letters are great, texts are fine, phone calls are nice, and I’m grateful for FaceTime and Zoom, but there’s nothing like being physically present with someone.

Have you ever wished you could spend some time with Jesus? I mean physically be with Jesus. Let’s face it, prayer is wonderful and the Bible is fantastic, but haven’t you had those moments when you longed to see Jesus face to face?

Imagine you were a disciple of Jesus. You traveled with him. You ate with him. You saw him heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the thousands, and preach incredible sermons. Life with Jesus literally transformed your life. Now imagine in the middle of three years with him, he drops this bomb:

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

You’re leaving us, Jesus? You’re going away? How can you call this good? We like you! What could be better than having you lead our team?

Jesus said it was for their good that he would go away. That was partially a reference to Good Friday when he would leave his friends and die for them…and us. But it was also a reference to his ascension when he left our planet, paving the way for the Holy Spirit.

N.T. Wright in at least two of his books describes history as a five-act play. Act One is creation, seen in the opening pages of the Bible in Genesis. What follows, Act Two, is the Fall of Adam and Eve, sinning in the Garden of Eden and creating chaos for all of creation from that day forward. Act Three is Israel, God’s chosen people beginning with His covenant with Abraham which continued throughout Jewish Bible we call the Old Testament. Act Four is Jesus, chronicled in the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Act Five begins in the book of Acts, the emergence of the Church, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, events that continue to this day.

We worship one God in three Persons, a mystery known as the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been present throughout all five acts. In fact, Pentecost began as
an Old Testament celebration called the Feast of Harvest or the Feast of Weeks. We think of Pentecost as the day the Holy Spirit birthed the Church with power, adding 3000 new believers in Acts 2. Prior to Pentecost, we see the Spirit in one place at a time. What made Pentecost so special was the distribution of God’s presence among multiple people.

Throughout act three—Israel—God’s presence on earth was most visible in a special part of the temple called the holy of holies where God dwelled behind a curtain. The day Jesus was crucified,

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:38)

You might say God’s presence escaped the temple. God left the building. It wasn’t that God wasn’t present in the temple, but that the temple could not hold Him. No longer would people have to travel to a particular place to encounter the living God. Let’s look at what happened on Pentecost Sunday.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1-4)

This was no ordinary day. This was a multi-media extravaganza! The Holy Spirit filled all of those gathered. They started speaking known languages they had never learned, a reversal of the Tower of Babel when God confused the people with multiple languages (Genesis 11:9). Author John Gill notes,

“Through this baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, the apostles became more knowing, and had a greater understanding of the mysteries of the Gospel, and were more qualified to preach it to people of all nations and languages.”

For many of these believers, they loved Jesus, grieved his death, celebrated his resurrection, watching him ascend into heaven, grieved his departure, and then became temples of God as the Holy Spirit arrived.

It’s a little ironic talking about Pentecost on the day we return to our physical campus. First Alliance Church never closed. Our buildings were shut, but these buildings are not the house of the LORD. They are not the temple. God’s presence and power dwells in each follower of Jesus since Acts 2. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (1 Corinthians 3:16)

All of this. Had been prophesied. Jesus, of course, had announced the future coming of the Holy Spirit.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26)

He also said,

When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:8-11)

He gave even more details in the first chapter of the book of Acts.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This all came to pass in the very next chapter.

Jesus was not the first to predict the events of Pentecost. The prophet Joel declared God’s words.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28)

Peter quotes this text in the second chapter of Acts. What follows is nothing short of miraculous. The capital-C Church was born, a group of Spirit-filled believers who literally changed the world. I never get sick of reading this passage. Acts 2:41 says because of the movement of the Holy Spirit and Peter’s preaching,

Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)

Wow! That’s what I call church growth! Those numbers are impressive, but that’s not all.

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Years ago, I worked at a church called 2|42 Community Church. Its name came from this text. It’s a wonderful picture of church. Again, the temple is mentioned, but church was not a building or a service, but a family of people who did life together. They were devoted to

  • - Teaching
  • - Fellowship
  • - Community meals
  • - Prayer

They experienced miracles. They did life together, sharing everything. This occurred every day, not merely an hour a week. Much of their lives were spent in homes.

