Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 25, 2015
Today marks our last Sunday focusing on the Third Person of the Trinity. To be honest, I am a little sad, for there is still so much that could be said. In fact, because the Spirit is God, there is an infinite amount that could be said, for God is unsearchable.
For those who have found this sermon series on the Holy Spirit interesting and you want to go deeper, I encourage you to read “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. You can find a link to it on our website. Also, for those who are reading through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology, there are good sections on the Holy Spirit.. Lastly, I have been reading through the Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson, and I have found it extremely helpful. It is a little heavy, but not to bad.
Before we get into today’s sermon, let us briefly review what we have learned up to this point. First we learned that God is One, in three persons. We call this mystery the Trinity. One of those persons of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is fully God, yet separate in personhood. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, but instead is a personal God. Each person of God has a specific role. The general role of the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of all that God is, or to say it another way He is the proceeding power of the attributes of God. He proceeds originally from the Father, but also equally from the Son. Last week we examined this proceeding power in the lives of God’s elect at the time of regeneration. The power of God that blows into the life of God’s chosen, birthing them into spiritual life and giving them eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Without the Spirit of God regenerating us, we would never have the capacity to trust in Jesus as our Lord and as our Savior.
Today we are going to take the next step and examine the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. We will begin where we left off last week. Turn in your Bibles to Ezekiel 36:22
As I said, last week we saw that this outpouring of the Spirit described in Ezekiel is what we call regeneration. It is what Jesus was unpacking for Nicodemus in John 3. The description that Jesus used was being born again. As Jesus said, without this new spiritual birth you cannot see the Kingdom. Spiritual birth is a prerequisite to loving Jesus. This spiritual birth is caused by the Holy Spirit.
Put My Spirit within You
But, now let us ask, what happens next? Does the Holy Spirit blow out of our lives just as quickly as He blew into it? Is the new birth, the end of the story. This answer is an emphatic no. Babies are meant to grow into maturity. Look at verse 27, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” In this verse there are two components, God putting his Spirit within you and causing us to walk. First, let us look at the first part, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
As we begin, let’s take a moment and dwell upon the immensity of this statement. “I will put my Spirit within you.” This statement is mind-blowing and is unfathomable. The Holy Spirit is fully God; meaning he lacks nothing of who God is. He is all powerful, all knowing, and all present. We on the other hand are merely created dust. We are clay in the hands of a omnipotent Potter. The distance between the glory of God and the humility of us is infinite, literally infinite. Not to mention that not only are we dust in God’s hands, but we are sinners. We have rejected God’s authority in our life and we deserve Hell, not the gift of the Holy Spirit. But yet, there it is, written in God’s unchanging Word, “I will put my Spirit within you.”
This is not the only place we see God reminding Christians that he has put his Spirit in us. It is a frequent reminder throughout the New Testament.
The reality of the Christian life is that the Third Person of the Trinity takes up residence in your heart. This is what distinguishes Christians from non-Christians. Unbelievers are void of the Spirit of God. According to Ephesians 2:2, instead of the Spirit of God they have a spirit of disobedience.
For some of you with a Catholic background, this idea of the Spirit of God coming into your heart and giving you new life is foreign to you. The religion of Catholicism does not teach Biblical regeneration by the Spirit of God. Instead it teaches regeneration by the works of man, whether it is Baptism, Communion, Confession, or praying to dead people (otherwise known as necromancy). Catholicism wrongly teaches that these religious hoops are what keep you right with God, and therefore are necessary to obtain salvation. In this type of false religion, the Holy Spirit has no role, for it is not up to the Spirit of God, it is up to the individual. I cannot think of a more scary doctrine than my salvation depending upon me. That is a recipe for slavery to the law, slavery to guilt, and slavery to failure. The truth, as proclaimed by the Bible is that the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor between the spiritually dead and the spiritually alive.
If the Spirit of God has not taken up residence in your heart, then you are not a Christian. It is as simple as that. It does not matter if you attend Church, or mass, every week. It does not matter if you say you believe in Jesus, for even the demons believe in God. It does not matter if you are a Pastor of Cornerstone or the Pope. The only thing that matters is if you have the Holy Spirit.
So why does God put his Spirit in us? Why not just forgive us in Christ and move on?
