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Sermon Series

 

November 16, 2014 A.D., by Pastor Ben Willis

According to Matthew 25:14-30 [NLTse]
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.15 He gave five bags of silver[b] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more.18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’
21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![c]
22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’
23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’
26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’
28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

The owner had divided his wealth amongst his slaves to manage for him while he was away. A talent was a coin used in Old and New Testament times. The New Nave’s Topical Bible says that someone with five talents would have been considered a multimillionaire in their day. Two of the slaves invested and managed well what had been entrusted to them, but the third did not. He accused the owner of being hard and seeking to benefit from the work of others without having to work himself. The slave was afraid of making a mistake and losing his master’s money so he hid the money in a safe place and gave the full, original amount back to his master when the master returned. In v. 26 the master replies “you know I’m someone who harvests crops I didn’t plant and gathers crops I didn’t cultivate.” So the master acknowledges that he does indeed seek to benefit from the work of others, and yet the owner calls the third slave “wicked” and “lazy”, saying that he at least could have put the money in a bank to receive a little interest. And then the master punished him.
What is Jesus seeking to teach us here?

The context of the parable comes in the midst of several other teachings of Jesus. He preaches “seven woes” against the religious leaders of His day in Chapter 23 contrasting the scribes’ and Pharisees’ attitudes and behaviors with that which Jesus is calling His followers to; He describes End Times events in the beginning of Chapter 24; at the end of 24 He makes absolutely clear that no one would be able to predict or even anticipate His return, so that Christians should always be “ready”; and the Ten Virgins parable at the beginning of Chapter 25 illustrates that: Always being ready. Then He shares this Talents’ parable. And Chapter 25 ends with the parable-picture of Judgment Day and the rewards and punishments given according to believers’ deeds. So Jesus is focusing His followers on the End Times in these passages, clearly wanting those who love Him to get His message: “Be ready;” “be about My Father’s business,” “keep actively using the gifts I’ve given you to win people to faith until I return,” “there will be distractions;” “there will be rewards;” “be ready!”
So with the end of all things and His imminent return in mind, what is Jesus saying to us today? Let’s look back at the parable.

In the giving out of the talents Jesus seems to be referring to Himself as He gets ready to go away – going to the cross and then ascending into Heaven. He is giving all that He has – the riches of Heaven, our inheritance, the power of God available to us for the work of sharing the gospel and spreading Jesus’ Kingdom. So the “talents” He distributes are God’s spiritual gifts and graces given to His servants – believers – but the talents may also include our natural and learned abilities, the money and possessions we have and gain, our personal influence, including the influence we have through the influence of others we influence.

In the parable we see two Christians of differing abilities using all they have and all they are to grow Jesus’ Kingdom, and we see them rewarded because they worked with what they were given. Notice that although the one was given more and so produced more that the two were rewarded the same, that is, the master said to both: “‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”

So the rewards Jesus has for us are not based upon how gifted we are (that might affect what we’re able to do for the Lord). No, our rewards will be based on our faithfulness: Did we use the gifts and talents and abilities we’ve been given for the Lord or not? And we see a third so-called Christian who, for some reason looked upon Jesus as harsh and scary, and upon God as unfairly working through people and benefiting from our work. His refusal to put his gifts and talents and abilities to work for the Lord seemed to show that his faith was not true (whether he called himself a Christian or not) and we see him cast out from the Lord into the picture Jesus often gives of Hell: Outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Maybe the third Christian was jealous of those around him or her that were more gifted or wealthy or famous than they. Perhaps that Christian represents believers who feel judged and belittled and worthless as they compare themselves with other Christians around them? Regardless of why, Jesus makes clear in v. 15 that the master gave to each one “according to their abilities”, so we know that regardless of the slave’s feelings, and regardless of our own feelings, that the Holy Spirit divvies out gifts and abilities and wealth and influence according to who we are and what we’re capable of.

The Lord calls us to trust Him, and that includes trusting Him in what we have and have been given as well as with what we don’t have and have not been given, He has equipped each of us differently and set us in different homes and communities and schools and workplaces so that we would do good for God and do good for those around us in whatever great or small ways we can. And like a parent who sees their children not living up to their potential, God clearly gets mad at us when we think less of ourselves than He’s revealed to us we are and so produce less for Him and for others than He’s set us in the world to do.

