The Offices of Christ

During the month of December, we have been studying the offices of Christ in an effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus. Many Christians have made the Christmas season so man-centered, that it is difficult to sift out all the commercialism and selfishness that is associated with Christmas. How do you teach your children about the gift of giving when everyone is asking them what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas? I encourage parents to crowd out all the noise of our cultural Christmas with the person of Jesus Christ.  Take the time to teach your children everyday why we celebrate Christmas. Take the time to teach them what Jesus came to do. That is why I have been preaching about the offices of Christ. I want each person to be equipped with the knowledge of the character, person, and purpose of Jesus Christ and His advent.

Jesus Christ came to the earth to reconcile all things to God. While it is true that he came to provide a way of salvation for lost sinners like me, the focus was on God and His glory … not on man. We tend to want to make everything about us in our culture. But Immanuel (God with us) did not come to earth to cater to our needs. He came to glorify God and reconcile a sinful world and lost sinners to God. We indeed reap the benefits, but Jesus coming was about so much more than our salvation. So let’s name a few!

Jesus came as the greatest prophet! Moses promised a prophet greater than himself that would come and teach all things. A prophet is someone called out by God that speaks God’s Word to His created beings. Who better to teach the Word of God than the one called the Word of God in John 1? Hebrews 1:1-3 teaches that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God to humanity. And Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. So Jesus is not only the promised Messiah and Savior of the world, He has come to make the Father known as the greatest Prophet.

Jesus came as the last High Priest! The high priest is a man that would, once a year, go into the holy of holies in the Jewish temple to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. Since he was offering an imperfect sacrifice for imperfect men and women, this was simply a stop-gap measure to cover the sin until the promise of God to make all things right was fulfilled. A priest is also one that goes to God on behalf of man. Jesus fulfills this role by making a way for sinners to have their sin completely forgiven. He is the promise of God to make all things right! He did this by offering himself up as a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Because His life is infinitely valuable and He lived without sin, Jesus death and the power of His resurrection is able to cover the sins of all those who believe. In an ironic twist of the plan of God, the great High Priest becomes the sacrifice. And now the Bible teaches that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God making intercession on behalf of humanity. We don’t need a priest to go to God anymore, we can boldly approach the throne of grace because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Jesus is the Mighty King! Jesus is the ultimate king that will sit on the throne of David forever and ever. In John 18, Pilate asks Jesus if He is a King. Jesus affirms this, but explains that His kingdom is not derived from this world. It is a spiritual kingdom that is given to Him by God that will one day be a physical reality. In fact, Paul says that Jesus has been exalted above every name and one day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And in Revelation 19, we see a picture of this King coming to establish His kingdom forever. And He is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What is the nature of His kingdom? He rules over all creation!

So the coming of Jesus is about more than our salvation. It is about setting all things right in the kingdom. In Colossians 1 it is about reconciling all things to God. All creation is longing for His coming! Humanity is crying out for peace on earth and longing for a perfect world. But more importantly! God is righteous and demands a perfect world under His sovereign control! Christmas is about Jesus! Teach it to your children! Remind yourself! And tell others that Jesus came so that we encounter the great love of God and walk with Him daily.

If you would like to know more about how to be saved, please send me a message! I would love to tell you about the love of Jesus and the good news of His coming!

 

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Key Doctrines of the Faith

Beginning on Sunday night September 13, I will begin a new sermon series on the Key Doctrines of the Faith. We live in, what I would call, a post-Christian world. More and more people are not identifying as Christians. In fact, many people that we encounter may be from an entirely different faith. Jesus taught that he is the way the truth and the life and that no one can come to God except through Him. (John 14:6). All people are sinners and deserve to be punished for their sin. But Jesus died on the cross to take the penalty for sin of those who believe. That means that those who do not accept Christ will face eternal punishment in Hell. If we truly believe the gospel, then we realize that the most loving thing that we an do for the lost is share the gospel with them. Without it, they will suffer eternally. We must share our faith. But how can we share what we believe if we don’t understand it? And how can we be confident in our witness if we don’t know why we believe what we believe? For this reason, we will begin a study of the key doctrines of the faith for the purpose of equipping the believers at FBC Lepanto to understand these doctrines and be able to articulate their beliefs when sharing the gospel with others. Share your faith and be ready to make a defense for the hope that is in you!

