Holiness (Lesson 5)

JesusSermonMount

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church  This I Believe Series: Holiness (Lesson 5)         To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Be Holy Leviticus 19:1-2, Ephesians 2:1-10, Matthew 5:14-16, John 17:14-21

In our last lesson we learned that God commands His children to be Holy.  We also learned that this command is impossible except through the shed blood of Christ on our behalf.  The Apostle Paul explained in his letter to the Ephesians that apart from Christ we are dead in our transgressions and sin.  We are like zombies following “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (the Devil: Satan is the ruler of the demonic kingdom that resides between earth and space.) Christ has made those of us who trust in Him “alive” through His grace and seated us with Him “in the heavenly realms” (with Heaven as our inheritance).  Paul makes it clear that we have been saved by God’s grace (a “gift” through faith in Jesus: Grace= unmerited favor) and by no work of ourselves.  God has done this so that we would do “good works” that He prepared for us to do even in advance of our salvation.  In other words, any good thing that we do as believers is accomplished because of the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us brought by salvation through the work of Jesus Christ who saved us (as a gift) when we believed!   

The “good works” Paul speaks of are the ones Jesus talked about in His Sermon On The Mount (Matthew 5:13-16).  As Christians we are to be “salt” (bringing good taste and preventing decay) and “light” (making truth visible)  in this world thereby glorifying God.  Mark this, we can never work our way into Heaven by doing good works; however, “good works” is what will flow out of a person’s life who lives by faith in Jesus.  “Good works” is the by product (fruit) of a person who has received Christ as Lord because the Holy Spirit is in him. 

As God’s children we should desire holiness because to be holy is to be like our God.  We are no longer children of the world that we should reflect the Prince of this world (the Devil).  We are children of God and we are to reflect Him.  As Jesus said, ( John 17:14-21) we are to be sanctified (set apart) by God’s word so that the world (unbelievers) may believe in JesusBy living in holiness we make Him visible who is invisible to a lost world.

The Pursuit of Happiness Romans 8:5-15, Matthew 6:33-34, Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-13   If we were as intent in being holy as we are in being happy we would be both more holy and more happy as a result.  Oswald Chambers (early twentieth-century Scottish Baptist evangelist/ teacher)  said “Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man” You can be sure that no man ever said on his death bed “I wish I had been less holy”. In fact there is usually a rush to holiness once one has been given his death sentence, but dying men may often say “I wish I had experienced a happier life”.  Those men, I assure you,  are those who lived an unholy life. 

Being holy is not work — it is allowing God to work in you.  The problem is that our constant pursuit of happiness most often gets in the way of what God’s Spirit wants to do in us.  We make a tragic mistake when we make the distinction between being happy and being holy because they are one and the same.  We can only be blessed (made happy through God’s favor) when we do God’s will and it is His will for us to be holy. 

The Apostle Paul explained it beautifully for us in Romans 8:5-6: “Those who live according to the flesh (Pursue happiness in a worldly way) have their minds set on what the flesh (world) desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit (pursue holiness) have their minds set on what the Spirit     desires (Which is your happiness!). He goes on to say: The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Do you desire life and peace?  Then stop pursuing happiness and pursue God!  

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. John 10:10

At His Sermon On The Mount Jesus reminded those people then, who were in pursuit of their own happiness , to seek God’s kingdom first and then they would have all that they needed (Matthew 6:33-34).  Hundreds of years   earlier the prophet Isaiah reminded his people of the same thing… “seek the Lord while He may be found” (Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-9), he prophesied.  He went on to say that God’s ways are not our ways.  His “ways are higher.”  This is why today we must pursue Him and not happiness.  As we pursue God and His word He will accomplish what He desires (Isaiah 55:11-13) in us which is indeed happiness… joy forever!  We can never be truly happy without holiness. 

“Dead Things” and New Creations 2 Corinthians 5:17-20

 Jackie Hill Perry (Christian writer, poet, hip-hop artist and author) said: Sinners don’t just sin because, being sinners, they have to. Sinners sin because they want to — they enjoy sinning (John 3:19). Being made in the image of God, we were made for joy, but not the shallow and  temporary joy we feel when we sin”.  God wants us to have life to the full. 

