The Call of the Kingdom

Stories From the Life of Paul
2 Thessalonians 1:5-12
Matthew Raley (7-7-13)

Paul can no longer remember how many times he’s been chained and thrown in prison.  His life has been characterized by unrelenting conflict, much of it violent. He has endured many divisions from other followers of Christ, some personal and some doctrinal. He has endured the shame of being abandoned during previous imprisonments. He endures all these things because Christ went to the cross for him when Paul was his enemy. Christ showed Paul mercy and saved him from God’s wrath.

But this will be Paul’s last imprisonment. He will never be free again in this life. He wants the comfort of fellowship in his last days on this earth. Likely no man yearns for peace more. But he starts to hear that one minister in Asia after another is abandoning him. Men Paul trained, prayed over, comforted, and defended now refuse to rally to him. At his first court date, no one appears on Paul’s behalf.

In today’s sermon we will be asking the question: What sustains Paul, even in the face of such abandonment? What keeps him going through pressure, persecution, pain, and conflict? In answering this question, we will also come to understand the importance of the final entry in our proposed belief statement:

Jesus Christ will return to raise the dead and to establish his reign on earth (Revelation 20:1-6). Only God knows when he will return (Mark 13:32-37). At Christ’s coming, believers will receive immortal bodies and will live eternally in fellowship with God (1 Corinthians 15:50-57), while unbelievers will receive judgment and will be punished eternally in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). This day motivates us to serve and proclaim Christ right now (1 John 3:1-3), even as we long to live in the new world God creates in him (Romans 8:18-25).

 

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 11:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Call to Conflict

Stories From the Life of Paul
Ephesians 6:10-20
Matthew Raley (6-30-13)

 
Saul, Hebrew of  Hebrews, is now called Paul,  Jesus’s messenger to the Gentiles.  He feels an inner drive to preach the gospel to people have never heard it.  He has been trying to preach to the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit has forbidden him to do it.  He is now in Troas, on the edge of Asia, where east meets west.  This strange period of being held back seems to be over. In Troas, Paul has seen a vision of a man from Macedonia, across the Aegean Sea, pleading with Paul to come and help the people there. Paul concludes that God has finally shown him where to preach.

Now we ask: how does a mission go when God supernaturally opens the door?

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will look at the beginnings of Paul’s ministry in Europe.  There we will see that a call to ministry is also a call to conflict and learn how the the Christian is equipped to endure the struggle.

God saved us in order to make us holy (1 Peter 1:13-21). He calls us to display the Holy Spirit’s transforming work (Galatians 5:16-24), to love one another (Romans 12), to care for the poor and oppressed (Matthew 23:23-24), and to spread the good news of Christ’s saving work throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20). With these calls, God sets us in spiritual conflict with mainstream culture, a struggle that he equips us to endure through the Bible, prayer, and the power of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20).

 

Published in: on August 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

From an Enemy to a Brother

Stories From the Life of Paul
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew Raley (6-23-13)

Saul is preaching in a Damascus synagogue. He has unrolled the scroll to Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant, and is showing how the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth fulfills the prophecy. The Jewish followers of Jesus in the room are amazed at the change in Saul, as are the unbelieving Jews who are increasingly open to what he is preaching.

But there are disciples of Christ in the room who remain withdrawn from Saul, disciples who had experienced the terrors of his persecution of the church. And there are unbelieving Jews with enraged eyes as sharp as the daggers in their cloaks. Two of them exchange glances and leave, their right hands buried in the folds of their garments.

Saul knows that they will kill him if they get the chance. He knows that some of the Christian brothers are rejoicing over his conversion. But what about that disciple who sat in front with his arms folded, staring at the floor? Is he hostile enough to sell Saul out?  Who can Paul trust?  How can he ever hope to bond with the followers of Christ?

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will look at the life and words of the man who once was Saul.  We will see how he is bonded with the body of believers in a unity unique to the church, and how this unity is an essential part of the Christian walk.

God created the church to inherit Jesus Christ’s eternal kingdom (1 Peter 1:1-9). Through grace alone, God makes sinners righteous by faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26). Christ is the head of the church (Colossians 1:15-20), and the Holy Spirit unites believers from every ethnicity as Christ’s body on earth (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). His church can be found in local gatherings of believers throughout the world (Colossians 1:3-8), devoting themselves to the Bible (Acts 17:10-12) and practicing the two ordinances Christ gave: baptism and communion (Matthew 26:26-29; 28:18-20).

Pastor Matt has changed the format of his sermons to include a question and answer period after he speaks. Because questions are unique to each service, all the questions Pastor Matt answered from both services have been edited together at the end of this sermon.

 

Published in: on July 1, 2013 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  

From an Enemy to a Son

Stories From the Life of Paul
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew Raley (6-16-13)

In an instant, Saul went from being the rising star among Jewish leaders to lying in the middle of a road. The risen Jesus Christ stopped Saul with intense light, confronted Saul’s persecution of the church, and commanded him to wait for instructions .