God, by his Grace wants to give us assurance. He wants us to know that we are saved. How does he do this? By the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God taking up residence in our heart is a seal. He is a guarantee. What is the purpose of a seal? It is to prove authorship. When a King would write a letter, he put hot wax on the latter and take his ring and press it into the wax. This would cause a royal seal. Anyone who received this letter would know it is from the King. This is one of the purposes of the Holy Spirit? God has pressed his sign upon our hearts by the power of his Spirit. The Spirit within us acts as a sign to us and to the world that we are God's and He is ours.
The second part is that the Holy Spirit, is not only a seal upon our hearts, but he is a guarantee of our future glorification with the Lord. He is a down-payment of a promise to be later paid in full. There may be decades between our new birth in Christ and our full reunion with God in Heaven. Those decades will consist of mountains and valleys; brokenness, confusion, uncertainty, and failure. There will be times that you will wonder if God is truly your Father. You will doubt his love for you, but your faith will never fail. Why? Because of the Holy Spirit. He is God's pledge to you that God will never leave you, nor forsake you. God reminds us of this wonderful reality in the book of Ephesians.
Once the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, there is no getting him out. He is there to stay. Therefore, this is another reason why at Cornerstone we believe what is called eternal security, or perseverance of the saints. This is the understanding that once you are saved through Christ, you cannot lose your salvation. You cannot be born again, and then unborn. You cannot be adopted into God's family and then kicked out. You cannot be found then lost again. Why do we say this, for many Biblical reasons, but one of them is the guarantee of the Holy Spirit. Logically, if you could evict the Holy Spirit, he wouldn't be much of a guarantee would he?
Cause You to Obey
At this point, there may be some of you in this room who then say, “If you can't lose your salvation, does that mean you can sin all you want and still go to heaven?” The answer to that question is no, but for another reason.
The second part of Ezekiel 36:27 was that God would, “cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” This is another role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He not only seals us and guarantees our future glorification with the Lord in Heaven, but he changes our behavior.
When we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given eyes to see. What we see is our wretched ways, our sin, and our need for forgiveness in Jesus Christ. This understanding causes us to repent, or turn, from our life of following the ways of the sinful world, and instead follow Jesus. This is an act of the supernatural. You go from caring less about Jesus, to being consumed by Him. If someone was to ask you, “What happened to you?” You would say, “I love Jesus.” They might respond, “How did that happen?” And you would answer, “I don't know. I can't explain it. Something inside of me just changed.” This change is the Holy Spirit being put in your heart.
And this love for Jesus causes you to, not only proclaim your love for Christ, but to live out your love for Christ. The fruit of the Spirit produces in you a love for the Lord that causes you to walk in God's statutes and obey all that he commands. Jesus says this same thing to the disciples in the upper room prior to his death.
Who will obey Christ? Those whom love Christ. Why does someone love Christ? The Holy Spirit. This is why you cannot have Jesus as your Savior, but not your Lord. You can't have one without the other, they are a package deal. If the Spirit has been put inside of you, that means that you are born again, sealed, guaranteed, and will obey Christ.
To be a Christian does mean that you say some magic prayer, it means that you recognize the Jesus is the Lord of your life. He is in charge of what you do, how you spend your money, what words you say, what movies you watch, what goals and dreams you have. And this Lordship of Christ over your life is not a burden, but a joy. For you love Jesus. You want to do all that he asks, for he is your greatest treasure and you delight to serve Him.
This is something that the world does not get, especially our youth. They believe that you can claim to be a Christian, and then live any way you want. You can say what you want, watch want you want, buy what you want, live with who you want, have sex with who you want, marry who you want, live life the way you want. A life that is lived that is out of sync with God's unchanging Word, is proof that the Spirit of God does not live in a persons heart. I don't care if that person goes to their grave saying they are a Christian, if they make a practice of living independent of God's will, then they are walking proof of their damnation. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 7:21
Why were these people sent away on judgment day? They were workers of lawlessness, not workers of righteousness. The Holy Spirit was never poured out on them, causing them to love Christ and obey his commands.
