Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 3, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:2-3. Before we start I want to express how important those first few words are in doing what we are doing, that being the preaching and hearing of a sermon. If you are visiting, or if you are somewhat new to Cornerstone, you should know that the aim at Cornerstone Church is to the pursuit of the knowledge of God through the study of His Word. Week in and week out, we do the same things, we open up the Bible and look at what God has to reveal to us.
For those who attended Secret Church last Friday, I loved that David Platt started by saying that he is not an authority figure on any of the topics that he addresses that night. His only authority is the authority of the Word of God. This is my mindset each week in preparing the sermon. And this is why I start most, if not all, of my sermons with open your Bibles. Today we are going to be examining two verses. So let us read out text, pray, and examine what God has to say to us.
One requirement of an Elder of a Church, and by Elder I mean Pastor, is to be on guard against footholds that Satan may grab hold of within our congregation. Every Church has a weakness, if not thousands, Cornerstone Church is no different.
Upon thinking about our family, one weakness that I believe we may have is theology. Let me explain. Theology is the study of God. It is the pursuit of knowledge of who God is. The way we do this, as I said earlier, is that we open up the Bible to see what it says. Not only do we do this on Sunday, we do this on Wednesdays, Friday, Tuesdays, Saturdays and any other day of the week that fits. We are a Church that values studying God’s Word.
Having said that, theology is not an end in itself. The study of the Bible is not the goal. As we saw recently, the goal is Christlikeness. This is the prize that we are striving for is to become like our Master, Jesus. So like Jesus, we are not to be only thinkers, but doers.
So what does this have to do with our text today? In today’s text we see theology applied. By that I mean that we see Paul implementing what he has already taught previously in his letter to the Philippians.
Distraction of Disunity
Last week we talked about standing firm in the Lord. This led us to talk about the issue of standing firm against what? We concluded that the “what” was the schemes of the devil.
Why am I saying this? Because, like Paul, I want to bring this issue of unity into our Church. We at Cornerstone are still in what I believe is a honeymoon period. We are a very young Church. And right now things are exciting. We are growing in our love for the Lord, we are seeing authentic pursuit of God’s glory, we are seeing real transformation, and it is contagious. Things are good. But we are naive to believe that things will always be this way, for we have an enemy. He is lurking around, trying to find a foothold into our church, and by foothold I mean you or me, or a future attender. Satan will attempt to destroy the work of God at Cornerstone Church through the people of Cornerstone Church.
Satan’s common scheme is to create clicks, and disunity, and discord, and factions, and arguments and wars. And through these wars, he wants to take down the whole ship.
Will Satan tempt? You bet. But what causes the quarrels and the fights is YOUR passions, YOUR desires, YOUR covetousness. The problem is that you and I and everyone who walks in these doors is a sinner and we are all vulnerable, just like Euodia and Syntyche. Don’t forget these two women were active in the ministry. Paul says he labored side by side with them in the faith of the Gospel. But now, because of their self-centered flesh, they were no longer side by side, but toe-to-toe in disagreement. No longer were these two women focused on the mission, but instead they were focused on their passions.
Now what would happen if this disagreement would have continued unaddressed? Would time heal all wounds? Absolutely not. Most likely what would have happened are sides would have been taken. The poison would have been like leven, starting small, but working itself through the entire piece of dough. This disagreement had to be address.
This is where most people, and most Churches fail. A majority of people know there is a problem. They see the problem. They may even talk about the problem, but they never address the problem. They just let the wound fester, if you will. Why? Because there is a lack of courage and a lack of leadership.
Paul recognized that something had to be done. He wasn’t about to let their argument wreck things the Church from inside out. He was going to take action. However, here was the problem, Paul was in prison. He was not able to help firsthand. He needed to recruit someone. So he recruits the True Companion.
The Greek for companion is Syzygus. In fact, many of your Bible may have a footnote next to the word companion that tells you this. The reason for this is that there is a debate as to whether the Syzygus is used by Paul generally to refer to anyone of that nature, or if he is actually using a persons name that matches the action he is requesting. I believe that Syzygus is actually the persons name. I will even take it a step farther, I believe this Syzygus is an overseer for the Philippian Church.