When the vision was finished, Saul was left on the baking Roman pavement. The blaze of light left him blind. He pushed himself up hoping his eyes would adjust. They didn’t. He could not tell which way to go, so one of his men took him by the hand and led him into Damascus.

At least as devastating as Saul’s physical blindness was his grieving conscience. When he arrived in the city, he ate and drank nothing for three days (Ac 9.9). His heart and mind were demolished. He had built his life on upholding Moses and opposing Jesus. Now it was obvious that Jesus had risen from the dead, that he is at the right hand of God, just as Stephen said before he was martyred.

How is Saul going to be a part of Jesus’s kingdom if not through the law?

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will look at the life and words of the man who once was Saul.  We will see how he, in an instant, became a different man, and learn how the work of the Holy Spirit made it possible for him to go from being the enemy of Christ to a member of his family:

“The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus Christ (John 16:14). He does this by showing human beings that they are sinners (John 16:8) and by giving new life in Christ’s death and resurrection to those who believe (John 3:1-21). The Holy Spirit also unites believers with Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22) and adopts them as heirs in God’s family (Romans 8:15-17). He lives in them (Romans 8:9), enlightening their minds (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), guiding their steps (John 16:13), equipping their work (1 Corinthians 12), and empowering their whole being with Christ’s strength (Romans 8:1-8).”

Pastor Matt has changed the format of his sermons to include a question and answer period after he speaks. Because questions are unique to each service, all the questions Pastor Matt answered from both services have been edited together at the end of this sermon.

 

Published in: on July 1, 2013 at 12:15 am  Leave a Comment  

From an Enemy to a Servant

Stories From the Life of Paul
Romans 5:6-11
Matthew Raley (6-9-13)

Saul is in the council chamber of the Sanhedrin listening to the trial of a follower of Jesus. There is only one thing this young Pharisee wants: to overcome Jesus’ teachings and disciples.  Saul hasn’t studied so hard, hasn’t lived so strictly according to the law, hasn’t worshipped night and day earnestly praying for God’s promise of the resurrection of the dead, only to see Israel follow a man who blasphemed Moses. Israel’s ancient heritage will never win out over the Gentiles if the people follow the crucified Nazarene.

Stephen, the man on trial, says Saul’s elders resist the Holy Spirit, and he claims to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God. At this the whole council drags him out of the city. Saul follows them outside the walls. Saul’s elders lay their garments at his feet, and he watches as they hurl stones at Stephen. He hears Stephen’s last words. “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  He looks at the dead man on the ground, his body smashed. He approves.  Jesus is the promise to Israel that Saul has been praying for. And Saul is Jesus’ enemy.

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will look at the life and words of the man who once was Saul and learn how it was possible for him to go from being the enemy of Christ to the his devoted servant:

Jesus Christ took our place when he died on the cross (Romans 5:6-21). His blood is the perfect, complete payment for our sins (Mark 10:45), and his bodily resurrection gives us eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:49-57). His death and resurrection are the only way for human beings to be saved from sin (Acts 4:8-12). Therefore, God calls everyone to turn and believe this good news during their earthly lives (Acts 17:30-31).”

Pastor Matt has changed the format of his sermons to include a question and answer period after he speaks. Because questions are unique to each service, all the questions Pastor Matt answered from both services have been edited together at the end of this sermon.

Published in: on June 17, 2013 at 4:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus Ascended to the Father

The Awesome Nature of Christ
John 1:18
Matthew Raley (5-26-13)

The reason people lack assurance of their salvation in Christ is that their Gospel is too weak, and their Jesus is too small. Believers struggle emotionally because they don’t have a good reason to be confident.  They live the Christian life as if they are still searching for God, as if the door to the Father is not open to them, or as if there is something else they must do to be permitted to walk through it and finally see him.

Today, as we continue examining our proposed belief statement, we will see how we can finally reach a place where we no longer feel that we are searching for God, but can say with full assurance, “I know him!”

4. Jesus Christ is God incarnate—one person with two natures (John 1:1-5, 14-18). He is fully God and became fully man, completing all God’s promises to Israel (Romans 1:1-7). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit when his mother Mary was a virgin (Luke 2:7-21). Though Jesus Christ never sinned (Isaiah 53:7-9), he was crucified as a criminal under Pontius Pilate (John 19:17-42). But the Father raised Jesus from the dead bodily (John 20:19-31). Jesus then ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-53) and sat on heaven’s throne where he mediates for us (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2.17-18).

