Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 19, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 3:17-21. Today we will pick up where we left off last week and continue our discussion regarding our destiny. If you recall, last week we saw that we, as followers of Christ, are to press on, and strain forward, for the goal of becoming like Jesus Christ. This goal is the preeminent, the supreme, the primary goal for all disciples of Christ. We, the servants, are to become like our Master. This is our purpose, this is our calling, this is our destiny. The reason that I say it is our destiny is because of what is found in Romans 8:29-30.
In verse 17 we see Paul say, “Brothers, join in imitating me.” If you were to have read this verse in isolation, you could have mistakenly thought that what Paul is saying is that Christians should aspire to be Paul, that Paul is the goal in which we press on, or strain towards. However, as we have seen, this is not what Paul means by saying “join in imitating me.” For Paul tells us that our ultimate goal should be to become like Christ, not Paul. In fact, this was a point of contention in the Church in Corinth.
Therefore, the question each of us must ask ourselves is, does the pattern of our life match that of Pauls? Are we entirely oriented around the person of Jesus Christ. Are we his slave? Do we preach Jesus at all times? Is He our Greatest Treasure? Is He our greatest goal? Does our manner of life, match the gospel that we claim to have embraced? Or does our life, instead pattern the world?
Pattern of the World
In our text, we see Paul give two options. You can join in imitating me, and pick up your cross and follow Jesus, or you can walk as enemies of the Cross. Those are your choices. You have to pick one of the other. There is no fence sitting when it comes to Jesus.
So let us ask, who is an enemy of the Cross of Christ. First, we must realize that Paul is not talking about obvious enemies. He is not talking about people who hate Jesus, who deny God, who live radically sinful lives. Are these people enemies of Christ, yes, but that is not who Paul is talking about, because there is no need to warn Christians about those types of enemies.
The enemies that Paul is talking about are wolves in sheep's clothing. Those people who calim to be Christians, but are not. They are the ones, that are covert enemies, and they are ones that have a potential to lead true Christians in the wrong direction. They are enemies that have their own examples of how to follow Christ, and Paul is telling the Philippians not to follow their example. So what do theses enemies look like?
First, we are told their end is destruction. What does this mean? It means that they are not saved. This is important. In all local churches you will have the saved and unsaved. This is true for Philippi and for Cornerstone. Just because someone attends Church, it does not mean they are going to heaven. Here are some examples.
IN Matthew 7, Jesus tells us directly that there will be some people in the Church who have never been saved.
The point I want to make is this, don't assume that just because some claims to be a Christian, that they truly are a Christian. You must use discernment before you follow them on facebook, purchase their book, read their blogs. My guess is that on judgment day, many “Christian” authors are going to be saying, “but Jesus, we wrote many books, and made a lot of money in your name.” and Jesus is going to say, “depart from me, I never knew you.”
The second thing we see is Paul describing as enemy as someone whose God is their belly. Who are these people? Most likely these people are Judiazers. Remember them? These are the people who say they love Jesus, but tell everyone that you have to keep the Jewish traditions. One of those traditions were the dietary laws. These people said that unless you eat the right food, or unless you abstain from the right food, you will not be saved. Instead of serving Christ, they are serving their stomachs. They have placed their faith in tradition, not in Christ, and this is why their glory is their shame. They wrongly put confidence in the flesh to eat their way into God's presence, but in the end what that produces is nothing but the shame of their self-centered worship.
Lastly, we see Paul describe enemies of the cross as those who set their minds on earthly things. Now this is where some of you will start to get uncomfortable, for God is speaking directly to you. What does it mean to set your minds on earthly things? Let's use some text to understand this?
Walk Life a Citizen of Heaven
And Paul is telling us not to follow their lead, don't be lukewarm. Resist the temptation to purchase cheap grace. Refuse to be a friend of the world. Do not follow them into the pit of their destruction. Do not walk as an enemy of Christ, but instead walk as a citizen of Heaven.
Live your life as if this is not your home, as if you are a sojourner just passing through. Do not put your hope in the things of this world, put you hope in God. Live as if you truly believe. Live as if Jesus is your greatest treasures. Live a life that is worthy of the Gospel that you have received. Live as if you have no fear. Live radically for Jesus Christ. Live like Paul lived who said, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” We must never forget what lies ahead of us and is spoken in verse 20 and 21, “the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” This is what we are moving towards, so imitate Paul's pattern of life and become what you already are.
The reality is this, every Church has a culture. What will be ours? Will we be lukewarm? Will we be friends with the world? Will be be enemies of the cross, or will be imitate the pattern of Paul and walk like citizens of heaven.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on January 25, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:18-30. Today, I am preaching on my favorite verse in the Bible, Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I believe this simple statement should be the heartbeat of every Christian, in every moment.