Why? First, because Paul addresses this letter to the overseers and deacons in the opening of the letter, Philippians 1:1. Second, because this is exactly what an overseer should be doing. An Overseer, or elder, of a Church should be constantly on guard for anything that may cause potential division in the Church. When he sees this divisions, he must take action before it is too late. Once again, I think Churches have failed miserably at this, and it appears the Philippian Church had as well.
Too often Pastors are weak. We worry about filling seats on Sunday, weekly donations, wanting everyone to like us, not rocking the boat, or not getting fired. So because of this, we don’t like to get our hands dirty, we don’t like to get in the middle of things, so we instead stick our heads in the sand. This is the exact opposite of what we are called to do. Pastors are called to protect the Church, to stand on guard against strife and division. We are to jump in the trenches right along side each one of you to help in the midst of your sin. I wonder how many Church splits could have been prevented if Pastors would have done their job. If they would have had the courage to love others more than they loved themselves.
Thankfully, for this Church Paul intervened, and addressed the problem and urged Syzygus to help these two ladies out. So this is my exhortation to all of you. If you see me more worried about my skin, then your hearts, you need to confront me. If I am failing to do what I am called to do and protect the sheep, then you call me out and come and speak with me face to face. For I know that I am a sinner and I am prone to wander, and I need you to help me fulfill my role. Second, in this room I am hoping that we have a handful of future elders. Men, if you can’t see yourself confronting people about their sin, then you are not called to this position. To be an Elder is not for the faint of heart. It is hard, for you never know how your help may be received.
Agree in the Lord
Which leads to the final point, and perhaps that most important. How do you help? What is the answer to the division, what is the answer to the disagreement? The answer is “Agree in the Lord.”
This is where we should all be listening. Up to this point some of you may be thinking, what an irrelevant message. I don’t care about church roles. Well you should, but in case you don’t, this message is for everyone.
The details of the disagreement between these two ladies is immaterial, for the problem is not found in their positions. THe problem lies in their hearts. These two ladies are sinners. Yes, they are Christians, but they still struggle with their flesh, their sin. And this is the root of all disagreements on the face of this planet. This is why wives and husbands argue, this is why parents and children argue, this is why democrats and republicans argue, this is why everyone argues. We are all sinners. Each one of us act like little kings and queens demanding that every little desire of our heart be fulfilled. If it doesn’t happen, we fight, just like we talked about before.
The only solution to the perpetual war, is to crucify your flesh, submit, and let Jesus be your Lord. Now don't miss that word, Lord. To let Jesus be Lord means to lay down your life and let him call the shots. To let him control your life. To pursue his will, not yours.
These two women were too focused on their will, and it was destroying their relationship and would potentially destroy their entire Church family. This is true for every single one of us. If we focus on our wills and our desires we are guaranteed to make a wreck out of our life. Don’t believe me, just look around. The one and only solution is to let Jesus be Lord. Now some of you may be saying, but that doesn’t sound fun, to let Jesus control my life. Let me ask, are divorces fun, are Church wars fun, are kids that hate you fun, is bitterness and unforgiveness fun, is destruction fun? No. What is fun is unity, togetherness, peace, love, harmony, and these things can only be found in making Jesus the King of your life.
Friends, we have to get this. God has created this life to flourish only in Jesus Christ. No other way will produce the joy that your heart longs for. So, the next time you feel your selfish desires start to take root, pick up and axe and cut it out, and humble yourself before your Lord Jesus Christ.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 5, 2015.
As everyone knows, today is Easter. Easter is the celebration of the singular greatest day in all of history. No day compares to what took place 2000 years ago when Jesus’ disciples went to the Garden were they had laid his body and found the stone rolled away, and they heard from the lips of Angels, “He is not here, but has risen.” In those words lie all hope.
Some of you who sit here today, have “celebrated” Easter in your entire life, however you have never CELEBRATED Easter. Your celebration up to this point has been vanity, for you have not been struck in your heart by the words “He is not here, but has risen.” You have yet to experience the full and complete weight of that reality as it relates to you eternity.
To grasp the hope found in the resurrection, we must understand death. Death exists because sin exists. This is crucial to understand. Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death.” Therefore, when kids ask, why do people die? The answer is because it is God’s punishment for our sin. It is the penalty for our rebellion. It is the consequence for rejecting the Author of Life.