No, the life of a Christian is a life with the proceeding power of God, springing out of your heart like a fountain of living water. It is a life of radical transformation from the inside out. So what is our response to this wonderful reality?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 26, 2015
Open your Bible to Philippians 4:1. Today we are going to examine only one verse. However, as many of you know, you can never really only examine one verse; for to understand that one verse you must, in a sense, examine the entire Bible.
What I find fascinating, is the mighty hand of God guiding our Church. Some of you will recognize that what are doing today is reinforcing what we are doing on Wednesday nights at our ACTS 242 Adult Bible study. This last Wednesday we were encouraged to meditate on the Word of God; to think about it; to contemplate it; to soak in it. As I have said before, reading the Bible is not a race. Our deepest desire is to know the one true God. If that means that we do it one verse at a time, then so be it. Therefore let us read our text, pray that God would give us understanding, and then meditate on God’s Word.
This last week I read a blog article by Jackson WU who was posting on a website named Training Leaders International. The title of his blog was “The Most Important Words in the Bible.” Can you guess what he believed to be the most important words? Perhaps you would guess Jesus...God…grace…cross…faith…hope…love. Those are all good words, but Jackson claimed that the most important words in the Bible were conjunctions. Do you know what conjunctions are? Conjunctions are words such as because, however, for, so, and therefore. These he claimed were the most important words in the entire Bible. Why? One reason is because conjunctions, many times, connect the command with the promise. Without conjunctions commands lack power, lack strength, they lack foundation. We can see this in our text today.
The first word that starts chapter 4 of Philippians is “Therefore.” This word is really in the Greek manuscript. They are not just throwing in that word to make it more readable. The Greek word is hóste. This is a conjunction. It joins two thoughts. It is somewhat unfortunate that these thoughts are separated by a chapter shift. So let us look at both sides of the conjunction. First let us look at the thought in verse 1.
The Greek word for stand firm is “stékó.” This word can be translated into English as stand firm, stand fast, persevere. As some of you have learned recently, when attempting to figure out what words mean in the Bible, we should use the Bible. So what we do is we conduct a word study on steko. We find other places that this word has been used. To do this you can use a concordance. If you are old school, you can use a concordance that is in book form, or if you are comfortable with the Computer then there are plenty of online concordances. I use Biblehub.com and on that site I use what is called Strong’s Concordance. Paul actually uses this word somewhat frequently in his letters. In fact, he has a used this word earlier in Philippians.
In the Lord
This leads to the question, don't relent, hold position, be strong in what? Paul's command is for the church to stand firm in the Lord. What does it mean to be in the Lord? First, I think we need to understand that to be in the Lord is a statement of position. It is a description of location. If I ask, where is the car? And someone answers, “it is in the garage.” This is a description of location.
This is exactly what Paul is speaking to. He is speaking of the Christian location. This is something I think so many people don't get, and by so many people I mean religious people, who think they are saved but are not saved. They view being a Christian, not as a location but as an activity. They see Christianity as something that is scheduled. This is not what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to place your life entirely in the hands of Jesus Christ. To fully and completely abide in him. This is a radical repositioning of your life.
So the question we must all ask ourselves is, are you in the Lord, are you hidden in Christ, do you abide in Jesus, are you in the Ark of God's Grace, with the door shut behind you? Or are you playing church? If you are playing Church, the game you are actually playing is Russian roulette with your soul, for at any moment that door could shut in your face. And when God says time is up, then time is up. It is too late. Time is truly of the essence. The rain could start falling at any moment. Chose today to leave this world behind you and enter into a union with Jesus Christ.
Now for those who are in the Lord, does that mean being in the Ark is like a ride on the love boat? That being in Christ is like riding a pleasure boat in the Caribbean? Absolutely not, it is, in fact, more like a ride on battleship.
Implicit in these statements of standing firm is the existence of a force that is pushing against you, a force that is attempting to make you not stand, attempting to cause you to fall, attempting to knock you over, attempting to take the hill that you have secured.
What is Paul referring to? Paul is referring to the attacks that he just got speaking about in Chapter 3. The dogs, the evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh, enemies of the cross, whose God is their belly, glory in their shame, and set their minds on earthly things. This is the force that Paul is speaking of. It is the force of the World. The World that lies in the hands of Satan.