So how does all this hit you? Jesus is telling us that He is coming back when we least expect it. The signs of the End Times have been fulfilled almost since Jesus first ascended and went on His “journey” to the Father. Even so, we’ve been able to see other fulfillments, even recently. He could come at any moment: No warning; no way to expect it. Are we ready? Are you using the gifts and talents and abilities God has entrusted to you to love God and those around you and to help those around you come to trust in Christ?

We don’t have time to get ourselves into the spiritual condition we believe we should be in first, or to get our families in the spiritual condition we believe they should be in first, or whatever other excuses we might be giving for our delay. Jesus is clearly calling us to invest ourselves now, today! Are you loving others and drawing them to Christ? Are you serving and helping and blessing others and drawing them to Christ?

Of course, Jesus makes clear that we dare not judge ourselves unfit or unworthy either. We don’t fit ourselves for ministry nor are we worthy because of anything we have done, so if we judge ourselves unfit or unworthy in reality we are condemning God and telling Him that His work on the cross, His gifts to us of His Spirit, and His overall work on us altogether is just not good enough! Don’t believe it. Don’t believe it about yourself. Don’t believe it about Him.

This Thanksgiving thank God our Father the way He wants you to thank Him: Invest yourself in a Sunday School class or Bible Study to grow in Him (and start a Study yourself if He’s given you an abundance of gifts and talents); and invest yourself in a ministry (though again, plug into several if He’s given you an abundance).
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He’s not looking at how we used to be invested and all that we did with and for Him “in the day”. He’s looking at us now. On our dying day, or when He returns, don’t we all want to see Him approaching with His arms wide and a great big ear-to-ear grin saying, Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling these relatively small things. Now I will give you so much more. Let’s celebrate together!”



November 9, 2014 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

Introduction
In geology, scientists are divided into two groups: Uniformitarianists and Catastrophists.

The word uniformitarian is derived from the assumption that uniform environmental conditions have worked together to affect Earth’s environment in predictable ways over time. The key phrase of uniformitarianists is “The Present is the Key to the Past,” that is, what can be observed today tells us what happened before. For example, if they measure the amount of growth on a stalactite in one year, they can then divide the stalactite’s height by that number to find an approximate age for the formation. Along the same line, if a river cuts an inch into a canyon in one year, they can conclude that a 2,000 foot canyon took 24,000 years to produce. Uniformitarianism has been the basic teaching of historical geology since the early eighteen hundreds.

But before that, Catastrophism was universally accepted as the explanation of geologic formations. The word catastrophism comes from the same root as the word cataclysm. A modern dictionary defines it saying: To inundate, to wash, flood, deluge, catastrophe.

Back in the 1600’s Nicholas Steno, now known as the Father of Stratigraphy (the branch of geology which studies rock layers and layering), developed his ideas with a firm belief in the Bible as the authoritative Word of God. With this understanding, Steno reasoned that the worldwide flood of Noah’s day would have had a tremendous impact on the land surface. In fact, if the flood described in Genesis 6 actually occurred, he said, “the science of stratigraphy would demand the formation of stratified rock layers all over the earth filled with the fossilized remains of the plants and animals that lived in the [pre-Flood] world.” (As creationist Ken Ham puts it, “If Noah’s flood were true you would expect to find millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth, and what do we actually see in the fossil record? Millions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water all over the earth!”) (Catastrophism tends to align itself with Creationism, while Uniformitarianism is a part of the teaching of evolution.)

The geologic evidence for Catastrophism is so overwhelming that Uniformitarianists have adopted many catastrophist arguments, interspersing various catastrophic events into their great spans of geologic time, in order to have their theories match the evidence around us. [See http://www.creation studies.org/Education/education-flood.html.])

At the heart of Catastrophism for most adherents is belief that Noah’s Flood was an historical event. But could the entire Earth really have been flooded with water? Seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface today is water, and the oceans average to be almost 2.5 miles deep. That leaves only 29% as land, with the average elevation being not even half a mile. So if all the continents and land masses were leveled into the sea using a giant bulldozer, nearly two miles of water would cover our entire earth! So, although many do not believe that Noah’s Flood was a global event, it easily could have been. And the original unified supercontinent that many call Pangaea would have been split apart as the pressures upon the earth’s crust shifted tectonic plates and volcanic craters were pushed up whose eruptions would have resulted in new geologic formations as well as transforming the makeup of our atmosphere. Everything would have been changed. Noah and his family would have exited the ark to an environment significantly foreign to them.
But why are we talking about these things?