The next question is where did this sin come from? It came into the world through the first man, Adam.
What is interesting is that the first thing that physically died on this planet was not Adam or Eve. Yes, they died eventually, but not immediately. The first creature that died is found in Genesis 3:21.
From that point on we begin to see a pattern of animal sacrifices begin.
Why is this important? Why should you care about the animal sacrifice in garden , the lamb sacrifice of Abel, the ram sacrifice of Abraham, the Passover lamb sacrifice for Egypt, the consecration sacrifice of the Priest, and the yearly sacrifice on the Day of Atonement? The reason is because of Hebrews 10:1.
The Day of Atonement is just a symbol, it is an outline of the true object. This is also true for the Passover Lamb, the ram of Abraham, the lamb of Abel and the sacrifice in the Garden of Eden. Each of these things are a form of a greater reality. What is this greater reality? What is this good thing to come?
Single Offering of the Body
It is the good news of Jesus Christ. Look at verse 5, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me.” The good thing, the true substance, the object that cast the shadow is the body of Jesus Christ. This is why John the Baptist says in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus is object that cast the shadow that we see in the Garden, with Abel, with Abraham, with Moses, and with Israel. All of these shadows point to the substance of the single offering of the body of Jesus Christ.
This is the reason why Jesus came to earth...to die. He did not come to be a good moral teacher, or to lead a conservative political party. The Son of the Living God left the glory in Heaven to be the single sacrifice for all of humanity, to have his flesh torn apart and to bleed out so as to cover the shame of wretchedness, to die in our place, to cause death to Passover you, to atone for our sins.
And the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross is not like the shadow that was cast before it. The sacrifice of the Lamb of God has power. Jesus accomplished what no sacrifice accomplished before. The sacrifices of the shadow could not perfect those who draw near. This is why year after year after year these sacrifices of Israel continued, because they didn’t work. Look at verse 4, “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.“ This was not their purpose. Their purpose is to point to Christ, for it is only the blood of Jesus that can take away our sins.
Perfected for All Time
Look with me at verse 12-14, “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Let’s read it one more time and let these words sink in.
Once again, we see a single sacrifice. The death of Jesus happened one time and one time only. It is blasphemy to say that Jesus is sacrificed over and over again. What did Jesus do after he offered his body for sin? He sat down. Now compare this to verse 11, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” But when Christ offers his body, instead of continueing to stand, what does he do? He sits down. Why?
Because when Jesus offered himself the work was completed. It was done. There was nothing left to do to pay for your sins. The blood of Christ was sufficient to pay your debt to God. This is why Jesus cries out “It is finished” right before he dies on the cross. He had accomplished what he set out to do.
Which is what? To perfect you. Verse 14, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” It is by the single offering of the body of Christ that you go from sinner to sinless. 1 John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” It is not our blood and sweat that takes away sin. It is only the blood of Jesus that has this power. Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” It is the blood of Christ that provides redemption, that provides forgiveness. It is grace alone. Romans 3:23, “or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” The one and only way that you are justified before God is through redemption that is found in the blood of Jesus. There is no other way to deal with your sin issue. The body of Christ is the only solution, He is your only hope, and his body is sufficient to pay for all your sins.
Why is this important? It is important because some of you have been taught by false teachers. Some of you have sat in a religion that does not preach and teach Hebrews 10, 1 John 1, Ephesians 1, Romans 3. You have been wrongly taught that Jesus sacrifice was necessary, but that it was not sufficient.
Do you hear the difference? Necessary and sufficient are not the same words. There difference makes all the difference. You have been wrongly taught that you have to atone for some of your own sins; you have been wrongly taught that Jesus’ blood didn’t perfect you for all time; you were wrongly taught that you have not been justified by grace. Instead you were told that you have to perform some penance to absolve you from your sins, whether that be hail Mary’s, the Lord’s Prayer, communion, confession, church attendance, etc. The Bible speaks of none of these things having the power to pay for your sin. No sacrifice that you perform can pay the debt that you owe God. The bible is abundantly clear that it is Christ alone; so stop attempting to earn your forgiveness, for you can’t. Instead find refuge in the single sacrifice of Christ
The Resurrection is the Proof
So what does this have to do with the resurrection? How is the empty tomb connected to the sufficient work of Jesus Christ on the cross? Everything.
