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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Saved for the Salvation of Others! (Acts 26:14-18)

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
 Outline: Acts 26:14-18
  1. Jesus saved Paul (vv.14-15, cf. 26:4-11 & 9:1-22)
  2. Jesus sent Paul (vv.16-18)
Summary: Paul is standing before King Agrippa and is expected to give a defense, a defense against the Jews who want to see him put to death.  Paul responds by sharing his testimony, that is, by bearing witness to who he was (26:4-12) and then what Christ did (vv.13-18).  In essence, Paul is saying: “Jesus saved me and Jesus has sent me.”  For Paul, to be saved was to be sent.  To have his eyes opened was to be part of opening the eyes of others.  Paul was on trial because he proclaimed the name of the One who opened his eyes—Jesus Christ.

Discussion Questions:
  • What was Paul like before he came to know Christ? (26:4-12; cf. 9:1-2)
  • For the back-story, READ 9: 1-18 (cf. 26:13-15).  How was Paul converted?
  • What role did Ananias play?  Does this teach us anything about how Jesus saves people?
  • What did Paul do almost immediately after he was saved?
  • Why do you think Paul grew strong in the wake of his conversionActs 9:22?
  • What was Paul being sent to do?
  • What is the relationship between being saved and being sent?
  • How would you respond to someone who says, “Oh, but that is the great and godly apostle Paul…surely this kind of witness is not expected of me”? (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1; Isa. 42:1-7; Matt. 11:4-6)
Application Questions:
  • What is your testimony?  Who were you and what did Jesus do to bring you to himself?
  • Are you actively sharing your faith with others?  If not, what may be holding you back?
  • “To be saved is to be sent.”  Do you believe this?  On a scale of 1-10—1 being barely applied and 10 being greatly applied—at what level do you live like this is true? 
  • When we fall short of sharing our faith at the level that we should, how would Jesus have us apply the gospel to our hearts?  
 Prayer Points:
  • Confess to God any failures to live like one who has been sent to open they eyes of unbelievers.  Receive forgiveness from Jesus, the only perfect Witness (1 John 1:9).
  • Ask God to provide clear opportunities for you to share about Jesus and to give the courage needed to stand strong and bold and loving in those moments.
  • Pray that God would fuse the idea of being saved together with the idea of being sent so that witnesses would become a more natural part of your life.
  •  Pray that God will help you to teach others that being saved and being sent always belong together, for to be a disciple is to be a disciple maker.
  • Thank God for the gospel and how he opened our eyes in salvation, bringing us from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Nearness to God

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Psalm 34

1.  Praise (Ps. 34:1-3)

2.  Deliverance through Prayer (Ps. 34:4-7)

3.  Fear of the Lord (Ps. 34:8-14)

4.  Nearness to God (Ps. 34:15-18)

5.  Redemption through Christ (Ps. 34:19-22)

David, who penned Psalm 34, wrote this Psalm not on the throne as King David,

but as a hunted man, running for his life.  David feigned insanity as a madman, as

he escaped from Abimelech (1 Samuel 21:11-15). Psalm 34 points to Christ, as

verse 22 says, “the Lord redeems the life of His servants, none of those who take

refuge in Him will be condemned,” and displaying God’s redemptive favor to the

righteous.  Verse 22 is the thrust behind why the psalmist is filled with praise.

Deliverance through prayer produces the fruits of fear of the Lord and ultimately

nearness to God.  Psalm 34 is both a song of praise and an exhortation on how

the righteous should live.

Discussion Questions:
  • Why do you think that David command us to bless the Lord at all times? Why does he command us to do this together?
  • What are the 3 sequences of prayer?
  • What is fear of the Lord?
  • What might a portrait of fear of the Lord look like in your life?
  • Why is there a correlation between fear of the Lord and nearness to God? 
  • Why is there no condemnation for those take refuge in Him?
  • Do you clearly understand the gospel? 
Application Questions:
  • Which team are you on? Righteous or unrighteous (enemy of God)? Articulate from the text several ways that God shows His favor on the righteous. 
  • Is your heart filled with praise at all times? If not, can you identify what is lacking in your prayer life, fear of the Lord, or nearness to God? How can you strengthen what is lacking in these areas?
  • Praise God that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.
  • Praise God that Jesus is our intercessor that delivers us through prayer, becoming one of us so that we can enjoy nearness to God, modeling for us what fear of the Lord should look like, perfectly obeying the Fathers will.
  • Ask God to give us a heart that pursues holiness and hatred toward sin.
  • Ask God for courageous, trusting faith and confidence that He will hear and answer us in our time of need.
  • Ask God that we would grow in our fear of the Lord and nearness to God.
Written by Galen Janson