1 Peter 3:13-22 [NLTse]

13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
18 Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.
19 So He went and preached to the spirits in prison— 20 those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood. 21 And that water is a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
22 Now Christ has gone to heaven. He is seated in the place of honor next to God, and all the angels and authorities and powers accept His authority.

Sermon
As fearsome and catastrophic as the Flood must have been in “cleansing” and reshaping the Earth – breaking up the continents, carving the likes of the Grand Canyon, pushing up mountains and ranges like Everest, the apostle Peter writes that the Flood was just “a picture of baptism, which now saves you, not by removing dirt from your body, but as a response to God from a clean conscience. It is effective because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (V. 21) As awe-inspiring as the effects and after-effects of the world-wide Flood were, they are all just a picture to us of what Almighty God has accomplished in the soul of a person who trusts Christ’s death on the cross.

Paul writes to the Ephesians that, just like all the rest of humanity, “You were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. (He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.)” Paul writes, “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.” (2:1-3) Just like in the days of Noah when evil and wickedness were such that “everything [people] thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” (Genesis 6:5)

At that time God sent the Flood to cleanse and remake the earth, but even such total destruction and re-creation could not cleanse or remake peoples’ sinful nature, so an even greater catastrophe had to happen: The loving, innocent, sinless Son of God laid down His life to be murdered by wicked men on a cross. But God made His death to be a sacrifice to cleanse and wash away the sins of all who would believe it, with the after-effects of His sacrifice removing all the guilt and shame that sin so often leaves behind.

What seismic changes occurred as the result of such a catastrophe? Men and women and boys and girls ever since have been remade: Those who had been dead, living in sin, obeying the devil have been broken apart from the rest of humanity, had a new life carved out for them, lives of love and righteousness pushed up, surrendered to the Holy Spirit, trusting and obeying God.

Now, we talk a lot here at First Presbyterian about Jesus dying to free us from sin’s power, and about Jesus’ death freeing us from the guilt and shame that our sins so often leave behind. But too often, I think, we sing our songs about God’s forgiveness and join in prayers thanking Him for making us new and we nod our heads at sermons talking about being washed and cleansed but I think many of us do not let these truths penetrate our hearts and minds to truly believe that Jesus has done all of that for us! From the conversations I have with many of you, I believe many Christians know that Jesus saves, but have not experienced Jesus saving them. No, for some reason many have come to believe that their sins are special: Jesus can and does forgive everyone, but not you. You’ve sinned too often, or you’ve had to ask His forgiveness about the same thing over and over and over again, and it’s still going on in your lives. You know that nothing is impossible with God, but your struggles are different. Things with you can’t change.

Well, let’s get down to it here. The Bible says that God created the world in six days. The more I read and study about the science of origins (as it is called) the more I discover that believing that – as fantastic as it sounds! – addresses the cosmic evidence around us as well, and oftentimes better, than the more popular uniformitarian-evolutionary teaching that so pervades our culture. Likewise, the Bible says that there was no death in all that God originally established. Evolution is based upon death – millions and millions of years of death. But the Bible says there was no death: The creatures and human beings were vegetarian and were intended to live forever. And as I’ve studied the science behind these seeming too-good-to-be-true wonders, I’ve found that although not every creature could exist on meat that all creatures could – and many do (even so-called carnivores) – exist on plants alone. The Bible tells us that a worldwide flood killed every creature the Lord God had made on the face of the earth except those creatures and people that were with Noah on his boat! And the Bible tells us that all of that is why Jesus came and died.

The Bible does not paint for us a picture of Jesus – the Son of God – dying as a sacrifice for sin just so that you and I could be forgiven our sins. No, it is not just about us: Jesus is making everything new! He’s reestablishing righteousness. He is overturning death. By the catastrophe of the cross, Jesus Christ is remaking and reshaping all Creation including the entire Earth and all of humanity and, yes, beloved of God, you and me!

That’s why we baptize: A new Creation. That’s what we’ve been baptized into: A new Creation. That’s what we’re reaffirming with Joe McNeely today: Jesus Christ overcoming evil and undoing death and washing sin away through the cataclysm of His sacrifice. And there is nothing you have ever done, and there is nothing you might ever do, that can’t be undone by the fearsome majesty of Jesus’ death on the cross.