Although we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and no longer slaves to loving “dead things” (Ephesians 2:1), we are still tempted to believe that they will provide the joy we want. We must see this for the lie that it is and choose to live delighting in obedience to the one we love. He is all about bringing life so how are we, His children, to play with “dead things”? 

Holiness is happiness and anyone practicing the art will see.  Let us reject the shallow and realize all the eternal riches we have been given in Christ.  We are His “ambassadors”— “lights of the world!”. Let His Spirit shine through you.

 

 

Advertisements

Law & Grace (Lesson 4)

AdamWhereAreYou

Pastor Barry Bruce/ The Gathering Church: This I Believe Series (Lesson 4) Law & Grace   To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

The First Law Broken Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-13

We have all heard the cliché “Christians aren’t perfect they’re just forgiven”.  Ironically this cliché  has actually become an excuse for some Christians to remain sinful despite the actual word of God which says: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2).  Holy means to be set apart for God.

The first man (Adam) did not get away with this excuse for sin nor has anyone  after him and nor shall we. God told Adam “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will surely die”.  The first man disobeyed God and death resulted for him and all of his offspring thereafter.  That was the first law of God broken by man and it was not excused. 

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— Romans 5:12 

Like untreated cancer, sin infected and ravaged mankind—sin entered the world and became part of man’s DNA.  Every child was born with sin and therefore every person sinned—the consequences of that sin has continued to result in death, because the wages (byproduct) of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and “death”, as described in the bible, is not just a physical death but an everlasting awareness and separation from God—Hell: Matthew 10:28, 2 Thessalonians 1:9. Sin can not dwell in God’s presence (Psalm 5:4) and therefore neither can sinful man. 

The fact that sin brings death and separates us from a holy and righteous God is a spiritual law in the same way that gravity is a natural law.  No one blames  gravity for how it functions; we simply obey it or perish.  The effects of gravity are obvious and so is the law of sin if we care to look.  We die because everyone sins and because we sin our offspring is born into sin.  Sin has literally spoiled the earth and everything in it.  It has also spoiled the eternity God wants with us.

After Adam and Eve broke God’s law they hid from Him (Genesis 3:8-9). They feared Him and felt shame in their nakedness. Their relationship with God and one another was damaged.  When God called Adam on his sin he blamed Eve and God for creating her. Eve blamed the serpent, but each was held accountable for the sin of breaking God’s law (Genesis 3:14-19).  Even then; God would show grace: He  covered their nakedness and protected them from the irreversible “forever” consequences of their fall (Genesis 3:21-24). 

Bad to Worse Genesis 12:1-3, Deuteronomy 7:7-12, Hebrews 9:19-22

From Adam to Noah wickedness increased and the result was a flood of judgment and the destruction of mankind, but God would show grace to Noah and his sons. He would make a covenant (Promise: Genesis 9:8) with them and life would begin again.  Life continued and so did sin, yet God showed grace again by calling out a man named Abram (later called Abraham : Genesis 17:5) and making a covenant to bless the Earth through his offspring (Isaac to Jacob, later called Israel: Genesis 32:28) Through Abraham’s lineage came the nation Israel and Jesus Christ, our Savior!

Long before the redemption of sin would come through Jesus, God would show His grace to mankind by making a third covenant with Moses and the Jews (Exodus 19:5-6) that He rescued from Egyptian slavery and brought into the land that He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the nation of Israel).  God would choose the Jewish nation as His own because of the promise He made to Abraham (Deuteronomy 7:7-12) and for no other reason.  In this covenant God gave man 1.) reasonable laws to live by (Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:3-17) and 2.) sacrificial (blood of animals) and religious laws so that they would never forget the seriousness (blood=death= eternal separation) of their sin, their agreement to serve a holy God, and His forgiveness and grace offered to them through the blood of their sacrifices. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:19-22).

The earth continued in sin and God’s people broke His covenant with them. Their religious acts of sacrifice became meaningless. The Bible is both a record of man’s covenant breaking as well as God’s covenant keeping.    