This sounds a little like the past two and a half months for First Alliance Church! We’ve not been in large groups, but people have been meeting together both online and in person in small groups. Meals have been shared. Prayer have been prayed…and answered! Teaching and equipping are occurring. It has been very different, but the Holy Spirit has been at work in and through us.

I’ve heard many pastors say they want a “New Testament church.” The problem is, there are many mentioned, including seven called out in the beginning of the book of Revelation. They were all messed up. Each had issues, just like ours. There is no perfect church, only a perfect Senior Pastor whose name is Jesus.

Acts 2 sounds amazing—and it was—but Jesus promised following him would not always be easy.

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

A moment ago, we looked at his words in Acts 1:8. The Alliance calls itself a “Christ-centered, Acts 1:8 family.” This is a pretty important passage!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The original Greek word for witnesses,
martus, means “martyrs.” Many of these early believers who were filled with the Holy Spirit were persecuted for their faith. Many died as martyrs. Their passion was real. Church wasn’t something they did, it was who they were.

So What?

What about you? What about us? Where do we go from here? As we create the future, we desperately need the Holy Spirit. If you think I’m smart enough to guide us, you’re fooling yourself! If you think the elders possess the necessary wisdom, you’re mistaken. We need the Holy Spirit. Individually. Corporately.

When you give your life to Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit, too. Unfortunately, many are not filled with the Spirit. Some are afraid of the Holy Spirit because they think the Spirit will make them bark like a dog or do something weird. Others have dismissed the Spirit, practically seeing the Trinity as the Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Because certain gifts of the Spirit have been abused, they conclude we don’t need them…though the enemy is capable of distorting all of God’s good gifts.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts, not for our selfish use, but rather for the benefit of the Body, the Church. Nobody has all of the gifts. There’s no one gift that every believer possesses. Some of the gifts include teaching, giving, mercy, service, healing, wisdom, faith, tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, helps, leadership, and miracles. There are four primary lists of spiritual gifts found in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Timothy 4. As a Christian & Missionary Alliance church we believe in all of the gifts and their proper use to serve the Body of Christ.

The Holy Spirit also produces fruit in our lives.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Show me someone who is growing in those areas and I’ll show you someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. The true test is Christ-likeness, not any particular gift.

We are to be filled with the Spirit.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)

Being filled with the Spirit is something we must continually do, like breathing. You don’t stop! That’s the meaning of the words “be filled” in Ephesians 5:18.

How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit? It involves surrender, picking up your cross daily to follow Jesus, setting aside your agenda and rights, inviting the Spirit to live in and through you.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Spirit is already living inside of you, but might not be fully activated, much like you can have central air conditioning in your house but it won’t cool your home until it’s turned on.

There’s so much that can be said about the Holy Spirit, but here’s the bottom line:

We need God. We need the Holy Spirit. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know what lies ahead for First Alliance Church, but the Spirit knows.

I don’t know how we can restore God’s masterpieces in Toledo, but the Spirit does.

I don’t have the power to change a life, a marriage, a broken body, a hurting heart, but the Spirit does.

I don’t possess all of the gifts necessary to be Jesus to our city, but together if we are filled with the Spirit, we do.

The Holy Spirit descended upon the city of Jerusalem about 2000 years ago and the world has never been the same as men, women and children around the world have been conduits of God’s blessing, presence, and power.

I am praying for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the city of Toledo, equipping us and our spiritual siblings at The Tabernacle, The Vineyard, Harvest Lane Alliance, Perrysburg Alliance, Westgate Chapel, Cedar Creek, and others to become more like Jesus, to be transformed by faith, hope, and love.

This is a critical moment in history. We’re not going back. God is doing a new thing. Now more than ever, we need the Holy Spirit to guide and provide, to encourage and give us courage, to direct and protect.

Come, Holy Spirit. You are welcome here!

You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.

Be Real, Family Rules, 18 January 2015

Series Overview: The purpose of this series is to cast a vision for a healthy church family, noting particular strengths and weaknesses of Scio in the process.

Big Idea: A healthy church family shares joys and sorrows honestly.