No legitimate scholar debates the life of Jesus. It is almost universally excepted that Jesus existed. It is not a question of his existence. The question is, “Is He the Lamb of god who comes to take away the sin of the world.” That is what each one of you have to determine. Who do you say that Jesus is?
If his bones lie in a tomb, then eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die, but if he has risen, and He has overcome our greatest problem, death, then I encourage you to listen to what he has to say.
The Lord’s Supper
Today we will celebrate the sufficiency of the body of Christ by remembering what he has done for us by eating bread and drinking juice.
This table is open to every follower of Christ. However, if you have not turned and placed your faith in the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, then this table is not for you. However, I pray that by the Grace of God someday it will be.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2:25-29. Today we continue our journey through the book of Philippians and we find ourselves at a section that, oddly enough has played a substantial part of my life now for the last four years, for today we will be looking at a man by the name of Epaphroditus. With that said, let us read our text, pray and get into the Word.
Today, we are now going to examine another person within the Body of Christ, Epaphroditus. This man, Epaphroditus, is only mentioned in the book of Philippians. Some argue that Epaphras mentioned in Colossians is the same person, but there is nothing to support that conclusion except the similarity of their names. Because of this, not a lot is known about Epaphroditus. However, here are some things we do know. First, his name is Greek and it comes from the worship of Aphrodite, a Greek god. His name literally means “Devoted to Aphrodite.” From this we can assume that his parents, when Epaphroditus was born were pagans, worshipers of false god’s. He was therefore most likely a first generation Christian. The second thing we know about Epaphroditus is that he lived in Philippi. He was a true Philippian. Philippi was a city, or Roman colony, in Macedonia, which is modern day Greece. There is not a lot that is known about Philippi, except that it had a very small Jewish contingent. The reason we know this is because when Paul first visited there, there was no Synagogue. A Synagogue was needed when there were 10 Jewish men in the town. This is important because we can get an understanding that Philippi was Biblically illiterate, meaning that they wouldn’t have had a lot of knowledge about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, etc. They wouldn’t have been exposed to the foreshadowing of the coming Messiah.
Having said that, this was not an obstacle for God. Remember the background story of the Philippians. God gave Paul a vision to go to Macedonia and preach the Gospel. Paul went there and preached the Gospel to Lydia, then to the Philippian jailer, and from that point the Church was born in the midst of this pagan, unreached Roman colony.
Somewhere in-between Paul’s first arrival in Philippi around 50 AD and the writing of this letter around 62 AD, Epaphroditus hears the message of Jesus Christ and repents and places his faith in Jesus and follows Him. When Epaphroditus becomes a disciple of Jesus, he does what all Christians should do. He begins fellowship with other believers. Epaphroditus is a member of the local Church in Philippi. We can see this in verse 25 when Paul says, “your messenger and minister to my need.” Whose messenger? The Saints in Philippi. Epaphroditus was a representative of the Philippian church. Used by the local Church to minister to Paul.
The next thing we see is the Epaphroditus not only had a local church Body, but he had great affections for his local Church. Look at verse 26, “for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. “ The word in Greek is epipotheó, which means to yearn, desire, or have great affection for. We see Paul use this word in 2 Corinthians 5:2 to talk about an inward groaning to dwell in heaven. Epaphroditus was not home-sick as much as he was Church-sick. Now I want us to recognize something. This yearning for them is a yearning to be physically with them. Epaphroditus wanted to see them, hear them, touch them, and smell them. He wanted to be in their physical presence. This is a real love, a love that is dormant in some Christian’s today. A number of Christians would rather stay at home Sunday morning then see their spiritual family. This is not good. This is not how God designed his Church, to live independent of each other. He designed his church to be interdependent. Listen to what Jesus says in John 13:34-35.
We must remember the core of the gospel. God sent Jesus to die, so that we can be reconciled to him, so that we could be in his presence forever. The heart of God is epipotheó, a yearning to be together. If we truly have the Spirit of Christ in us, we should likewise have this same yearning, just like God, and just like Epaphroditus.