When you align yourself with Jesus Christ, and choose to follow Him and to be found in Him, you no longer walk as an enemy of the cross, but an enemy of the World. When we bear the image of Jesus Christ we are guaranteed to be treated the exact same way as our Savior. Jesus tells us this.
However, we must also be aware that persecution is not just murder it is also the threat of murder. This type persecution is becoming more and more prevalent. For those who participated in the Secret Church gathering on Friday night you are already aware of this, but the Church in which the live event was being broadcast, the Church at Brooks Hills, the Church we are going to be partnering with in our Guatemala Mission trip, received a threat. The threat was legitimate enough that they moved the taping to an undisclosed location.
But it is not just large events like Secret Church, with well known pastors speaking, it is also Christian businesses. I am sure you are familiar with Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. After speaking out that they were a Christian business that would not cater a gay wedding, they immediately started to receive threats, no not from ISIS, but from average Americans. One was a female high school coach, we tweeted, “Who is going to Walkerton, Indiana with me to burn down Memories Pizza.”
This is the America in which we live in. If you place your faith in Christ stand upon the inerrant Word of God, you will be persecuted. It won't just be from ISIS. It will be nice little high school volleyball coach that lives next door. In fact for many of you, it may come from even closer to home.
The question is, will you stand firm? Will you remain strong? Will you hold to what you are taught in God's Word? Will you persevere? Will you endure? Or will you fall? Will you sell your soul to gain favor with the World?
God has commanded us to stand firm in Christ, but how are we to do this when all the World seems to be chanting for our heads on a platter. This is were the word “therefore” is so crucial. For “therefore” points back to the foundation of the command. So what does the therefore point back to?
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 22, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:12-13. Today we will be looking at only two verses, and it will take as all of 45 minutes to do it. So we are going to get right to work this morning.
So with that said, if you run into an apparent paradox in the Bible do not reject it. Instead, recognize that the Bible is not the problem. You are, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you mine the depths of God’s truth. When you do this, you will most likely find that the deeper you dig, the greater the treasure you will find.
So let us start with the paradox. In verse 12 we see Paul telling the Church in Philippi to “work out your own salvation.” This is a command. Paul is telling them to work, to do something. He places the obligation, the responsibility on the people. Then in verse 13, in the same sentence, Paul says, “it is God who works in you.” Paul is saying that God does the work.
Is Paul schizophrenic? He starts his sentence with us doing the work, and ends the sentence with God doing the work. Which is it? Is it us, or is it God? At first glance, we believe that these positions are mutually exclusive. We believe that they cannot both be true. It has to be one or the other, but not both.
Why? Because when we read the Bible we wrongly superimpose our finite, our limited knowledge over the Bible. We wrongly have a tendency to Lord over God’s word. We wrongly approach the Bible as if we are god, and we therefore then attempt to shape God’s word to match our view of reality. This is not the way you read the Bible. We should not twist the Bible to match our metanarrative, the Bible that should shape us to match God’s redemptive narrative. For it is the Bible that is the revelation of true reality. We must humble ourselves beneath the Word of God and allow it to refine us. We must be willing to accept difficult truths, even if we don’t understand it initially.
So today I encourage you, to start from that position, as position of humility as we attempt to mine the depths of the reality that we work out our salvation, and God works out our salvation.
Next, lets us talk about the foundation of this text. We are focusing on only two verses, and there is a risk that when you do this, you read it with blinders on. We must recognize that these verses are not on an island. They are a part of a letter. They are part of a flow of thought. Verses 12 and 13 have a foundation under them, so let us spend some time looking at that foundation. The foundation begins in Philippians 1:3.
At that moment, Lydia is saved. Salvation has come into her heart. She is eternally secure in the arms of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus paid for all her sin; past, present, and future, and she has been given the righteousness of Christ. This is the great substitution. Christ takes our sin, and we take his righteousness. This is why Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For those who are in Christ, the gift of salvation is received at the moment of faith. This is why Paul can confidently say in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is a guarantee that all who are in Christ will be brought to completion. We will all reach the end. We will endure. We will persevere. If you don’t persevere, that means that you were never in Christ. That God never began a work in you, but you were just fooling yourself.
However, for a true follower of Jesus, in between the beginning and the end is the Christian walk. And this is what Paul starts to discuss in Philippians 1:27.