Let the reality of it, let the majesty of it, let the upheaval and undoing and remaking of it pierce the lies you’ve believed about what’s possible and impossible in your own life.

What is your sin? Call it to mind. Think on it right now… What is your guilt? Your shame? Your regrets… Hold it in your mind, hold it in your hands before the Lord this morning.

And as we refresh Joe McNeely’s baptism today, be washed, be undone, be remade! And know it is true by faith…
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Worship Team, would you come forward as we pray…

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior: The sun went dark and earthquakes shook the land as You hung on the cross beginning the undoing to make all things new. Such a horror. Such a wonder! To re-create for Yourself and us a world where righteousness is at home and the Way of the land… As we splash the waters of baptism this morning, wash away our doubts and fears to trust Your Word and Your new-creation work in us and all things. For Your glory in Jesus Christ, we pray…



November 2, 2014 A.D. by Pastor Ben Willis

Mark 10:17-31 [NLTse]

17 As Jesus was starting out on His way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to Him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” He told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow You,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for My sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

Sermon

I’ve been preaching through the Gospel of John where last week we came to the occasion of the Lord’s last supper and our Savior washing the disciples’ feet. After modeling servant hood to them, followed by a brief teaching about servant hood, God the Son finished His lesson saying, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (13:17)

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” So God blesses His servants not for what we know but for how we respond to what we know. A Christian’s happiness (“blessed are you,” says Jesus) comes through obedient service (“if you do them”, these things Jesus commanded). Our Bible study, our Scripture memorization, our doctrinal purity, etc… are all helpful, but they are only truly helpful if they lead us to a faithful and obedient living-out of “the things” Jesus has commanded. It is that two-sided coin of faith and works that James speaks so succinctly about when he writes: “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? … faith without good deeds is useless.” (2:14, 20) Yes, Jesus says, “it is important to know these things. But the blessing comes, not in the knowing, but in the doing.” Enter the rich, young ruler…

This religious leader comes to Jesus asking what he needs to do so that God will grant him eternal life. As I read this encounter I get two very different pictures of the young synagogue ruler: Either he is proud of himself and his lifestyle and looking to Jesus for affirmation of his own self-righteousness or he is insecure in his relationship with God so that, even having lived such a righteous life, he still is burdened by questions about his salvation. The Lord’s parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector illustrates the two possibilities I see.

“Two men went to the Temple to pray,” Jesus said. “One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank You, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to Heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’” (Luke 18:10-13)

That’s how I see the synagogue ruler, either like the Pharisee or like the Tax Collector: Either his question of Jesus is genuine and he is truly uncertain of his salvation or his question is for show and he’s asking to merely puff himself up even more.

I think it is revealing that Jesus’ first response seeks to probe the man’s understanding of Him. Jesus asks him, “Why do you call Me ‘good’? Only God is truly good.” The Lord is asking, “Has the Father revealed to you that I and He are one?” I picture the Lord studying the man intently, looking for any evidence of saving faith. Because at the heart of God’s gift of eternal life is faith and trust in God Himself. And because Jesus is God, faith in Jesus and seeing the Father in the Son and recognizing the Son because of knowing the Father are fundamental to salvation. But Jesus goes on.

“If you want to receive eternal life then live the way the Father has told you to live: Don’t end a human life; don’t take what’s not yours; don’t have sex if you’re not married; don’t say anything less than what you know to be true; don’t be dishonest in order to get something you want; treat your mother and father honorably and with respect; …” To which the man responds, either arrogantly, “Teacher, I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young,” or imploringly, “Teacher, I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Either way, Mark says, “Jesus felt genuine love for him.” And so, loving him, Jesus said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.” And either shocked and angry or dejected and afraid he went away sad because he had many possessions.

I used to think this was a universal teaching about money, and that a person couldn’t be a Christian who hadn’t first given away all of their money and possessions. And although I still think that money gets in-between many people and their faith in God, I’ve come to see that the Lord is talking to all of us in this passage, though not necessarily about giving away everything we own to benefit the poor.