Once For All Romans 3:10-12, 23-25a, Hebrews 10:4-10,14-18

Mankind failed God, the Jews failed God, you and I fail God every day. Not one is righteous, none are holy (Romans 3:10) so God showed His grace one more time by bringing redemption through a new covenant.  God set aside the old covenant to establish the new.  He came down, wrapped Himself in human flesh, and presented Himself in Christ as a perfect blood sacrifice for sin, “once for all” ( Hebrews 10:10). Now anyone can be made “holy” (as commanded by God (Leviticus 19:1-2) through faith in Jesus Christ… “sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary” (Hebrews 10:18).

Fulfillment of Law Matthew 5:17-18, Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 6:2

God alone is holy and good. His law will be accomplished because God is just.  Jesus alone fulfills the law and pays our debt of sin.  Faith in Him alone is  credited as righteousness. This is God’s amazing grace!  Rejecting that grace rightfully condemns us to pay for that sin ourselves.  The wages of sin is death (Hell)  but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus.  Have you received His grace?  Now is the time for salvation. 

For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.                                   2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Born Again (Lesson 3)

jesusnicodemousPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church          This I Believe Series           Lesson 3: Born Again To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

Incognito  John 3:1-2, Matthew 7:7-11, John 14:6-7
As we look into today’s study we see Nicodemus, a member of the prestigious Jewish ruling council (Sanhedrin) who sees Jesus at night. Nicodemus is only mentioned three times in the Bible, but his short story reveals the process of being “Born Again” —the very essence of salvation, which is what Jesus came for (“to seek and to save the lost” Luke 19:10).

1.) The first thing we learn about Nicodemus is he came to see Jesus at night by himself. We know that there was no one else because the recorded reveals it. Nicodemus likely told John the story later so that he could include it in his gospel. Nicodemus met with Jesus incognito (under cover) due to the immense peer pressure he faced from his fellow Pharisees.

A Pharisee was one of four major schools of thought in Judaism (Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots) in the first century. The word “Pharisee” comes from the Hebrew word meaning “separate.” They strictly followed the Torah (Laws of Moses), as well as their own oral traditions. These men were made up of scholars, layman and scribes, and were highly regarded by the Jewish community. They were often harshly criticized by Jesus for their hypocrisy. He confronted them on caring more about traditions than the Laws of God and following rules of religion while neglecting the most important things like love and mercy. The Pharisees hated Jesus so much that they spent much of their time plotting to kill Him. Eventually they would succeed.

Nicodemus was a member of the Jewish ruling council as well (The Sanhedrin). The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in Israel. The “Supreme Court” of the Sanhedrin’s was referred to as the Great Sanhedrin and was located in Jerusalem. Nicodemus was not only a Pharisee, but a member of the Great Sanhedrin.  This would be similar today to a prominent religious leader who also is a United States Senator.

Regardless of the pressure Nicodemus felt to be “politically and religiously correct” and hold onto his popularity, he made an appointment with Jesus “for no one could perform the signs” He was doing if God were not with Him. Although he was a coward among his peers, he went to Jesus for an answer. Herein lies the first step of a sinner to salvation: Let nothing or no one keep you from seeking Jesus: “Ask, seek, and knock” (Matthew 7:7-11) until you get His answer. He alone declares that He has it (John 14:6).

Born Again  John 3:3-21, Numbers 21:4-9, Isaiah 1:2,18-20
2.) The second thing we learn from Nicodemus’ is his honest encounter with the truth (Jesus). Nicodemus began by trying to flatter Jesus, but Jesus cut to the question that Nicodemus really came for: “Is there a Heaven and how do I get there?” Isn’t that honestly the question of every man and woman? Jesus simply said “you must be born again”. Nicodemus doesn’t try to impress Jesus ever again. He forgets his status and humbles himself right into asking childish questions (how can you be born when you are old?”). He wants so badly to understand that he asks again (“how can this be?”). So Jesus painted a picture that a Pharisee could understand (Jesus will always bring a truth seeker to the understanding of it): Jesus illustrated Himself from the Torah in Numbers 21:4-9. What Jesus essentially told Nicodemus by referencing that story was that A.) he and his people had sinned against God B.) the Lord rightly sent a curse (snakes) called death. C.) Those who repent are provided with a remedy D.) The remedy was (and will be) lifted up on a pole (a bronze snake/ Jesus Christ): and anyone who looks upon that remedy will live. Jesus illustrated Himself as that remedy- “everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him”. All are born of water (the amniotic sack) however; only Jesus can make one born again of the Spirit for He alone has gone into Heaven. God so loved the world that He wrapped Himself in human flesh and came to save it. Those who reject Him will be condemned. For they refuse to be “born again!” The Lord desires to meet with us and “reason together”, but if we resist and rebel we will be devoured (Isaiah 1:2, 18-20).