And it is this foundation that Paul lays out before he says in verse 12, where he says, “work out your own salvation.” Why is this important? Because Satan would love for you to read verse 12 as saying, “work for your salvation.” Satan would love for you to think that your salvation is dependent upon what you do, as if salvation is something to be earned. But we all know that salvation is a gift of God’s Amazing Grace, not a wage.
So what does verse 12 say? It says we are to “work out your salvation” not “work for your salvation.” To work out your salvation means that you already have salvation. God, at the moment of conversion has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. At the moment of conversion God has birthed you into spiritual existence. At the moment of conversion God has made you a new creation. At the moment of conversion God has adopted you into his family. And this is who you are at your core. However, this does not mean that immediately upon conversion that you will perfectly, without sin, outwardly display this inward reality.
In between justification and glorification, there is sanctification. Meaning, that in between you being declared not guilty through Christ and being perfectly like Christ in Heaven, there is a life of transformation that occurs. We call this transformation sanctification, and this is the Christian walk. This Christian walk has two sides to the coin, your role and God's role.
Work Out Your Salvation
Let us begin by talking about our role. This text makes many grace based Christians flinch. They see work and think there must be a typo, but rest assured it is not. This word work is an active word, not a passive. Paul is telling us that we play a substantial part in becoming who we already are. Becoming like Christ in obedience is not something that just happens, but something that we make happen. And this is not the only place we see text like this in the Bible. In fact later in this letter Paul says this:
And why does God come and reside in us? What is His reason? What is His purpose? What does verse 13 say? He lives in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is amazing. God is in your heart making you will and work. Are you tracking? God is changing your desires. He is changing your delights. He is changing your loves. He is changing you from the inside out.
So how does this look practically? It looks like Bryan and Amy Speed waking up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to read the Bible and pray. It looks like James donating over a $1000 so others can go on a mission trip. It looks like Freddie willing to travel to the other side of the planet and risk his safety so to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ. It looks like 30 people cramming the front of our Church on Wednesday night equipping themselves to make disciples. It looks like Paul sitting chained to a Romans guard and preaching Jesus Christ to the entire imperial guard.
All of these actions are evidences of the salvation that we have already received. When Christ truly comes and takes up residence in your heart he changes you. You want to pray, you want to read the Bible, you want to share the Gospel, you want to go on mission trips, you want to wash each others feet, you want to cut off your right hand if it causes you to sin. You want to strive, press on, strain, work out, and fight the fight of faith to be like our King. Our King who obeyed to the point of death on a cross.
Over the years I have heard people say, slow down, don't take on too much, you are going to burn out. I have even had people tell me that they believe I am trying to earn my way to Heaven. When I hear those things I want to say, get behind me Satan. Because what I see in the Bible is verse like 1 Corinthians 15:10.
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 November 30, 2014
Today we come to the end of a two month sermon series on the Doctrines of Grace. To end our series I want to review the doctrines, briefly, and then I want to talk more about why understanding these doctrines matter in your day to day Christian walk.
So in review, the Doctrine of Grace are primarily about God's sovereignty in our salvation. Meaning that from beginning to end, it is God who saves. God gets all of credit for for our salvation, and therefore God gets all the glory.
The acronym for the Doctrines of Grace spells TULIP. Let us quickly go over each doctrine. First there is Total Depravity. This doctrine summarizes the Bible's teaching that man is a sinner. That our hearts our desperately sick, that nothing good dwells in us, that every intention of our heart is only evil continually, that all our “righteous deeds” are like filthy rags, that we are wretched; therefore we have no ability in ourselves to save ourselves or come to Christ. Jesus said it very clearly in John 6:44 that , “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
Which leads to the next doctrine we talked about, Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace is the drawing of a wretched sinner to Jesus by God. It is the shining of the light of Christ into a sinners heart by God. It is the Holy Spirit blowing into our life, birthing us into spiritual life. It is God circumcising your heart. It is God taking out the heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. It is God giving us eyes to see and ears to here. It is God opening our hearts to pay attention to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Without the God's overcoming our resistance to Him by his irresistible grace, we are without Hope to repent and place our faith in Jesus Christ.