To begin today, I want to start where we left off last week, joy. Last week we discussed the joy found in the Gospel. Once again, the gospel being the good news that we are saved from God’s wrath and receive eternal life if we place our faith in Christ alone. Paul, despite being imprisoned, was rejoicing because the name of Jesus was being proclaimed and preached. Despite Paul’s chains, the gospel was advancing, in fact Paul being chained was giving people courage to speak Christ more boldly. And this made Paul rejoice. Why? Because Paul was loved Jesus more than anything in all the Universe. The mention of his name brought him joy.
We see this expression of joy in our first verse today, verse 18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” However, Paul does not stop there, and neither will we.
Paul continues to express his joy by saying, “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”
With this statement Paul continues to express his joy, but transitions to another source of his joy and that is living and dying for Christ. And this is what I am going to be talking about today. The title of my sermon is “The Joy of Living and Dying for Christ.” This sermon may be difficult for some of you, not because it is theologically difficult, but because it is radically counter cultural.
Honor Christ in Your Body in Every Moment
The goal for every Christian is to honor Christ in your body in every moment. As a new creation our new orientation is to exult Jesus with every fiber of our being no matter what your circumstances are. Over the last month we have been soaking in this truth. Four weeks ago we examined Romans 12:1 where it says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” The next week we examined Philippians 1:1, and we looked at what it means to be a servant of Christ, which in Greek is doulos, which is actually best translated as a slave of Christ. And then last week we read about Paul’s four year imprisonment and how even his significantly dire circumstances were God ordained means by which Paul was to fulfill his calling. The over-arching theme of today’s text is Paul’s hope to honor Christ in everything he does.
As you recall, Paul is imprisoned, and as he sits there chained to a Roman guard, life and death hangs in the balance. There is no guarantee that he will make it out alive. In verse 19, Paul says, “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” Many of us assume that deliverance means released from jail and ongoing life, but that is not how Paul is thinking. Paul sees deliverance to include deliverance through death. Paul’s life truly hangs in the balance, the Romans were not known for their mercy, at any moment the command could come down to kill Paul. If you want an example, just think about John the Baptist.
Paul’s mindset as his life hangs in the balance a desire to honor Christ through it. This is his primary concern, to make the name of Christ great, no matter how bad it gets, and it does not get any worse than the threat of death. Is this easy for Paul? Absolutely not, let us not worship Paul, he is flesh and bone just like you and I. He saw himself as wretched and the chief of sinners, recognizing that he was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He was a person who depended upon the prayers of his brothers and sisters and the power of the Holy Spirit to produce in him the full courage necessary to exult Christ in midst of the valley of the shadow of death. So how does one magnify Christ in their life? Let us start with the statement, to live is Christ.
To Live is Christ
The statement by Paul, “to live is Christ” is, in my opinion, the most profound yet simple reality every to be expressed. You cannot summarize existence more succinctly than this. What is life? Christ. What does it mean to live? Christ. What is my purpose? Christ. What is the point of the Universe? Christ. Paul says the same thing, yet more completely in Colossians 1:16.
So what Paul is saying is that to live is Christ is to live in such a way that everything you do matches the reality you have been saved from Hell and your citizenship is in Heaven. You live as if this is not your home. When people meet you, they think, “You are not from around here are you.” You talk different, you work different, you love your spouse different, you raise your kid different, you spend your money different, you dress different, you respond to problems different, you spend your free time different. Everything about you screams different. Everything about you screams follower of Jesus. This is your new orientation. As the world revolves around self, we revolve around the hope we have in Christ.
And make no mistake that this life that is completely, and entirely oriented around living for Christ is a life of faith. This faith is a backwards and forward faith. It is backwards in that we place our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We believe and trust in his completed work on the cross. Our faith is also forward in which we have assurance in our salvation and that on judgment day we will not be sent to Hell, but will be invited into the presence of the living God, where there is abundance of joy and pleasures forevermore. We believe that through the blood of Jesus we are God’s adopted children, and therefore will receive and inheritance that is unfathomable and dwarfs the dust of this world.
To live is Christ is a life of faith. In fact, the greater the faith, the greater the honoring, the magnifying, the making Christ look great in your body. And the more and more and more you truly believe in the reality of what Christ did and what awaits you through Christ the greater your joy.
To Die is Gain
Satan hates the gospel. For the gospel is the good news of His defeat. The gospel is the story of Christ crushing his head. It is the gospel that reminds Satan that Christ now has all authority on heaven and on earth and the clock is ticking until the end comes and Satan is thrown into Hell.