New   John 7:45-52, John 19:38-42, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, 5:17-21
3.) The last thing we see in Nicodemus is his changing. It is progressive as it is in all believers. We see the beginning of that change in John 7:50-51 when he questions his peers regarding their hate for Jesus. “Are you from Galilee too?”, they chided, insinuating that Jesus, the Galilean, had converted him. Actually , He had! Although it is true that the scripture makes no mention of the messiah coming from Galilee, Jesus does fulfill over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament if they had bothered to look! Is anyone looking now?

We finally see Nicodemus boldly coming out as a follower of Christ , along with Joseph of Arimathea after Christ was raised up and crucified. Surely he recalled Jesus’ late-night talk with him about the snake on the pole. Nicodemus paid a high price for the 75lbs of burial spices, but a bigger price at the loss of his standing with his peers, but his “veil was taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18) and he was free in the Spirit-”Born Again!” He was a “New Creation” and although we never hear of Nicodemus in the Bible again we know his story. He like all of us who become “born again” become those who reconcile others to Christ —and then we go to be with Him…forevermore!

Blessed Trinity (Lesson 2)

jesusbaptism3in1color

The Gathering             Pastor Barry/ Lesson 2  This I Believe Series               Blessed Trinity                       To hear this message go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“Let Us”… Genesis 1:26-27, John 1:1-5
As we learned in our first lesson, “In the beginning” there was God. Today we learn that God is a trinity:
You and I live in a three-dimensional world. All physical objects have a certain height, width, and depth. One person can look like someone else, or behave like someone else, or even sound like someone else. But a person cannot actually be the same as another person. They are distinct individuals. God, however, lives without the limitations of a three-dimensional universe. He is spirit (John 4:24) and he is infinitely more complex than we are. That is why Jesus the Son can be different from the Father. And, yet the same.

The Bible clearly speaks of: God the Son, God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit. But emphasizes that there is only ONE God. If we were to use math, it would not be, 1+1+1=3. It would be 1x1x1=1. God is a triune God. The term: “Tri” meaning three, and “Unity” meaning one, Tri+Unity = Trinity, is a way of acknowledging what the Bible reveals to us about God, that God is three “Persons” who have the same essence of deity. Some imperfect illustrations for the Trinity, are H2O being water, ice and steam (all different forms, but all are H2O) and the sun giving light, heat and radiation. Three distinct aspects, but only one sun, but no illustration is going to be perfect.

Some will not accept the idea of the Trinity. Their philosophy is “I can not believe what I can not understand”, but there are many things that most of us can not understand or explain, but we still believe in ( e.g., electricity, atoms, the human mind, etc.). We are to practice faith in regards to God and believe the Bible over our own limited understanding: “Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 All throughout the Bible we find references to God being a trinity: In Genesis 1:26-27 God says, “Let Us make man in Our image…in the image of God He created them.” We see here both plural and singular pronouns and in John 1:1-5 we see the explanation of this oddity. The “Word” (Jesus) was with God and was God in the beginning and He (the triune God) created everything. The Jehovah Witness Bible (New World Translation) incorrectly translate this passage and others like it in order to deny the Trinity.

“I Am”   John 8:53-59, Exodus 3:13-15, John 1:18, Hebrews 1:1-3
One time the Pharisees asked Jesus “Who do you think you are?” To that Jesus declared “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him (John 8:53–59). The violent response of the Jews to Jesus’ “I AM” statement showed that they clearly understood what He was declaring—that He was the eternal God incarnate. Jesus was equating Himself with the “I AM” title God gave Himself when Moses asked Him that same question in Exodus 3:14. Such a statement, if not true, was blasphemy and the punishment prescribed by the Mosaic Law was death. In Jesus’ case of course it was true. The Jews would kill Him (God) anyway!