Real Versus Fake

We live in a world where things are not always as they appear. In a word, there are many fake things we encounter. We have

fake food (did you ever grab a fake apple hoping to enjoy a juicy bite?)
fake money
fake shoes
fake electronics
fake tans
fake hair and nails and eyelashes

Photoshop and other tools have made it difficult to know if things are real or fake.

When we meet a person, we usually have no way of knowing whether they are for real or merely trying to make a good first impression. This is especially true with people asking for help, be it at an exit ramp or on a downtown sidewalk. How do we know if their story is legit?

It’s one thing to believe in a fake object, but quite another to believe a fake person. Unfortunately, people can be fake long after we meet them. It’s so common for people to hide their true self. We commonly call this facade a mask. Some go as far as maintaining the mask until they get married and then, suddenly, they show their true colors to their new spouse, providing a terrible surprise. They put their best foot forward during the courting, hiding their true self.

This is week two of our series
Family Rules, a double entendre. Followers of Jesus are part of the universal family of God, worldwide. Specifically, this series is about the family known as Scio Community Church. Who are we? How are we to live, not as individuals, but together as family? These are questions we are addressing throughout this series.

Last Sunday began with rule number one: know thyself. We are God’s children, adopted into His family through the death and resurrection of our big Brother, Jesus. We are commanded to not only love God, but one another…and together love and serve our world. Now we turn to rule number two: Be Real.

God’s love is truly amazing! What I love about God’s love is it is unconditional. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, what we’re doing, or what we’re going to do—we’re still loved and accepted. Sure, poor choices will result in consequences that will break His heart, but they’ll also affect us in profound ways that will hopefully produce growth and wisdom. I say it often, but nothing you can do can make God love you more, and nothing you can do can make God love you less. That’s amazing grace!

So we are loved and accepted unconditionally by our Creator God, yet sometimes we find it hard to be totally honest with God. It’s crazy how we—how I—will often hesitate during silent confession, rationalizing my sins, justifying my actions, and avoiding my true transgressions…as if God doesn’t know! Or God will reject me! When I finally reach the point of calling a spade a spade, I never feel wrath or judgment. It is, after all, God’s kindness that is intended to lead us to repentance, not His anger (Romans 2:4). One of the most beautiful verses in the entire Bible was penned by John:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

But here’s the thing: I can confess my sins to God and know in my head that I’m forgiven because of Jesus and the cross, but I don’t always
feel forgiven. Having God as your Master and LORD has many advantages, but one challenge is experiencing Him through the senses. This is where you come in!

Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote about prayer.

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)

Wow! What’s not to like about those words?! At this moment are you in trouble? Are you happy? Are you sick? If so, respond! There’s one more verse that follows these, and it begins with “therefore.” Now that we know what “therefore” is there for, verse sixteen says

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)

Do you see it? Confess our sins to God. No! Confess our sins to the professional priest. No! Confess your sins to each other.

Be Real

In the book of Genesis, we read that God created Adam and Eve, they were naked and unashamed. We often think of those words in the physical sense, but I believe there’s another level of “knowing” involved. Without sin there was no shame, and without shame there was no embarrassment, no hiding, and no masks. Adam and Eve had a level of intimacy none have had since, a relationship free from barriers or walls.

The Fall did irreparable harm to not only our relationships with God, but also our relationships with one another.

But here’s the thing:

We’re all broken. We all need God. But by the grace of God…

While I admit our culture—and our courts—don’t view all sins equally, we all sin. We all fall short of God’s perfect standard demonstrated by Jesus. We’re all messed up.
Tragically, the church has often been the LAST place to find broken people…because some perceive it to be a place for shiny, happy people. It’s a place for God’s wonderful children to smile…and judge the “sinners” in the world. I believe many in our community never even think about attending Scio Community Church because they believe they are unworthy, imperfect, and unable to fit it amongst the holy saints here.

May it never be! No perfect people are allowed at Scio (except Jesus!).

While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17)

We’re not to be a museum of perfect people, but rather a hospital of broken people who are getting healed, becoming whole, and ultimately becoming wounded healers who help others.

It all begins with me—and you. We must get real. We must get honest. We must take off the
mask that covers our sins and weaknesses and face the simple truth that we’re messed up…and so is everyone else here!