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as Holy, always being ready to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

If you are reading this blog on the internet, once published, these sermons will be available at www.fbclepanto.com/wordpress

MAN UP – First Priority

How are men Christian men to prioritize their lives? I think we all know the answer to that. We could gather a group of Christian men together and ask them questions about what they should do and how they should live as a man of God, and almost every man would know the right answers. What is the first priority in a Christian man’s life? God! However, men don’t usually struggle with knowing what to do. They struggle with actually doing it. There are many excuses as to why we don’t put the Lord first. “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t want to give up anything.” I have sin in my life that I need to deal with.” ” I don’t want to add anything else to my schedule.”

The problem is in our understanding of our other priorities when compared with our relationship with God. It is a problem of the heart. It is a problem of devotion. When we make excuses for not serving the Lord, what we are really saying is that those things are more important than God. But, NOTHING is more important than our relationship with God. And NOTHING is more important than our devotion to Him. In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus dispels the idea that our daily lives are more important than following Him.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

Jesus is pretty clear! If we call ourselves His followers and are not willing to serve Him, then we are not really following Him. When we put our hands to the plow and look back, we are serving God under the pretense of complete devotion. But we are really longing more for the things of this world than we are for Him. Jesus gave EVERYTHING. What are you willing to give? It is time to make a decision. It is time to recommit yourself to the Lord. This is the first step to becoming the man that God has called you to be. MAN UP and PUT GOD FIRST.

Remember this … There is nothing sissy or weak about being a man of God. The first examples of Christian men, the apostles,  were willing to die for Jesus, and most of them did. They were willing to be bold and confront evil. They were persecuted and ridiculed and executed. The were MEN! Where have all the men gone? They are in our churches. They just need to MAN UP!

MAN UP

As I look around at today’s culture, I see an alarming trend. Many families seem unconcerned with their spiritual lives. In some cases the wife and mother will be more committed, but seldom do you see the opposite. People will tell you that they are Christians, and yet their lives show little evidence that they want to serve the Lord. Salvation is a free gift, and we do nothing to earn our status as a child of God, Jesus has done everything necessary to secure our righteousness before God. His suffering on the cross and his resurrection from the dead have accomplished redemption for those who believe. However, does that mean we have no responsibilities in the kingdom? Does that mean that we have a free ticket to Heaven without regard to our Christian obligation to live for the Lord as a transforming disciple and a witness to His glory?

In the book of Romans, Paul teaches for the first eleven chapters that Jesus is the only way for salvation for both the Jew and the Gentile. He teaches that all are sinners and desperately need salvation. And we can do NOTHING to save ourselves. Then, when he begins chapter 12 he says, “Therefore i urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NASB) Because we are saved, we should serve. Because he gave everything, we should give back. Do you wonder why your spiritual life is in the dumps? Do you wonder why God is not speaking to you? Perhaps it is because you are not serving him or spending any time with him. Do you read your BIble? Do you pray? Do you study to learn more about God and his world? It is time for us to evaluate our spiritual lives. It is time for you to get serious about your spiritual growth and the growth of your family!

All of us need to constantly evaluate out spiritual life. Everyone could do better. So make a commitment to grow this year. I am calling on men to take charge of the spiritual lives of their families. I am calling you to first look at your own spiritual life and do what is necessary to promote growth and a renewed relationship with God. And then I am calling you to influence your family. You cannot lead if you don’t put God first in your own life. What does that look like? That is what I will be exploring over the next several weeks in this blog. It is also what we will be discussing at our new men’s breakfast one Saturday per month. It will be called “MAN UP” and we will meet at 8:00 AM. Make a commitment to be at this breakfast. Make a commitment to draw closer to God in your daily walk. And make a commitment to your family.