The fact that “God is spirit” (John 4:24) means that God the Father does not have a human body. The Bible often speaks of God as if He has a body (Deuteronomy 33:27, Isaiah 59:1, Matthew 4:4) but these are anthropomorphisms—a way of describing God in anatomical or emotional terms so that humans can better understand Him. Even though God is spirit, He is also a living, personal being. As such, we can know Him personally.

It is clearly declared in the Bible that Jesus is God (John 14:11) who came to earth in flesh (John 1:18) to make Himself known to man. He is the “exact” representation of God as it says in Hebrews 1:3. But God did not come to the earth in flesh just to represent God to man, He came to pay the penalty of man’s sin, which is death. We will talk more about that in lesson three.

The Holy Spirit   John 14:15-29, Ephesians 1:13-14
Just before Jesus went to the cross to pay for man’s sin, He told His disciples that He would be sending The Advocate (champion, defender, protector) to those who love Him and keep His commands. This Advocate is the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). The third person of the Trinity.  Not a force like electricity as some incorrectly assume. The Holy Spirit is God as much as the Father and the Son. He reminds and teaches us of everything Jesus said. He is the “peace” that Jesus promised us who believe. Jesus was temporarily contained to the limitations of a body but the Father and Holy Spirit were not (for they are spirit). This is why Jesus said “the Father is greater than I (John 14:28)” when He was on the earth. Jesus makes it clear… only those who follow His teachings (doctrine) will have The Holy Spirit (God) within them: the believer’s “deposit “ guaranteeing our inheritance” until our redemption (the exchange our earthly bodies for spiritual). He is the one who guides us as we wait for that day.

Child of the One true God   Deuteronomy 6:4-7, John 1:11-13
The main reason the Jews reject Christ for salvation is that they believe that “the Lord is one.” They daily quote the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) but miss the total revelation of God because of their pride. God is one in three persons— the Blessed Trinity. One can see this all throughout the Torah (Old Testament) and the New Testament writings. He was, is and is to come (Revelation 4:8). The Trinity was present at the baptism (Matthew 3:13-17) of Jesus’ ministry. The sinless Jesus might have baptized Himself, but John was included. He symbolized the repentant believer—God’s mission to give the “right to become the children of God” to any who would believe. Is that you today?

In The Beginning (Lesson1)

biblePastor Barry/Gathering Church  This I Believe Series  Lesson 1: In The Beginning    To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

In The Beginning…   Genesis 1:1-3, Joshua 24:15
To establish what we believe as Christians, we begin at the beginning of the book. That book is the Bible. It is not any other scriptures of any other religion because no other religion has the supernatural record of the Bible. It is 66 books penned by 40 different human writers over a period of 1,500 years and says to be the inspired word of God. No book in the history of the world has been so attacked and yet survived. It is indestructible (Isaiah 40:8)! No other book has prophesied about future events with such perfect accuracy (over 300 fulfilled prophecies of the life and work of Jesus alone). No other book in history has been copied with such care which is clear from the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947. No other book has embraced so many archeological discoveries or scientific facts. The Bible was even the first book in the world to be printed and distributed through the movable-type printing press invented by Johann Gutenberg in 1456. No other book in the world has been translated into so many languages. For these reasons alone the Bible should be first to be read by anyone seriously seeking the truth. So we begin at the beginning of that book…The Bible!

In the beginning of the Bible we read: “In the beginning God…” The book begins with God. God does not argue for His existence. He simply expects us to accept the fact that He exists, and why not? Even the atheistic scientist expects man to accept that the first molecule of the Big Bang Theory was just there. So rather one is a creationist or an evolutionist he must begin with faith. As Joshua said so clearly “you choose who you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15