It has been suggested that attendees at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are far more honest than church attendees…because you begin by admitting you have a problem. Scio family, we need to just say it—we have a problem: sin. You have it, I have it. It’s not something to be proud of, but nor is it something we should hide. Hiding hurts us and those around us because there is power in community, power in family, power in doing life together. That’s why support groups are so successful. That’s what Scio ought to be: a support group for sinners who are striving to be like the perfect Saint, Jesus Christ.

It can be hard to be honest with ourselves, often more difficult to be honest with God, but often even more difficult to be honest with others. Why?

Fear…of rejection.

Why don’t we share? Fear of rejection and condemnation.

When did we ever get the idea family members would reject and condemn us? Experience! The church universal has a reputation for being filled with arrogant, self-righteous hypocrites who look perfect on the outside yet sin outlandishly in private. Is it true? It’s easy to do. Condemning others makes us feel better about ourselves. The comparison game is always deadly because we feel too good about ourselves or too bad about ourselves. The reality is we all desperately need grace because we’re all sinners who fall short of perfection—which is why we need help. We need God’s help and we need the help of one another.

Dave has been a tremendous example of this. As a recovering alcoholic, I’ve watched him struggle for years with addictions, yet both seek help and help others a step or two behind him in the journey. His honesty and transparency have helped shape the culture at Scio as an open, honest, engaging community. We haven’t mastered it yet, but I believe we are becoming more real as a family. If you are in your fifties or above, this idea of being real may seem a bit foreign or uncomfortable. For young people, it’s essential. Young adults can smell fake a mile away. They’ve been bombarded with messages and images of fake promises, products, and people throughout their entire lives. The big question many people are asking today about the church—and about Scio Community Church—is not, “Is it true?” but “Is it real?”

I have a dream…of a day in which our family is known as the most honest, authentic collection of people in our community, a place where the broken find healing and the captives are set free, a people who don’t encourage sin, but accept sinners.

It begins with me and you being honest with our stuff and showing love to others who are dealing with their stuff.

Like every “rule” in this series you may find this message irrelevant. You’re real. You’re accepting. You’re authentic. Great! Pray for others to have the courage to get real, to be vulnerable, and to have a heart of compassion for those at Scio who are dealing with greed, lust, bitterness, addiction, sexual identity, gossip, pride, or a host of other sins that are secret and hidden…and that will never be resolved without acknowledgment, confession, and repentance.

It’s difficult to share our failures with others…and I’m not suggesting any of us grab a mic and list all of our sins each time we gather. It does mean, however, that we share appropriately our struggles, adjusting the level of intimacy as appropriate to the relationship we have with others. Deep friendships take time…and trust…and often someone willing to go first and open up. We reveal our true self to others so we can experience deeper bonds with others and growth in areas of weakness. Those results can never occur, however, when we wear the mask and keep others distant.

My favorite definition of intimacy is to be fully known by another. Is there anyone on the planet that knows you fully? Again, I’m not suggesting we should be an open book with everyone, sharing every secret and sin…but we all need friends, true friends that are like a brother or sister. Without them we can never experience the deepest freedom of forgiveness, the challenge of holiness, or the joy of growing in Christ.

Years ago I had a friend who frequently told me about his girlfriend. I know he cared for her, but many times he shared his frustrations with her. Whenever I asked if he told her his frustrations he would say no. He didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Instead, he was wearing the mask and, ultimately, being dishonest with her. She never truly knew him because he only said things he thought she wanted to hear.

As long as we conceal our true thoughts, feelings, and struggles we will never experience intimacy. People will never know the real us. God knows the real you…and he still loves you! We'd like to know you, too!

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

How Can I Be Filled With The Holy Spirit? 12 June 2011

Big Idea: Being filled is a vital but not automatic experience that must be done continually. In Pentecost Sunday, we will look at what happened in Acts 2 and how we can experience the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, a tremendously significant day reported in the second chapter of Acts.

Last week we began our creatively titled series “The Holy Spirit” with a look at who the Holy Spirit is. We said that He is not a ghost, but a Person, God, one third of the Trinity, one God in three Persons. We saw, too, how Jesus said it was better for Him to leave and give us the Holy Spirit than for Him to stay on earth, so He ascended into heaven and promised the Holy Spirit. The Spirit arrived in a big way in Acts 2.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. – Acts 2:1-4

This is quite possibly the most popular passage of Scripture among charismatics and Pentecostals. These groups are often known for signs and wonders and miracles in their midst, something that should not surprise us since Jesus did them and said that we would do even greater things.

