Pathway To a Progressive Faith

9.21.14Pathway To a Progressive Faith
Philippians 1:21-30

Disciples of Jesus desire to have a faith that moves us toward Christ inwardly, outwardly, and calls others to faith as we go. So feel stuck, without motive and inclination to grow in faith. In this text we will notice the pathway to a progressive faith.

1. Progressive Faith is Confident in Eternity. 

(Philippians 1:21-23 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better.)

Dying is Gain – a perspective we seldom have. We should note that this is not a consideration of suicide. Paul is not contemplating taking his own life. Paul’s statement is confidence in what the death of a saint means – he has the kind of faith that prepares one for death.

The death of His faithful ones is valuable in the Lord’s sight. ~Psalm 116:15 

What is there about death that can be considered gain? Many answers may come to mind. Matt Crocker and Reuben Morgan wrote the beautiful Hillsong worship song You Hold Me Now. (See a video with lyrics on YouTube HERE – after the sermon!)

On that day when I see All that You have for me
When I see You face to face, There surrounded by Your grace
All my fear is swept away, In the light of your embrace
When Your love is all I need, And forever I am free…

No weeping, no hurt or pain, No suffering You hold me now
You hold me now; No darkness no sick or lame, No hiding You hold me now,
You hold me now

In this life I will stand, Through my joy and my pain
Knowing there’s a greater day, There’s a hope that never fails

When Your name is lifted high, And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your Name, I’m believing for the day

When the wars and violence cease, All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to you alone

“A little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but a lot of faith will bring heaven to your soul.” ~Dwight L. Moody

2. Progressive Faith is Focused on Now

(Philippians 1:24-26 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.)

Paul is very conscious of his ministry in the here and now. Living is Christ. Can you think of some ways that our life of faith here is an expression of the life of Christ here and now? The focus of faith is not centered on ourselves but on Christ. Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), even though he suffered injustice. Christ came to serve, not be served. What are some ways you are currently focused on helping others on the journey of faith? 

3. Progressive Faith Stands Strong

(Philippians 1:27-29 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God.)

Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. The strength is not in us, but in Jesus – but it requires some strong life choices. These are choices you can make!

Stand Strong for Christ. Stand firm United (27). One spirit. One mind. Working side by side for the faith. There is a corporate nature to faith … We are simply stronger together.

Stand firm in spite of opponents (28). How is God using our united efforts to defeat the enemy? For Paul this was a standing firm against the tyranny of his government – even in the face of imprisonment. For us it may be various pressures against our being diligent in our work together for Christ. It may mean that we suffer in some way.

“Frequently remind yourself that God is with you, that He will never fail you, that you can count upon him. Say these words, “God is with me, helping me.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

Stand firm in spite of suffering (29 For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.)  What barriers are present in your own life that keep you from working for Christ? What barriers have kept you from working with your brothers and sisters for Christ? How easily do we abandon our work for Christ when it becomes difficult?

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

From Prison Paul encouraged the Philippians to be strong in faith so that when he heard about them their reputation he would hear that they were a people who were working together in faith for the good news of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:30 having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.

If you struggle in your faith, you are not alone. Take the steps toward progressing in your faith.

 

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Sunday Sermon: Three Discipleship Questions

8.29.14

Three Questions For Disciples       Matthew 16:21-30

Introduction
On the heels of Peter’s great confession of Jesus as Messiah, the disciples are reminded of the life to which Jesus is calling them. This text asks some questions of us in regards to our discipleship. Contemplating these questions will give us insight into growing in our commitment to Christ.

1. Are We More Concerned with Human Desires Than Heaven’s Desires?

Matthew 16:23 But He turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.”

These are strong words from Jesus to Peter.  ‘Rebuke’ can be ‘Correct’ (“Then Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him: ‘God forbid, Lord! This won’t happen to you.’ CEB). Peter was willing to take charge of the ministry of Christ. He is thinking about Human concerns. Jesus reminds Peter to ‘get behind’ him…his place is in following Jesus, not leading him.  Are we concerned with Heaven’s Desire… In our lives? If Jesus could see our motives and ways of living, would He think they were driven by Heaven’s desires?

2. Are We Willing to Accept The Life Christ Offers? 

Matthew 16:24-25 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.

If anyone wants… (24a)  Do you want to follow Jesus?  Following Jesus Requires Self Denial.  Barclay: “To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God. To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God….The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God.” Luke 9:23   “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” I don’t know anyone who can claim perfection in this … it is a lifelong challenge. Is Christ prevented from giving you new life because you don’t want His cross?