I’ve come to see in this encounter Jesus’ love in revealing to the young synagogue leader what in his life is separating him from God, and separating him from the confidence and assurance and closeness the young ruler wanted to enjoy with God and which God wants us to enjoy with Him.

Which brings this all back to you and me: What would you say is your attitude towards your relationship with God? Would you say you are more like the Pharisee or are do you think yourself more like the Tax Collector? And what do you think Jesus would say to you if you asked Him what might be keeping you from inheriting eternal life?

I ask the question because of that cutesy but cutting little comment that people make sometimes about how surprised we might be as to who we see in Heaven and who we do not. I ask the question because the rich, young ruler either thought he loved God or wanted to love God, but out of love for the rich, young ruler, the Lord revealed to him that the man really loved his money instead. Might there be something in our lives that we love more than God but – on account of spiritual pride or on account of blinding insecurity – we don’t recognize? Or perhaps it’s not an idol at all but simply something in our lives that is keeping us from receiving Christ as fully and living by faith in Him as consistently and surrendering to His Spirit as completely as we would like and as He made us to?

I believe the Lord Jesus is standing right in front of us all this morning reminding us that it’s not just knowing the Way, the Truth, and the Life, but that blessing comes with living the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And I believe Jesus wants to tell us what we need to do to inherit eternal life.

Of course, if you have not yet come to trust that Jesus is God, that He and the Father are one, then that’s the first step: Believe that today; put your trust in Jesus today! (Pray: “Father, we are sinners separated from You because we want to believe what makes sense to us and do what we want to do, and what others around us in the world have taught us and are doing. We repent of putting others before You and trusting and following others instead of You. What You say is making sense to us and what we see in the lives of Christians around us, well, what we see of their lives is not perfect but we want it, even as we see You working in their lives we want You to work in our lives. We believe that You sent Jesus of Nazareth, that You came among us – God the Son – to show us Yourself, to teach us Yourself, and to pay the penalty Yourself for our sins, and to break the power that sin and the devil have had over our lives. Since we believe You have done this we now believe that You have removed the power of sin and its guilt and shame over us: Our old self is gone! A new self is here! Fill us with Your Holy Spirit! Come, live within us and through us Father, Son, through Your Spirit. Bind us together with Your church – the Body of Christ here on the earth. You have saved us and we promise to trust You in all things and to follow You wherever You may lead us and do whatever You would have us do. May our lives – our words and our deeds and all we come to stand for – draw peoples’ attention, not to us but, to You, bringing glory to You through Your Son. It is in His name we pray. Amen?”)

Okay, so now we can call the Lord Jesus “good” because we know He is God and because God alone is good. And now we can hear from Him what may be keeping us from inheriting eternal life here and now. What in our lives may be keeping us from abundant life. What in our lives may be separating us from that deep communion, koinonia, more blessed fellowship we were made for and long for…

So would you close your eyes with me and know – as we are gathered here in Jesus’ name – that we are here in God’s presence together. If we’ve had any doubts about His presence as we’ve been worshiping Him – in the name of Jesus – may those doubts be driven from us. We are here in God’s presence together! Let’s know Jesus standing before us…

And let’s ask Him: Lord, what must we do to inherit eternal life?

Is food keeping us from You? Is it our possessions? Do we prize our reputation too much? Do we think of ourselves as being too much of a disappointment? Or is it the weight of others disappointing us? Is unforgiveness separating us from You? Or is it our unwillingness to ask others’ forgiveness? Is it drugs? Is it alcohol? Is it lust? Is it wanting things our way? Is greed getting in our way? Or laziness? Is it arrogance and pride and superiority? Is it anger or our demand for vengeance? Lord what may be getting between us and eternal life? What must we do to inherit eternal life from God?

We’re going to sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” Let’s remain seated as we pray this song…

If the Lord in His love has not revealed to you what may be keeping you from saving faith and/or knowing more and more of His fullness in your life ask someone close to you, or perhaps even several people close to you – your spouse, your kids or your parents, some close friends – if they would love you enough to tell you what they see in your life that they think Jesus might not want to see there. (It might be especially insightful if we all asked one or several unbelievers around us what they think Jesus might not like seeing in our lives…)

Don’t ignore this. God’s blessing is not in our knowing the good news and His commandments but by living showing that we believe the good news and living out His commandments. And He loves us enough to show us and let us know what to do so we can fully enjoy Him forever!