So why is Paul writing about Epaphroditus? As I said earlier, Epaphroditus is a messenger and minister to Paul. What does that mean? If you look ahead to Philippians 4:14 you see what Paul is talking about.
The Church in Philippi decides to provide aid to Paul, to support him in his ministry, not just once but ongoing support. Most likely this support would have been monetary gifts, but we can't be for sure. The next issue becomes who, who will take this aid to the front lines where Paul is located? Who will be the bridge between the Church and the unreached?
Once again, we don't know how it came about, but we do know that it was Epaphroditus who accepted the task. Now what I am about to say is completely outside the Biblical text, but I would like to imagine that Epaphroditus volunteered for this mission. In fact, I like to imagine the Church gathering and discussing the monetary collection being made, and the long journey between Philippi and Rome, a distance of 800 miles. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the reality of being away from family and friends. I like to imagine that they would have discussed the physical demand of such journey. I like to imagine they discussed the risk of persecution. And I like to imagine that when they asked for volunteers, the Church was silent. That is until the silence was broken by a man's voice saying, “I will go.” At this moment, I picture the entire congregation turning and looking at this simple, yet humble Christian, Epaphroditus, as he steps forward again, and says, “I will deliver this gift to my brother Paul”.
At this point, if the Philippians Church is like the others Churches that we see in the book of Acts, most likely the Church would have brought him forward and they would have prayed for him and they would have laid hands on him, and then the Church body would have sent him.
Like I said, this is what I imagine it to be like, perhaps it wasn't like this at all, but make no mistake, Epaphroditus willingly accepted the task to be a vessel of aid. He filled a very important role within the Church, delivering aid to their beloved Paul, and most likely he was also the one who returned with the original draft of the book of Philippians in his hands.
The effect that this act of risk taking love had on Paul was strong. For Paul calls Epaphroditus his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soilder. I want to spend the rest of my time, briefly talking about these three descriptions.
There is perhaps no greater expression of intimacy between two men, then to call another man your brother. This expression is one that does not come from the head, but from the heart. It is description of togetherness that is not surface level, but one that is soulful. Every time I think of brotherly affection, I think of David and Jonathan, King Saul's Son. They had a strong bond between the two of them, that was forged by God.
I worry, however, that for many of you would not volunteer. Your life is too precious to you. You like your comforts. You like your picket fence, American Dream. Helping people is just too messy, it is too dangerous. Listen to what John says in 1 John 3:17-18.
Which leads me to Paul's next description of Epaphroditus, fellow worker. This is a common description of certain men in Paul's life. He uses this phrase “fellow worker” in Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philemon, and Thessalonians. The sad part is that it was commonly used by Paul, but it is not commonly practiced today. Very few Christians in American could be rightly called a fellow worker. American Christianity has become consumer oriented. We have become fat and lazy. We barely lift a finger in the spread of the Gospel. Instead of obeying the Great Commission, we leave that in the hands of pastors. Shame on us! Let us heed to the words of Jesus who in his parable of the talents said this to the servant who failed to use what the Master had given him.
Lastly, Paul's final description of Epaphrodits is fellow solider. I truly believe this is a primary way that we must understand our lives as followers of Christ. Too often we live our life as if everything is ok. Everything is not ok! We are at war! Satan hates you. He has declared war on Christ and war on God's creation. When you chose to follow Jesus, you didn't just sign up for heaven, you enlisted in God's army. An army sent behind enemy lines to rescue POWs held captive by the power of Satan. We are to be using all of our resources to battle the enemy. In Philippians, we see Paul leading the attack, Timohty watching his back, Epaphroditus feeding the front lines, and the people back home leveraging all their resources to provide aid. Each person was playing a crucial role in pushing back the forces of darkness.
Once again, is this how you live? Are you living with a war time mentality, or are you living as if this world is at peace and everything is going to be just fine. Folks, we need to wake up. We need to recognize that Hell is real. Satan is real. And that God has left us, His Church, to set captives free. We must be about His work and fight the fight of faith and partner with our brothers and siters in the spread of the Gospel, just like our brother Epaphroditus.