“The condemned criminal who carried the horizontal bar of the cross to the site of crucifixion would have been subjected to taunts, humiliation, rejection, and shame before finally enduring an agonizing death. The disciple who “takes up the cross” is one who is willing to surrender pride, ego, status, comfort, and even life for the sake of the kingdom of God.” ~Mitchell Reddish, Feasting on the Word 

What are we really losing when we lose our lives and give them to Christ? We have so much to gain …True Life Comes Only from Jesus. Notice how Jesus speaks of giving life in the gospel of John:

John 3:36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.

John 6:35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again.

John 10:10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

3. Are we satisfied with what the world gives us?

Matthew 16:26 What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life?

 We’re used to hearing the word ‘soul’ here – but important to note that Jesus is talking about the here as well as the future.  Jesus is calling us to a certain kind of life now. If we lose that life – would it be worth it?  What is so great that the world offers?

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.

The world cannot give us what Jesus does. You don’t have to look around long to see the misery of the world without Christ. 

What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (NIV)

Many are still looking in the world for what only Jesus can provide. 

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Who is Jesus To You?

8.22.14

 Who is Jesus To You?  Matthew 16:13-20

Introduction
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Blaise Pascal

WHO IS JESUS? Is the most important question of the day.

Matthew 16:13-18  When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

 

1. Jesus The Mega-Prophet

(Matthew 16:13-14 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”) 

Jesus was compared by people of his day to other prophets. 

John The Baptist. John’s role was to prepare the way for the Messiah. (John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!)

Elijah – exalted among all prophets.  “Elijah had always been looked on as the summit and the prince of the prophetic line….To this day the Jews expect the return of Elijah before the coming of the Messiah and … leave a chair vacant for Elijah when they celebrate the Passover.” (Barclay)

Jeremiah – the weeping prophet highly regarded among the Jews.

These were all complimentary connections for Jesus. Jesus was a prophet. Jesus came to be more than a prophet.

Today there are many answers to this question from the world religions.
*Buddhists believe that Jesus was a wise and enlightened man who taught similar things to Buddha.

*Hindus believe that Jesus was an incarnation of God similar to Krishna, a wise man.

*Jehovah’s Witnesses believe he was God’s first creation, the archangel Michael, who became a man.

*Mormons believe that he was one of the spirit beings that all humans used to be, the spirit brother of Lucifer who became the devil. They believe that Jesus was begotten in the flesh by God the Father.

*Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet and miracle worker, but he was not crucified nor raised from the dead.

*Famous agnostic and author of Why I Am Not a Christian, Bertand Russel said, “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we know nothing about him.”

2. Jesus the Heaven-Revealed Messiah

(Matthew 16:15-17 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.)

Christ means Messiah – Anointed One,  prophesied about through the ages.
This is the first time “Messiah” is used in Matthew … it is a crescendo in the teachings of Jesus.

Revelation (17) – This was revealed to Peter by the Father. 

3. Jesus The Ultimate Kingdom Builder  

(Matthew 16:18-20 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.)

Peter’s name in Greek (Petros) meant a large piece of rock – a rock like Gibraltar! The ‘rock’ is the confession of Peter. Some believe it is Peter himself, but I believe it is the revealed confession of Peter that Jesus is Messiah that will be the bedrock of the church.

It is popular today to claim not to like the church but to love Jesus. But Jesus loves the church!

“The church is not merely a means to achieve a greater goal, nor is it just a voluntary association of like-minded individuals. it is an article of faith. Jesus promises that he will build his church. He will protect the church he is building so that, while the force of sin and death will do its worst to destroy, the church nevertheless will prevail.” – Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe

The Strength of the Church (various translations…)
HCSB: ‘the forces of Hades will not overpower it’
NLT: the powers of hell will not conquer it
NCV: the power of death will not be able to defeat it
The Voice: The church will reign triumphant even at the gates of hell
KJV: The gates of hell will not prevail against it.

Do you think the disciples would remember this as they are persecuted later? Do we need to be reminded of this?

The Authority of the Church (19).  When the Apostles spoke, they spoke the will of God in heaven. Jesus had taught them to pray, “Our Father in heaven … your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Ultimately our greatest authority in the church today are the writings of the apostles collected together as the New Testament.

Conclusion
1. Who is Jesus to You? This is an important question.
2. Who do you think Jesus wants to be to you?

3. Peter confessed his faith in Christ. Have you confessed your faith in Christ?

Romans 10:9-10 If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

When we move beyond words … and believe in our Heart in Jesus we will turn over every objection to obeying Him, beginning with repentance and baptism and continuing on to growing in discipleship.

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