MAN UP is a monthly men’s breakfast at FBC Lepanto for the purpose of helping men become the man God wants them to be!

Contending for the Faith

In Jude 3 we are told to earnestly contend for the faith. In this context Jude is referring to the false teachers that had crept in to the church unnoticed. As God’s children we are called to live a life that is faithful to God and His Word. After all, His Word is His revelation of Himself to mankind. In it God tells us who He is and the nature of His character. We also find precepts for our lives in the Bible. These are not merely divine suggestions, but are commands of design. God has created us. When we live our lives according to His design we are most fulfilled and are living within the purpose for which we were created.

If we are living according to God’s commands,  we will be contending for the faith at times. Whether we are struggling to keep the church pure or debating with nonbelievers for the purpose of showing them the truth of the faith, we are commanded by God to be ready to give a defense. But what does Peter have to save about how we should give a defense? He says, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in for hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15 NASB) You see we should be willing to earnestly contend and debate for the faith, but Peter ends that verse with a couple  of qualifiers. How shall we defend the faith? With gentleness and reverence. Far to many Christians have crossed the line between gentleness and cruelty. We all had a tendency to become frustrated with nonbelievers. We want them to understand. We want them to know the truth because it is a matter of eternal significance. But that is never a license to be cruel and arrogant. Remember, the Christian hasn’t come to know the truth because they are smarter or better than lost people. We know the truth by the sheer mercy and grace of a loving God, who is infinitely worth of our praise. And that is exactly what we want for them, to know Him.

So when you give a defense of the gospel, whether at work or in the church, do it with compassion and love, not a critical spirit. God does’t need us to defend Him. He can take care of himself. Why then should we be defending the truth? We are defending the truth so that people will come to Christ, not to prove we are right. God will take care of that in the end. Our job is the share the truth in love!

What is Christianity?

One of the themes of my preaching ministry is the idea that Christianity is not a religion. What I mean by that is that we are never exhorted in the Scripture to be legalistic in our approach to God. We are called into a relationship with the creator of the universe. We know from the Old Testament calling of David as king of Israel that man may indeed look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. The language of the New Testament shows that believers are called out of their sin and into a family. We are “adopted.” We are “children of God,” and we are “sons of God.”

This plays out in a much different way than religion. Religion says you must prove yourself to God. Religion says that there are rules that you must follow. Religion says that we must participate in ceremony and ritual. But to be a part of a family is something different. We don’t need to prove ourselves to God. Jesus has already done that. We have been pardoned, justified and transformed. So the call of God then is not to be moral but to walk with Him daily. “But what are the call for holy living?” Holy living comes from a holy heart that is walking with God daily. So much of Christianity today is behavioral. It is about how we look to the outside world, but the Bible teaches that we are to be changed from the inside out. If the heart is right, then the behavior will follow, but you can fake the behavior like the Pharisees had grown accustom to in Jesus’ day.

I find it interesting that well-meaning people can read the Bible and come to a conclusion so radically different from the plain truth of Scripture. The idea that Christianity is religious in nature is not a new idea. In fact, it was and is a dominant belief in the church in many parts of the world. In reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy by Eric Metaxas, I found that this was an important issue for Dietrich Bonhoeffer. While in Barcelona in 1928, Bonhoeffer gave a series of lectures. In the second lecture he dealt with this issue. He said that we have exiled our Christ to Sunday mornings. Instead of walking with God daily, we put him in a box. He goes on to say that we Christ a temple and go about living in our own houses. The problem with religion is that it becomes easy to separate our daily lives and our relationships from our religious activity. we do just enough to get by or to “please God.” Then we live our live separate from Him. The point of all this rambling is that we must decide that we are going to give God everything or give him nothing. We need to stop straddling the fence and live WITH God in a relationship. We must walk with Him daily and allow Him to transform us through the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is not enough to go to church and be religious. We must be devoted to the Lord with our hearts. Only then can we live the abundant life that Jesus refered to in the gospel of John!