Published in: on June 17, 2013 at 4:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus Fulfills God’s Promises

The Awesome Nature of Christ
John 1:6-7, 14-17
Matthew Raley (5-19-13)

Many believers understand that they need assurance of their relationship with the Lord.  But the way they seek it leaves them troubled.  They come to Christ in desperation, in crisis, hoping he will wipe their pain and hardship away. As though Jesus were a drug, they look for spiritual hits through songs, or activities, or teaching, as if the Christian life is induced rather than lived.  As the hits wear off and the highs get weaker, they wonder why the Lord has abandoned them.  They expected Christ to give hits that never wear off.

When they hear about the holiness of God, the power of sin, and the reality of death, they feel what any rational person would feel- fear.  ”This is making me feel worse!”  They shut their ears and look for another spiritual hit.

Assurance comes from God’s work in your thinking.  The foundation of assurance is not inside you, and it cannot come from emotions.  It can only from realizing how big God is, and how big his plans are.  Assurance comes from seeing Christ’s fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

In today’s message we continue our survey of our proposed belief statement.  In this context of assurance, we will  focus on Christ’s fulfillment of all God’s promises to Israel:

4. Jesus Christ is God incarnate—one person with two natures (John 1:1-5, 14-18). He is fully God and became fully man, completing all God’s promises to Israel (Romans 1:1-7). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit when his mother Mary was a virgin (Luke 2:7-21). Though Jesus Christ never sinned (Isaiah 53:7-9), he was crucified as a criminal under Pontius Pilate (John 19:17-42). But the Father raised Jesus from the dead bodily (John 20:19-31). Jesus then ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-53) and sat on heaven’s throne where he mediates for us (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2.17-18).

 

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 5:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus Christ Is a Human Being

The Awesome Nature of Christ
John 1.1-18
Matthew Raley (5-12-13)

Many people, Christians included, see the Christian life as trying to open a door. They believe that the Father is on the other side, and they believe that the door is Jesus: they can only pass by going through him.

They try various ways to open it. Someone gives them detailed instructions for opening the door, and they follow these instructions to the letter. But they cannot get to the Father. Someone else says there’s a key, a kind of mystical experience that opens the door by magic. Still another person informs them that a door is an engineering marvel, and that they can’t open it because they don’t understand the principles by which it works. None of this gets them through Jesus to the Father. Finally, someone else says that doors don’t really matter and that they should just do what makes them happy.

They do all of this on the assumption that the door is shut. We are going to see this morning that Jesus, the door, is open.

In today’s message as we continue surveying our proposed belief statement, we will focus on the real-life implications of Christ’s humanity:

4. Jesus Christ is God incarnate—one person with two natures (John 1:1-5, 14-18). He is fully God and became fully man, completing all God’s promises to Israel (Romans 1:1-7). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit when his mother Mary was a virgin (Luke 2:7-21). Though Jesus Christ never sinned (Isaiah 53:7-9), he was crucified as a criminal under Pontius Pilate (John 19:17-42). But the Father raised Jesus from the dead bodily (John 20:19-31). Jesus then ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-53) and sat on heaven’s throne where he mediates for us (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2.17-18).

 

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 5:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Jesus Christ Is God

The Awesome Nature of Christ
John 1:1-18
Matthew Raley (5- 5-13)

There is a silent crisis of assurance among evangelicals. We have plenty of slogans, but very little confidence. How do I know I’m saved? Why don’t I see Christ’s power in my life? Why do I feel worthless? Why do I feel so guilty?  How can I face God?

As long as you seek assurance from your experiences, you will remain on a roller-coaster. Assurance only comes from knowing the doctrine we will study this month, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and using it to speak to your emotions.

In our continuing survey of our proposed belief statement, we will spend this month studying the famous prologue to the Gospel of John. Today, we begin with the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Your sense of assurance begins with the fact that he is God.

4. Jesus Christ is God incarnate—one person with two natures (John 1:1-5, 14-18). He is fully God and became fully man, completing all God’s promises to Israel (Romans 1:1-7). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit when his mother Mary was a virgin (Luke 2:7-21). Though Jesus Christ never sinned (Isaiah 53:7-9), he was crucified as a criminal under Pontius Pilate (John 19:17-42). But the Father raised Jesus from the dead bodily (John 20:19-31). Jesus then ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-53) and sat on heaven’s throne where he mediates for us (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2.17-18).

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 4:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Confronting Death’s Power

The Dignity of Human Beings
Genesis 2-3
Matthew Raley (4- 28-13)

We began this series with the story of two Belgians who, at their request, were killed by their doctor. The power of death, and our desire to control life, hangs over this issue of human dignity. Our society has been blessed with technology which saves lives, from the reduction of infant mortality to the ability to extend and control the end of life.  This has created in us an illusion of control, a sense that we are able to manage life from beginning to end, when in truth we are under the power of death and need to confront it.

In today’s sermon we will see that the essence of human depravity is the ambition to wrest control of life from God, and that when we try to control life, we are by definition assuming the authority to kill.

Published in: on May 6, 2013 at 4:44 am  Leave a Comment