Sermon Series


October 16, 2011 AD, sermon preached by Elder Joe Bell

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Psalm 68:19,20 Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

We serve a risen Savior, He is alive, He is faithful, you can put your trust in Him, He will not disappoint you. Our God loves us so much! The scriptures tells us in John’s gospel 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Our God loves us so much we read in Rom.5:8 that even when we were his enemy he still sent his son to die for us so that we could have eternal life with him. Eph.2:4,5 says, but because of his great love for us God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions. It is by grace you are saved. Our God is a God who loves us so much. Do you know there is no end to how much He loves us? There are no limits to how much he loves us. And our God can not change his mind like we can. He is always in love with us forever. Eph.3:14-19 For this reason I kneel, I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being. So that Christ may dwell in your hearts though faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Wow there is a lot to digest there. It would seem to me there is a high priority on knowing and understanding the love of Christ. I would urge you to find time this week and read these verses Eph.3:14-19 again and allow the Holy Spirit some time to speak to our hearts. The sense I get is that Paul is praying for the body of Christ calling on the Holy Spirit to minister to us that our eyes and our hearts would be open to see how great God’s grace, and mercy and love is hoping that it would cause us to love him back. The scriptures do say that we love him because he first loved us. Paul’s hope is that the church would be rooted and established in his love and that Christ would dwell in our hearts though faith. Do you know what God’s hope is for us? That our heartbeat would be his heartbeat that we would love him as he loves us that we would be hungry for the things of God. That our desire would be to pray always, and trust him and follow him and be able to say as Paul says for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. And as Isaiah, who said woe is me if I do not preach the word of God. God’s hope for us is that we would be a people of faith. This is the relationship and commitment God is looking for. There is a story that goes like this. A young boy was on the roof top of his burning house and the firefighters were pleading with him to jump but the young boy was afraid and would not jump. His father then said to his son jump into my arms I promise I will catch you and the young boy without hesitation jumped into his fathers arms. This is faith, that young boy knew his father! trusted his father! and jumped! God wants us to know him and to trust him and to obey him. John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them he is the one who loves me. Isn’t that awesome that God longs to be in relationship with us. Paul was hoping that the body of Christ would understand how wide and long and high and deep The love of Christ is because if there is just a tiny understanding of it.. There is love. There is relationship. There is faith. There is power! There is victory.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes there is victory in your life and sometimes there is fear or doubt?

In 1Sam.17 we read about the story of David and Goliath. When David was just a boy his three older brothers went to war with Saul to fight against the philistines and the giant Goliath. Saul’s

army occupied one hill and the Philistine army occupied another hill and there was a valley between them. For forty days and nights Goliath taunted Saul’s army and they were gripped with fear. One day Jesse sends David to find out how the war is going and how his brothers are doing. David witnesses Goliath’s mocking and sees the army full of fear. When David hears a soldier saying what the king will give to the one who kill’s the giant, he inquires about it and his oldest brother’s reaction was anger toward him. When David speaks to Saul he tells him let no one lose heart on account of this philistine, your servant will go and fight him. David also shares with Saul a testimony about himself (to prove the point that he is able to go against Goliath.) He tells Saul the Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver my from the hand of this Philistine. Now when David speaks to the giant he says you come against me with sword spear and javelin but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.

Saul and everyone in his army including David’s three brothers did not have the faith to trust God to win the battle for them. All were gripped by fear.