So why doesn’t the Church in USAmerica look more like the New Testament? Why are so few people doing “the stuff,” to quote John Wimber from last Sunday? Why aren’t people flocking here on Sunday mornings to get healed and set free from addictions and bondage?

Great questions!!!

Scio family, I can’t find a biblical answer to that question! How many of you want more of God? Really!

Have you ever been on a cruise? There was a man who wanted to go on a cruise in the worst way. He had heard about the wonderful experiences of others aboard ships and spent years saving up every possible penny in order to purchase a ticket. When the big day arrived, he proudly boarded the boat and waved goodbye to those less-fortunate people on the dock as the ship headed to sea.

Over the course of the cruise, he got acquainted with a man in a nearby cabin. After several days, the neighbor finally asked why his friend was never seen in the dining room during meals. The man replied, “I cannot afford the extravagant food on the ship so I eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my room that I packed in my luggage.”

“My dear friend, all of the food is included with your cruise ticket!” the neighbor replied in disbelief. “It has been available to you all week!”

Friends, if you have surrender your life to Jesus Christ, you get the Holy Spirit, too. He is included!

So why do so many Christ-followers live such miserable lives? They have not been filled with the Holy Spirit!

Last week we looked at Luke 11:11-13

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

It says that our Father in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

How are we filled with the Holy Spirit? We must ask.

Jesus’ brother James said once,

You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. - James 4:2

So all we have to do is ask and the Holy Spirit will bring us gourmet meals, heal all of our diseases, enable us to do miracles, and we all live happily ever after? Not quite

The late Bill Bright, the founder of the international group Campus Crusade for Christ, called the process of being filled with the Holy Spirit “spiritual breathing.”

It begins with
exhaling—repenting of our sins and getting the junk out. This is where we confess our sins, acknowledge that we have wronged God and possibly others, and commit to a new way of righteous, holy living.

Confess your sin -- agree with God concerning your sin and thank Him for His forgiveness of it, according to 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25. Confession involves repentance - a change in attitude and action.

Have you ever grabbed a drinking glass from the shelf only to discover that it was filled with junk inside? What do you do? You grab another glass!

I think God is much the same way. When He wants to show His power, I think He often looks for those that are truly seeking Him and His holiness. Understand, we’re not perfect, but because Jesus is, we can be forgiven and stand righteous before a holy God. When we agree with God that we have sinned, turn away from our sin, and follow Jesus it is called repentance and it delights the heart of God and brings us back into right relationship with Him.

The next step—
inhaling—is simply to ask the Holy Spirit to come. Ask to be filled. When a glass is filled with dirty water, there’s no room for the pure stuff. When we receive the cleansing of Jesus, we make room for the Holy Spirit to come and fill us.

Inhaling is when we surrender the control of our lives to Christ, and appropriate (receive) the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith. We must trust that He now directs and empowers us; according to the command of Ephesians 5:18 and the promise of 1 John 5:14, 15.

Spiritual breathing and being filled with the Holy Spirit is not just some fun thing to please ourselves. The second part of James 4 says

When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Being filled with the Spirit is a blessing for us, but ultimately it’s about Jesus and bringing honor and glory to Him. Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus (5:18)

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.

Drunkenness was the besetting sin of the ancient world, but this is not a verse about wine. A drunk man is possessed by alcohol.The Holy Spirit should possess the believer, a divine intoxication. This isn’t emotionalism but a dynamic life that looks like Jesus, the ultimate human who was filled with the Spirit continually.

The Holy Spirit is given at the time of conversion when a person makes Jesus their LORD and Savior.

I love these words from John Piper:

“What we should seek is that God pour His Spirit out upon us so completely that we are filled with joy, victorious over sin, and bold to witness. And the ways He brings us to that fullness are probably as varied as people are. It may come in a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and tongues. It may come through a tumultuous experience of ecstasy and no tongues. It may come through a crisis of suffering when you abandon yourself totally to God. Or it may come gradually through a steady diet of God's word and prayer and fellowship and worship and service. However it comes, our first experience of the fullness of the Spirit is only the beginning of a life-long battle to stay filled with the Spirit.”