Isn’t it ironic how “educated” unbelievers try and belittle Christians and their study of the Bible? They say we are ignorant for accepting the doctrine of one book while they have behind them the many scientific books and study of the greatest minds of science. Remember, The Bible is not one book. It is 66 books written by 40 different writers over a period of 1,500 years. How many “educated” unbelievers can say that they have studied so many writers over a period of so many years on their subject of argument? Defined “science” is the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Note how the supernatural is left out of that definition? The Bible begins with the supernatural and does not argue for its existence. We are simply expected to accept the fact that the supernatural exists, and why not? God, after all, is supernatural and the experiments (if you will) and experiences of those that wrote and witnessed such things in the Bible are proof of it (the words experiment and experience have the same Latin root: they both come from the word experior, which means to gain knowledge through repeated trials). No wonder the Apostle Paul said:

Without faith (belief in the supernatural) it is impossible to please God, because anyone who approaches Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

Theology   2 Timothy 2:14-15, 3:16-17,4:1-3, James 1:22, Isaiah 55:8-11
We begin faith with belief in God and the supernatural. We discover more about Him through our study of the Bible. As Christians we believe that the Bible is the only “word of God” for it alone claims to be (2 Timothy 3:16-17)inspired (Greek: theopneustos [theh-op’-nyoo-stos]= “God breathed”) by Him and it alone contains the verifiable track record of prophetic fulfillment as evidence of its claims. The study of God is actually a science called Theology (Greek: theos = “God” and logos = “word” or “doctrine”. As Christian believers we are told in the Bible to 1.) study it: 2 Timothy 2:14-15, 2.) do what it says: James 1:22, 3.) and to teach it: 2 Timothy 4:1-3. We are also told that the study of God’s word 4.) will accomplish what He desires in us: Isaiah 55:8-11. We can also assume that if we do not study the Bible what God desires will not be accomplished in us. So “Christian” study your Bible… be Theologians!

God   Romans 1:20-22, Psalm 53:1, Psalm 139, Genesis 1:27-28a, John 15:5
The Bible tells us that God has revealed Himself to man through the creation of the world and all that is in it (Romans 1:20). Man therefore has no excuse to deny His existence and yet many do. These are the “fools” according to the Bible (Psalm 53:1). As Christians we believe that God is Creator (Father) of all things and therefore Governor (Master) of all things.

The Bible clearly teaches that God is Transcendent (above His creation): Isaiah 55:9, yet desires to be Immanent (operating within) with His creation: Ephesians 4:6. God is Eternal (with no beginning or end): Psalm 90:2 and infinite (with no limitation in time or space), He is Immutable (unchanging): Malachi 3:6, Omniscient (all-knowing): Psalm 139:1-4, Omnipresent (everywhere present): Psalm 139: 7-10, and Omnipotent (all-powerful): and calls Himself “God Almighty!” Genesis 17:1. God’s moral attributes (characteristics) are clearly seen through His interaction with man. He is Holy (set apart from sin), Just, Righteous, Loving, Merciful, Gracious, Good and True and desires a blessed relationship with me and you! We were made to be fruitful (successful) but we can only do so when in relationship with Him.

Wise Men Still Seek Him

threekingsPastor Barry/ The Gathering    Epiphany (Three Kings Day)     Wise Men Still Seek Him   To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

New Year Resolutions…Again?

A new year often equals a new list of what we intend to accomplish in it and rarely do.  This year I suggest following the lead of some very wise men that made no such list but actually did four things that changed their lives forever. 

Epiphany  Matthew 2:1-15, Philippians 3:7-14

Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day) is the celebrated call of Christ to the Magi.  It is  traditionally celebrated on January 6, after Christmas because the Magi did not come and see Jesus on the night of his birth as often depicted, but “at the house” (Matthew 2:11) before he and his family fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:13).  The word Epiphany means the moment of striking      personal realization or insight.  For the Magi it was the Bethlehem star that made them realize that they must go and travel to where it was shining to find the greatest treasure of life— the promised “king of the Jews.” They likely knew of this promise through the legendary Jewish prophet Daniel who was taken captive hundreds of years earlier in the Babylonian captivity.

Who Were The Magi?