Sometimes there are things in our lives that we go through that we are not able to get victory over and we lose sight of God (sometimes) but that does not mean we do not have faith. I call this the normal Christian life. I call this taking your eyes off Jesus. Remember when Peter said to Jesus if that is you on the lake call me to come to you and Jesus called him to come and Peter walked on water for just a bit until he took his eyes off of Jesus and saw the waves and saw what he was doing and he kind of freak out and probably was saying to himself this is impossible I can’t walk on water and then he began to sink. That’s what happens sometimes. Another example would be how Paul taught in Rom.7 the struggle between the flesh and the spirit. You find yourself doing that what you do not want to do and not doing that what you want to do. So you see this war waging inside you between the spirit and the flesh. These struggles are real. But lets remember there is nothing impossible with God So what made David different from all the rest? His eyes were on the Lord and they remained on Him He was not afraid. There was no fear in him. David knew the Lord Almighty was on his side. He knew by faith God would deliver him from this enemy. He trusted God with his life. He was prayed up! David knew the battle belonged to the Lord. Church remember that no matter what you may be going through God is always with you He knows everything! Cast all your care on him. Trust him. The bible teaches us that perfect love cast out fear and Gods love is perfect. 2 Tim says God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind. God loves us so much he wants more for us. He wants us to live the victorious Christian life and put off the normal Christian life and we can do this through Christ who has given us the power to live such a life. Put on Christ the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in us. There is victory in the Name of Jesus! At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Deut.10:12 what does the lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God to walk in all his ways to love him to serve the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. This is the heartbeat of God! To love the lord with all your heart and with all your soul.

Finally we come back to our scripture verses John 21:15-18 Jesus said to Simon Peter son of John Do you truly love me more than these? Yes Lord he said you know that I love you. Jesus said feed my lambs.

Again Jesus said to Simon Peter son of John do you love me? Peter said yes I love you Jesus said take care of my lambs. The third time Jesus said Simon Peter son of John do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time do you love me? He said Lord you know all things you know that I love you. Jesus said feed my sheep.

Matt.28:18 Jesus came to them and said all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you and surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.

God loves us so much He is asking us the same question today as he did to Simon Peter, do you love me and Jesus answers feed my sheep. And Jesus says a second time to each of us do you love me and Jesus answers take care of my sheep. And Jesus who knows everything asked a third time do you love me and he answers all of us feed my sheep.

October 9, 2011 AD, “Teach God’s Word To Your Children”, by Pastor Ben Willis

Psalm 78:1-7 [NLTse] – A psalm of Asaph.

1 O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, 2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—3 stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us. 4 We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders. 5 For He issued His Laws to Jacob; He gave His instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, 6 so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children. 7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting His glorious miracles and obeying His commands.

If you could only choose one or the other, which of these two would you pick: That your child be healthy and wealthy, or that your child go to Heaven?

There are 613 Laws across the first five books of the Old Testament. (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are called “The Five Books of the Law”, or sometimes just “The Law”.) One of those 613 Laws is God’s command that the Israelites teach all the Laws to their children and their children’s children after them. This command is given several different times in several different ways across “The Five Books of the Law”, but Deuteronomy 6:4-9 summarizes them all well:

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.[] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

I have always loved this command! And yet it’s so strange, too, especially the way some Jewish groups have come to practice it so literally (even in the Lord Jesus’ day): Wearing phylacteries – the little Scripture boxes on their foreheads and forearms – and fastening mezuzot to their doorframes…

Did you know that Exodus 13 says the Passover ritual was also to serve as “a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead, so that the training of the Lord may be on your lips” (v. 9)? And later in chapter 13 it says the act of consecrating their firstborn sons to God was to be “a sign on your hand and as an emblem on your forehead that by strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt” (v. 16).

On account of our faith and trust in Christ, you and I have been grafted into the remnant of Israel, and called and commanded with all God’s people to have God’s Word on our hearts, and to teach those words to our children – talking of the Lord when we are sitting at home and when we’re walking along our way; talking of God’s Word when we’re lying down, when we’re getting up… We are called and commanded to celebrate our holidays in such a way that they teach of God’s wonders to us and across history, and perform our rituals and celebrations in such a way that God’s wonders are acknowledged and proclaimed…

And yet our loving Father never calls us to something, He never commands us to do this or not to do that unless it’s good for us, important to us. In Genesis 18 we see something of what good and loving purpose there is for us in teaching our children and our children’s children about Him…

The Lord and two angels have visited Abraham on their way to punish the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. In verses 17 and 18 the Lord determines to reveal to Abraham what He’s about to do, saying in v. 19, “For I [the LORD] have chosen [Abraham], so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” You see, prior to this, the Lord spoke to Abraham – promised him, assured him – that the Lord would give Abraham so many descendants that they would become a great nation. And He assured Abraham that this great-nation-of-descendants would cause Abraham’s name to become famous across history. And God would bless Abraham’s great-nation-of-descendants, and would make them a blessing, and all the nations of the Earth would be blessed in Abraham. (See Genesis 12:1-3.)