This word “filled” is not something that is done once, but the Greek verb means to continually be done. It’s like breathing. You don’t say, “I don’t need to breathe today because I breathed last week!” You constantly breathe and in the same way we are to constantly be spiritually breathing and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Years ago my pastor, Roger Schweigert, demonstrated it this way: when you put Nesquik powder in milk, it needs to be stirred. If it sinks to the bottom, it doesn’t consume the milk despite its presence. The Holy Spirit is a bit like chocolate powder! When you get Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit. Having something doesn’t mean that you are filled with it, though. We need to stir it up to allow it to permeate our entire being, and we need to keep stirring—every day—repenting of our sins and asking the Spirit to fill us.

This will enable you to walk in the Spirit. It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect. You may fall like a child as you’re learning to walk, but you are to get up and try again.

What happens when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit? The next verse says

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
– Ephesians 5:19-20

The fundamental meaning of being filled with the Spirit is being filled with joy that comes from God and overflows in song. Luke wrote in Acts 13:52,

The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

One of the core values of our denomination, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, says

Without The Holy Spirit’s Empowerment, We Can Accomplish Nothing

The Apostle Paul said, My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power (1 Corinthians 2:4–5).
This is the fiber of our being as believers and the sixth of our Alliance core values.

In addition to joy and empowerment, when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will receive gifts and fruit, two things that we will look at the next two weeks.

Until then, I invite you to get out of your cruise ship cabin and get down to the dining room. Repent and be filled with the Holy Spirit. He is in your life waiting to be activated. If we all commit ourselves to spiritual breathing as much as physical breathing, I believe our church will begin to look a lot more like the New Testament and we’ll begin to see God show up in unexpected and wonderful ways to bring His Kingdom from heaven to earth.

You can listen to the podcast here.

Confess Sins To One Another, 6 February 2011

Big Idea:

We are created to live in community. Confession is good for the soul...and the body.


“…confess your sins to each other…” - James 5:16

…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
- Romans 3:23

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. - Psalm 103:11-12

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. - Isaiah 1:18

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men — the testimony given in its proper time. -1 Timothy 2:5-6

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. - James 5:13-16

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. - 1 Corinthians 11:28-30

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9


There is something very powerful about hearing the words, “You are forgiven.” I believe that is one component of this passage in James. As we confess one to another, we are reminded of the reality of our forgiveness.

Confession is acknowledgment. Repentance is change.

The first step in repentance is conviction. We feel bad for our actions, either because the Holy Spirit convicts us, a police officer pulls up behind us, or a friend confronts us.

The second step is confession, agreeing that we have sinned. This is where we admit our sins to God and possibly a pastor, friend, spouse, or family member. This must be specific, not just, “Sorry God for sinning today.”

Repentance is then changing, literally doing a 180 turn away from our sin and toward God. It is choosing to pursue God rather than our selfish desires.

Repentance is an ongoing lifestyle that continues until death, not merely a one-time prayer and then do-what-you-want.

Martin Luther, one of the founders of the Protestant movement, said as part of his protest of the Catholic Church, “All of a Christian’s life is one of repentance.”

Confession and repentance can have profound effects in our lives. They can restore relationships with one another. They can reconcile our relationship with God. They can result in physical healing. They can even result in the transformation of societies.

Context matters in any form of communication. We have to embrace all of the Bible, not just the parts that we like. We also need to recognize the different types of literature that are contained in the 66 books. The stories in Genesis are not to be read in the same manner as the poetic Psalms, instructive letters of Paul, or the end-times apocalyptic writings of Revelation.

In studying the Bible we must first discern what it says, then assess what it meant to the original recipients, seek to understand its meaning for us today, and then apply it.

Confession releases the angst of secret sins.

Confession notifies others about how they can pray for you.

Confession destroys barriers of pride and anger that separate people.

If we struggle with a sin, we must confess it to those who can provide support. Loving your neighbor as yourself includes praying for them. It also reminds us that we are all sinners saved by grace. We journey together.

You can listen to the podcast here.