The Magi were magicians.  They were mystic priests who studied astrology.  Their occult     practices are forbidden in God’s law (Leviticus 19:31, 20:6), and yet God called them to Himself and even used a sign (Star) that they would acknowledge in their occult beliefs!  Why did God call such people to Himself?  They were priests of other gods, practitioners and proclaimers of damnable doctrines. Apparently, they were also seeking for truth through the writings of the prophet Daniel.  Jesus said:  Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find. Matthew 7:7a  The Magi remind us that no one is excluded from God’s promise to reveal Himself to anyone who honestly searches for truth. In fact, this is how those once lost in occultism are now      referred to as “wise men”.  They searched and followed after their searching. 

  1. They Searched for truth and followed after it.

What must you do to find the “greatest treasure of life?” Achieve your goal weight, create that ideal body, attain that certain degree, land that perfect job, find that perfect mate, purchase that dream car or house, get that desired applause?  The apostle Paul concluded that all was “garbage” in comparison to knowing Christ.  In other words the Magi got it right…they searched for truth and then left everything they owned, knew and achieved to find the one who was promised to bring everlasting life and salvation. Forgetting what was behind and straining toward what was ahead they pressed on in their journey to win the prize for which God had called them heavenward in Christ Jesus. The light went on and they followed!  How about you? Are you following God’s call to you for a relationship? 

Knocking on the Door Matthew 7:7-8, Matthew 6:19-21, 33

The Magi were not content to just know about the truth and study it.  They were not content to look from afar…they followed the star and knocked persistently on the door of the house until they personally saw the “truth”.  We can assume that the Magi’s trip to Bethlehem was at least 400 miles long. This would have taken them about two to three weeks on camels over some rough terrain. If they only traveled by night in order to be guided by the star, then their journey would have taken even longer.  The Magi persistently searched and knocked!  God will put the desire in our hearts to search Him out and He will even guide us in that search, but He insists that we come to Him on His terms (John 14:6, Matthew 6:33) and are persistent in our faith.   

  1. They were persistent in their quest

What are you willing to do to get the “greatest treasure of life?” Is your heart in the quest to personally know and experience God or are you content with knowing about Him from afar? 

Four Gifts

The Magi brought their gifts to Jesus. Only three are mentioned but God was only impressed with the fourth one — their individual worship of God. This is the only gift that we can offer God. The gifts that God inspired the Magi to bring were fulfillments of the prophecies regarding Christ’s titles: 1. Gold: Christ is King of kings, 2. Frankincense (a resin burned in worship): Christ is the Prophet  who fulfills God’s Word to save 3. Myrrh (a burial perfume): Symbolic of Christ’s Priesthood  to man and the only sacrifice for our sin. All of these items were most likely sold by Mary and Joseph to pay for their flight to Egypt and Jesus’ earthly needs, but the worship of the Magi was priceless and so is yours. 

  1. They gave their worship to Christ

We all ask God to do things for us.  In fact we are often angry with Him when we don’t get what we want. What will you give to Christ?  

Another Route 1 John 1:5-9, Matthew 5:14-16  

“They returned to their country by another route.”  Matthew 2:12   The Magi had been changed by their encounter with Christ.  They were no longer influenced by royal protocol (i.e. Herod’s order), but by the Lord’s direction.  We too must repent of sin and move in the new direction that God’s word gives us.

  1. They went another way

Are you going another way or moving in the same direction as those without Christ?  

Many would say, “Hey, I would go to Christ too if I had a giant star miraculously lighting my way”, but there is a greater light now in God’s children.  If you are a born-again Christian then you are the Eastern Stars of today!  You are God’s light to the world, guiding the lost to Christ so that they can be reconciled to their heavenly Father.  If you do not know Christ then follow His people, if you do then light the way.  Wise men still seek Him!

A Blessed New Year

Blessed New YearPastor Barry/ The Gathering Church    A Blessed New Year                                                        To hear this message and others go to THEGATHERINGHG.COM

“Happy” New Year!  Romans 12:10-15

The greeting is universal and is said every year… but this is certainly not the best greeting for a Christian to say especially when we look at the word “Happy”:

Hap-py  –adjective, -pi·er, -pi·est.    characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind. 2. favored by fortune; fortunate or luck.