Because of this Satan goes to all extents to stop the gospel from being proclaimed. He begins very subtly. Perhaps he will tempt you with the cares of this world. When that doesn’t work he will give you some social persecution, such as glances or jokes at work about your faith. When that doesn’t work he will resort to name calling, intolerant, unloving, bigot, hate monger. When that doesn’t work he gets physical. He may burn down your house or church, lock you up or beat you. However when that doesn’t work, and you still persist to proclaim Christ, he reaches for the last straw and he threatens to take your life. What happens when even that won’t work? What happens when you stare Satan in the eyes and say, make my day, for to live is Christ and to die is gain? What happens when even God takes the wages of sin, which is death, and uses martyrdom to magnify and make great the value of Christ in your life? I’ll tell you what happens, it makes Satan shutter.
The song we sang today, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” is based upon the last words of a man in northern India who was called to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. He began to sing “Though no one joins me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, "The cross before me, the world behind me." This is what it looks like to magnify Christ in your death. It is said that the display of this man's faith led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.
The very last conversation that Peter had with Jesus is found in John 21. The Wednesday night small group discussed this passage last week. In the conversation, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter says, “Yes.” Then Jesus ends the conversation by saying this:
If you can't, then you don't know my Jesus, for He is worth it. He is better than anything this world can offer, and I encourage you to know Him more.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2014
Once again, I want to welcome everyone here tonight who has chosen to spend Christmas Eve with us here at Cornerstone Church. I do not think you will regret it. I don’t say that because of me, or because this building, or even the company or cookies, but because of God and what he has for us tonight in His Word. The only reason we have this Holiday is because of this book and what it says. It only makes sense for us tonight to sit at the foot of God’s throne and soak in His Word.
With that said, I want to encourage each one of you to start a new Christmas tradition this year, that is, if you don’t do this already. Before you open presents, I encourage you to open up the Bible. Spend time reading about the love God as is displayed in Jesus Christ. My suggestion for this year is to read Romans 8. It is not the Christmas story, but it is why we celebrate the Christmas story. After you read this passage, pray and tell God thank you for all He has done through Christ. I cannot think of a more important Christmas tradition than this.
Now let us turn our attention to tonight’s message. Open your Bibles to Matthew 4:12-17. Here at Cornerstone we have camped out in this text for a little over three weeks. Let’s read it pray, and then see what God has to say to us this Christmas Eve.
Darkness is simply the absence of light. Where there is light there is no darkness. Where there is darkness there is no light. The darkness as mentioned in this text, however, is not material darkness it is a spiritual darkness. The light is God, the darkness is the absence of God. Therefore this darkness is a reference to a people who live separated from God. The darkness mentioned in verse 16 is not exclusive to the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. The dominion of darkness covers the entire planet. All you have to do is watch the news to figure this out. The darkness encompasses all humanity, because we are all sinners. We all run from the light into the domain of darkness. As it says in John 3, people love the darkness.
This darkness, that we love, is not a good thing. Living in darkness results in fear, anxiety, lostness, futility, dysfunction, suffering, and anguish. The sin in your life may feel good in the moment, but it produces a wake of disaster in your life. This is the world we live in, broken, rebellious, living as if God is dead to us. However, this is not the worst of it, for this darkness is just a taste of the ultimate and eternal spiritual darkness, Hell. Jesus calls Hell the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, and this is the guaranteed destiny for everyone absent a Solution.
Which leads me to point number two, the answer to the darkness is singular. Remember, darkness is just the absence of light; therefore to remove darkness you must have light. Nothing else resolves the problem of darkness, other than light. And what is the answer to the spiritual darkness? What is the solution to the highway to Hell that every man walks upon? Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus stands up and proclaims in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
The answer to the darkness, the answer to the dysfunction, the answer to the suffering is Jesus Christ. No matter where the darkness lies, the answer is the same. Jesus, the Light of the World. This is why the angels proclaim in Luke 2:10 to the Shepherds, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Jesus is not the answer for some, he is the answer for everyone!
The question I ask everyone tonight is are you following the Light? Do you follow Christ? And I am not asking do you go to Church from time to time, or are you a good person. I am asking do you love Jesus? Have you laid your life down at the foot of the cross and said, “I am yours.” If you have not yet chosen to follow Christ, then you are still are a citizen of the domain of darkness? This means that the suffering you are experiencing now is nothing what is waiting for you in Hell.
Kingdom of Heaven
The question is how does this occur? How does one go from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of Heaven? What does Jesus do?
It is the Word of God and the power of God that pierces the hearts of man and awakens them to their need for Jesus. The Gospel message opens their eyes to the depravity of darkness and the treasure of the Light of Christ.
Having said that, we still live in this darkened world, not of it, but in it. We still live in a world that is full of sin, dysfunction, perversion, brokenness, rebellion, suffering and anguish. We still feel the weight of this, to an extent. This is a reality for all Christians. We are Citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, however, for a moment; we live in the domain of darkness.