Of course, the great-nation-of-descendants the Lord is talking about are the Jewish nations of Israel and Judah; and the great blessing that bless-ed people brought to the whole world was their Messiah – the Savior of the world! – Jesus Christ.

But notice the Lord’s words “For I [the LORD] have chosen [Abraham], so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.” So, the good and loving reason the Lord calls and commands us to pass on His good news and His Way of Life to our children (and to following generations) is so that we can be assured – because the Lord God wants us to have assurance – that He’ll keep every promise He’s made to us. (What a great! what a good God!)

So the Lord isn’t merely commanding us to include Him in all our conversations, and to make all of our holidays and celebrations about Him for the sake of bossing us around. He’s given us such direction because He desires for us to know, to be assured that He will be faithful to us (and to our children) forever and always. He’s telling us that is what teaching does…

This call and command to share the Gospel and teach God’s ways to our children and grandchildren is repeated in the New Testament. Ephesians 6:4 states, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” A parallel passage from Colossians reads, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (3:21).

Look at the logic of these passages. They say, (understanding that God Almighty is ultimately the Creator of our children, and that He has made all things, including our children, for Himself) these passages say that when parents don’t bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, the result for our children is anger/exasperation! Do you see that?

Our kids were made to know Jesus Christ; they were made to know Him. So when we make our kids education our priority, or their sports, or when we make their clothing or their possessions or their friends our priority for them instead of God, one way or another we’re going to be leaving them angry and exasperated. (And if that doesn’t describe what we’re seeing around us, kids who have more things and opportunities than any other generation before them, and yet a generation that’s frustrated, annoyed, angry… exasperated! I don’t know what does.) When we don’t teach out kids about Christ, whether we realize it or not, we exasperate them.

To shake things up a little bit:

Let’s work to talk about God all the time; to some way or another make Him a part of every conversation we have.

Let’s not exasperate our kids; let’s not have us be what tempts them to frustration and anger because we’ve kept the Lord to ourselves, or decided we should let the church teach them about that.

Let’s be assured of His promises, His assurances, the way He’s promised to assure us when we teach and pass His Gospel and Way of Life on to others.

Let’s make every celebration – birthdays, retirements, baby showers, you-name-it… an opportunity to declare His mighty works and the good things He’s done.

And let’s make every holiday – holy-day – boldly and unashamedly His: Not about trees or elves, but about His birth; not about eggs or bunnies, but about His death and resurrection; not about witches and goblins and darkness, but about men and women and boys and girls who’ve been brought from death to life in Christ; all our holy days for His glory!

Let’s obey the command of the Lord and teach our children well.

October 2, 2011 AD, “What We Believe Matters!”, Pastor Ben Willis

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 4:1-16 [NLTse]

1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, Who is over all and in all and living through all.

7 However, He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say, “When He ascended to the heights, He led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to His people.”

9 Notice that it says “He ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same One Who descended is the One Who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that He might fill the entire universe with Himself.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: The apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, Who is the head of His body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

What we believe matters.

Last weekend, at the direction of the Elders, I drove down to Bethesda, MD to attend a presbytery meeting of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Now, I’ve attended a lot of presbytery meetings across my fifteen years of ministry, and during my years of active service to the church before that. The liberalism of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) shows itself in their versions of such meetings, as uuu those who believe the Bible is authoritative and read it fairly literally (like myself and our congregation’s commissioners) are made welcome right alongside those who believe the Bible is more of a guide and read it fairly figuratively and skeptically. The PCUSA sees the Christian faith as a spectrum with evangelicals and conservatives at one end and liberal, all-but-universalists at the other.

The EPC presbytery meeting was not like that: uuu Men and women prayed boldly in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; nobody choked when referring to the Lord with masculine terms; God’s sovereignty and human sinfulness were spoken of plainly. (The Devil even got mentioned in the context of being a true – though defeated – enemy once or twice.)