For many in our city and in our church, this new  year has begun in the most unhappy of ways.  There is no pleasure, no happy mood or happy frame of mind.  Some do not feel    favored by fortune, fortunate or lucky.  This year has begun with the loss of a job, a broken relationship, the loss of a loved one, discouraging news, or some other deep sense of loss.  As Christians we need to be aware of those who are crushed in spirit.  For many this new  year rings in with a thud.  God’s word tells us to “be devoted to one another in love and honor one another above ourselves…to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.”  To do this we must greet people with more than a “Happy New Year!” or quick unconcerned “how ‘ya doing”.  Do we really care how the other is feeling?  Jesus does.

“Blessed” New Year!  Matthew 5:1-12, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“Have a ‘blessed’ New Year” is a better greeting for all who are in the faith and “God bless you” rather than “how ‘ya doin?”  The word “blessed” in the Greek translates to our English word “happy” but it is richer, deeper and denotes God’s approval.  Where happiness is circumstantial, being blessed is God’s hand of grace upon one’s life.  In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount He makes this distinction.  He begins each line with a state of being and rewards it with a promise.  The promise is only available to those who commit themselves to the     Lordship of Christ in faith.  They are blessed for this reason alone.  They can look beyond unhappy circumstances and see the promise of a gracious God who will deliver what He has promised to His faithful children:

State of Being:                                                                Promise: 

Poor In Spirit: broken hearted, discouraged, sad.         Have a home in Heaven

He promises believers Heaven where there are no more tears (Revelation 21:4).

Those Mourning: Crying over great loss, grieving.        Will be Comforted by God

The God of comfort promises to be with His own (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

We, therefore, can later comfort others with the comfort that we have received.

 The Meek: gentle, submissive (negative to the worldly).   Will inherit the earth

Man sees meekness as weakness but God sees it as strength.  The meek can see their need for God and submit to Him readily.  The promise of inheriting the earth is in relation to reigning and ruling with Christ when He returns in glory!   2 Timothy 2:12

Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness:  Passionate for God’s will       Will be filled!

Man sees righteousness as weakness and holiness as humdrum, but these things are the will of God in our lives.  Jesus said His food was to do the will of the one who sent Him (John 4:34).  God fills up our soul as we do His will.

The Merciful:   Those who show care, concern and compassion     Will receive Mercy

The Pure of Heart:  Those who want to please God and do His will.    Will See God

The Peacemakers:  Those who bring peace.                    Will be known as  God’s sons

Those who suffer:  Persecuted for standing up for God.    Will be Rewarded with Heaven    

Be-Attitudes  Matthew 5:13-16

The attitudes above are what we as Christians are to be.  We are to be brokenhearted for the things that break God’s heart, and conscious of our own sin and broken by them.  We should be submissive to His will and hunger and thirst for what pleases Him. We are to be merciful, pure, peace loving, and suffer if we must to keep these attitudes and live them out in a world full of hate, bitterness, self-centeredness and pain.  God’s promises for us who put on these attitudes is to be blessed with the hope of His promises and a blessing to those who know us. 

To be “Blessed” of God is to be known by Him, touched by Him and responsive to Him and to reciprocate His love for you unto others.

New Year’s Resolutions?  Matthew 6:33

We as Christians will not always be “happy” in the circumstantial sense of the word.  Life will happen: the good, the bad and the ugly.  We cannot change circumstances but we can always change our attitude.  Does your attitude reflect what Jesus calls “Blessed?”  Does your attitude reflect the grace, mercy, and righteousness that God expects from His children?  Are you full of His promises or full of yourself? 

No matter how this year has begun for you, Jesus offers a blessing to any who call upon Him.  He wants to change our hearts and not necessarily our circumstances.  There is no better New Year’s resolution than your resolve to follow Christ.

Insanity Proverbs 12:15, 25:28

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Let ‘s all stop being insane!  Only walking with Jesus can create a new heart in us. Only He can make all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this New Year let us truly give God control of our lives (all of it) and see what good He can do with a heart that truly belongs to Him.  Let us finally listen to the advice of the one who made us and stop doing what seems right to us (Proverbs 12:15).   Let us not be like a city with broken down walls (or a border for that matter).  We all lack self control (Proverbs 25:28) so let God take the wheel of your life…Put on the attitude of His passenger and have a “blessed New year”.