This begs the question, how does God decided whose life he will pour out His irresistible grace? He does this by His Unconditional Election. This is the “U” in TULIP. Unconditional Election is the understanding that God, before time began, chose whom would be adopted into his family to be holy and blameless before Him. That God chose whom would receive His grace. This decision is a sovereign decision, meaning that God makes this decision with no outside influence. He is the only truly free decision maker in the Universe. God has mercy on whom he has mercy. This is not based on what we do, it is based on God's free, sovereign will.
Next we examined Limited Atonement. This is the Biblical doctrine that Jesus was sent to rescue the elect, the ones chosen by God. This teaches that Jesus actually saved a specific people. That his death was a particular death, with a personal application. Jesus did not die for an opportunity to be saved, but that actually saved people. Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus came to die for his sheep and that there is no greater love that to lay down your life for a friend.
Lastly, we looked at the overwhelming passages that point to the wonderful truth that when God begins his work in you, He will complete it to the end. This is the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, otherwise known as eternal security. This teaches that when you are adopted into God's family, He doesn't later kick you out. He doesn't give you eternal life and then say, just kidding. He doesn't open your eyes, to close them again. He doesn't love you, then send you to Hell. Perseverance of the Saints is the reality of the forever love of God.
These are the Doctrines of Grace. The question we will now address today is, why does it matter? I would argue that it matters immensely. As I stated before, other than my conversion, there has been no greater revelation in my life than the Sovereignty of God.
In this sermon series I have already spoken of two reasons as to why the Doctrines of Grace matter. First, God receives all the glory in our salvation. When we accept the truth of the Doctrines of Grace in our lives we are left with only one response, to praise God for His glorious grace. The second result we examined last week is that the Sovereignty of God is the catalyst to the Great Commission. Like Christ who was sent to rescue His Bride with victory guaranteed, we as his brothers and sisters, take the baton and go to all nations to bring in the sheep that are scattered abroad, knowing that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation and Jesus' sheep will hear his voice.
Today, I want to continue to discuss why embracing the Doctrines of Grace matter. These doctrines are not academic. They are doctrines you should build your life upon. Today, I have ten reasons why I believe that we should care about these doctrines.
We must remember that God's Word is His revelation to man. Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4 that it is God's Word that is bread to our souls. Jesus then tells us that in John 17 that it is God's Word that sanctifies us. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3 that God's word is what equips us and makes us competent for all good works. The Doctrine of Grace is are doctrines of God's Word. The doctrines are not academic, they are much needed rations for this spiritual battle we find ourselves in and we must allow them to have their full effect upon our hearts and minds.
“I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.”
I did a lot of driving this weekend and we had a cd with Chris Tomlin's new song Waterfall on it. Perhaps you don't know this but Tomlin is a Calvinist, but in this song he says, your love is like a waterfall. And I was dwelling upon this phrase in connection to my sermon today and I thought, yes this is true, if you see the waterfall like Niagra Falls and not the the Cascades of the Maquoketa. It is the overwhelming and powerful love that pummels us and causes us to respond with reciprical and radical love for God and radical love for others.
I recall one man who told me that he hated the weekends because he was always worried that he would lose his salvation. Whether it be thinking the wrong thought, watching the wrong movie, saying the wrong word, you name it. He never had peace in his heart. Does this seem like freedom? No it sounds like a prison.
And it is from this lowly state that God can begin to use us for His purposes. It is this posture of humility that gives us the ability to wash each other's feet, put other's interest before ours, take the log out of our eye, and acts as a guard against our sinful desire to lord over our brothers and sisters in Christ.
All Christians pray like a Calvinist. Every single one of you. If you wanted to be consistent with your claimed theology of free will, then you would not pray for peace and comfort and revivals and conversions, because free will claims that God has no control over those things. But something deep inside us knows that this is not true. The Holy Spirit groans inside of us to pray for hearts to break for Jesus, and this is a prayer that we need to pray more often.
As we stated earlier, I want us to be praying about the month of December. I want each of us to pray like a Calvinist. Pray that God would open the eyes of your neighbors. Pray that God would draw them to Jesus. Pray that God would cultivate their hearts and make them good soil to receive the Gospel. And pray like you believe He can do it.