And despite the love, peace and joy that we have in Christ, and is an undercurrent to our lives, we still mourn, weep, and suffer. We still get cancer. We still struggle with our flesh. The road for a believers is not easy street, it is hard, it is narrow, but it is good. Because we know where our journey ends. It ends with God.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on July 27, 2014
Today we are going to begin a short sermon series on money. I am not sure how long I am going to preach on it, so bear with me as God leads me. Before I get too far into the sermon, I want share with you a book, the Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn. I have purchased 25 of these books and I want each family to take one and read it. It is only 120 short pages, so you could easily read it in a day if you were motivated. In fact, I hope you read it several times over the next couple of weeks. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and see what God has to say to us about His money.
Here at Cornerstone, we love the Bible. It is God’s Word, breathed out by Him. We believe the Bible is living and active. We believe that it will not return to God void, but will accomplish what it sets out to do. We believe it is food to our souls. We believe it is a weapon to use against Satan’s attacks. We believe that it will shape us into Christ-likeness. If we believe all these things then we should recognize the immense amount of attention that is given to money in the Bible. According to Randy Alcorn, fifteen percent of Jesus’ teaching is about money. He talks about money more than Heaven and Hell combined.
If Jesus preached on money, than I need to preach on money. In fact, if I want to strike a Christ-like balance of fifteen percent, than I should preach on the topic of money eight Sundays a year.
On top of that, we need to face the music. Money plays a significant role in our lives. Money is used to purchase food, clothing, homes, appliances, furniture, cars, phones, insurance, medicine, vacations, books, entertainment, toys, etc. Generally speaking, the way we receive from others is through the transaction of money. The reality is that money is involved in a majority of the decisions in your life, both big and small; therefore, how you relate to money is substantially correlated to how you live your life.
So to begin, I want to us to recognize that the topic of money should, and must be preached from the pulpit. Failure to preach about money is a failure to have the Word of God shine light on the path of our life. Show me a pastor who doesn’t preach on money, and I will show you a pastor who doesn’t love his sheep.
A Matter of the Heart
The next thing I want us to understand is that the topic of money is not about what is in your bank account, but it is about what is in your heart. Jesus makes this abundantly clear in verse 21.
I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will anyway, God does not want your money. God is the Sovereign Creator of all things. Everything that exists is His.
Fleeting and Eternal
The first thing He does is to point out the reality of fleetingness. Creation is cursed, and because of the curse everything decays. This will continue to happen until Christ returns and the curse is lifted. The house you live in will someday be dust, so will your car, phone, computer, clothes and everything else you own. In a thousand years the place we are currently in, along with everything in it will be nothing more than rubble, at best. Everything, that is, but you. You and I are the one tangible thing that will still be around in 1,000 years, in 1 million years, in 1 billion years. The stuff in your life will be a distant memory, but you will remain.
If you believe this, does your life match this alleged belief? Do you spend your time and your money in a way that reflects that your faith is real, or are you just fooling yourself? In my day job as a prosecutor I live in a world of evidence. People come into my office and lie to me all the time. My first thought is, “prove it.” Show me evidence that supports what you are saying? Jesus does the same thing. Look in your text at verse 21?
With that said, how many of you have ever heard the phrase, “He is so heavenly minded, that he is no earthly good.” Do you know who came up with this line? If I were to guess, I wold say Satan, the Father of lies, because this statement is just not true. Jesus is case in point. He was the most heavenly minded person to walk the planet and did more good that the entire world combined. Listen to what Jesus says about home owhership.
Like Jesus, we are just visiting. This is not our home. Earth is more like our hotel. This is a place we are merely staying for a moment. We are reminded in 1 Peter that we are sojourners on this planet, just passing through. Paul tells us this in Philippians that our citizenship is not America, as much as it is heaven, and he says some pretty direct comments about those people who live for this World.
Jesus calls the man who invested in this world a fool? Why? Because his actions did not make sense in light of the truth. If I were to ask you, do want a dollar now, or a million dollars tomorrow, you would be a fool to take the buck, but that is what we do every day when we live for the dot in our life. Here is another quote from CS Lewis, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because be it I see everything else.” God has revealed truth to us through Jesus, let us live in a way that is not foolish, but wise.
The reality is, no one knows when the dot of your life will end. It may be today, it may be tomorrow, but there is no doubt it will end, the question is what is waiting for you? Heaven of Hell? Treasures or regrets.
We cannot change the past, but today is a new day. Let us chose today, whom we will serve. Will it be the passions of our flesh, or will it be the Lord. Will we trust God's investment strategy or will we listen to deception of the world? Are we willing to accept the eternal rewards of God, or would we rather be like the prodigal son and eat the pig slop of this world?
Don't settle for this world, set your eyes on the prize that lies before us in Christ.