At PCUSA presbytery meetings uuu there is gentle pressure to embrace unorthodox teachings, to look down on inerrancy and infallibility, and to accept one another’s beliefs as “faithful Christianity” no matter what those beliefs may be! EPC presbyters uuu spoke courteously and respectfully regarding those who believed differently than they, but made clear in their prayers, teachings, sermons, and songs what they believed, and proclaimed it unapologetically!

uuu What we believe matters!

I’ve been preaching these last few weeks through the Essential Beliefs of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and we will be voting in our Congregational Meeting after this Service whether or not to seek admission into that denomination.

If you’ll take out the “Essentials of Our Faith” insert in our Worship Bulletin… Their last two statements of faith proclaim:

Jesus Christ will come again to the Earth – personally, visibly, and bodily – to judge the living and the dead, and to consummate history and the eternal plan of God. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20)

The Lord Jesus Christ commands all believers to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world and to make disciples of all nations. Obedience to the Great Commission requires total commitment to “Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.” He calls us to a life of self-denying love and service. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

These Essentials are set forth in greater detail in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

(The Essentials of Our Faith, #6 & #7)

There is no promise the Lord Jesus talked about more often than His promise to return: To judge the deeds of men and women according to their faith; to bring this Heaven and Earth of sin and death to an end; to destroy the Devil; and, to establish a new Heaven and a new Earth that will never end. Many who are more liberal and skeptical when reading the Bible believe the Lord Jesus’ promise to return is a merely figurative promise. They believe that through moral teaching, technological and medical advances, and by righting society’s wrongs the church will lead humanity to eradicate injustice, poverty, sickness, and disease, and in doing so establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Teaching morality is a part of the Church’s work in the world. As is showing God’s hand at work in those technological and medical advances that truly are advances. As is promoting social righteousness. But the Lord Jesus made clear His return would be more than merely figurative.

When speaking of His return the Lord Jesus prepared His disciples to expect that others might come and pretend to be Him – miracle-workers, false messiahs, deceitful teachers – but that we should not be deceived! uuu No one out-of-doors misses lightning when it strikes and thunders and flashes across the sky! And just so, the Lord Jesus promises that nobody is going to miss Him when He returns.

What we believe matters!

It matters that we believe the Holy Scriptures “have supreme and final authority on all matters on which they speak.” Those who call themselves Christians, but who don’t regard Scripture as authoritative, live by faith very differently than we do. They don’t have the anchor we have, the solid rock. You see them tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching – every new book, every clever sermon, every captivating thought… uuu And it sure doesn’t promote unity.

It matters that we believe Christ Jesus of Nazareth was and is divine in His origins and nature: “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by Whom all things were made.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you have a problem with Jesus Christ, your Christianity has trouble right in the middle… uuu

It matters that we believe our Good Shepherd actually performed the miracles the Bible attributes to Him. I mean, does He have all authority in Heaven and on Earth, or not? Can He truly save, or  uuu should we be putting our stock in someone else?

It matters that we believe He died and paid God’s just penalty for our sins. We’re sinners! We need a Savior! Without Him uuu we’ve got trouble coming…

It matters that we believe Christ overcame death, truly, bodily. It matters that we believe He was dead and that now we believe He is alive, and with us, always… If His resurrection was faked, if all we have to call upon is the inspiration of a life well-lived almost two-thousand years ago… uuu

Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians this morning calls us to, “Make every effort to keep ourselves united in the Spirit, binding ourselves together with peace.” It’s not always easy, Paul is saying. It takes effort: To read the Bible when you have other priorities trying to push devotional time out of the way. Being a part of Bible studies, Sunday School classes, or other small groups so we can “bind ourselves together with others” can take hard work in our ever-busy, wearying world. But that’s what leads to unity: uuu In all our diversity, moving in the same direction, with shared purpose, led by One admiral and king, Who is Christ. Because the diversity in Christ’s Church is only in the diversity of gifts Christ has given each of us for proclaiming the good news and making disciples, not in what we are called to believe and hold dear! The great apostle makes so clear: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as we have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, Who is over all and in all and living through all.”

What we believe matters! And it always will until uuu, and I quote, “until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”