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Forgiveness: Christian Compassion in the Courtroom of God

                                                                                                                        Visit to listen to this sermon. 
Outline: Zechariah 3
Three Steps to Forgiving Other Believers
1. Live Daily in the Courtroom of God (Zech. 3:1)
2. See the Imputed Righteousness of Christ on Believers (Zech. 3:2-5)
3. Live Gospel Cycles (Zech. 3:6-10)

During the return from exile, around 520 BC, a vision of a heavenly courtroom and three prophecies are given to the prophet Zechariah. This vision is of Joshua the high priest standing with filthy garments before the angel of the LORD and with Satan at his right hand accusing him. The LORD disregards Satan's accusations, though they are accusations of true guilt, and instead takes off his filthy clothes, representing his sin, and puts clean garments on him, representing purity, innocence, and righteousness. The LORD then gives three promises connected to the vision of Joshua: 1) that he will send his servant the Branch, who is Jesus, 2) he will remove all iniquity from the land in a single day, which was the day Jesus died, and 3) because the sin is removed, every one of his people will be at peace with one another.

Discussion Questions:
  • What is Satan's role in the courtroom? What's his goal in tempting people? 
  • Define imputed righteousness (See 2 Cor. 5:21). If I were to look at a brother or sister in Christ as if they were fully righteous before God, what would they look like? WHO would they look like? 
  • What ultimate reality are clothes a mere shadow of? How do clothes remind us of God's mercy?
  • What is a Gospel Cycle? Why is it called that? What are the five stages in the cycle and how does each stage correspond to the story of the Bible?

Application Questions:
  • Am I harboring any bitterness toward a brother or sister in Christ? Am I siding with Satan in the heavenly courtroom in any way when I think about that person or talk to them? 
  • Do I avoid conflict or do I often start it/engage it? What do I need to do (or not do) to make sure I do a full gospel cycle with other believers?
  • Have I been praying for the other saint when I get in conflict with them? How can I integrate prayer into conflict? How can I grow in confidence that prayer is powerful? 

Prayer Points:
  • Praise God that He has freely taken away your sin and given you Christ's glorious righteousness!
  • Praise God that God will complete the work he started in the believers around you to perfectly sanctify them (Phil. 1:6)!
  • Ask God to prompt you to pray when you get in a conflict or start to think about someone you're in conflict with.
  • Ask God to bring the conflict through a whole gospel cycle in order to strengthen the relationship and glorify God.
  • Don’t belittle prayer, when conflict strikes, first picture your brother with Christ’s righteousness, shining as bright as the sun, and pray, “Lord, get them there soon! Sanctify them through this, I want to see them glorified! Help me be patient with them, God! I praise you that you began a good work in them and you will surely complete it! Forgive me for being unforgiving.”    
"Not What My Hands" by Aaron Keyes: 

"Oh How Good It Is" by Keith and Kristyn Getty:
(Providentially the first song on my Spotify playlist when I went for a jog Sunday morning before preaching! God is so encouraging!)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Discipleship 101: Take the Low Seat! (Luke 14:1-11)

 Outline: Luke 14:1-11
  1. Jesus exposes pride (14:1-9)
  2. Jesus encourages humility (14:10-11)
Summary: While dining at a house full of Pharisees on the Sabbath day, Jesus was being carefully watched to see if he would heal a man suffering from dropsy.  Knowing what the Pharisees were watching for, Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Jesus’ question served to expose the hearts of the Pharisees, for under their silence was pride in all of its hypocritical and self-centered ugliness.  Next we learn that Jesus “noticed how the Pharisees chose the places of honor” (v.7).  Seeing this, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wedding Feast in order to further expose pride and encourage humility.  Followers of Jesus Christ must learn to pass up the high seat and make a beeline for the low seat, for humility is the sure route to honor. 

      Discussion Questions:
  • Why were the Pharisees watching Jesus so Intensely in v.1? Was Jesus actually breaking God’s law?  How do Jesus’ questions (vv.3, 5) and the Pharisees silence (vv.4, 6) actually expose pride and hypocrisy and self-centeredness of their hearts? What is it that Jesus notices about the Pharisees in v.7 that would prompt him to tell the Parable of the Wedding Feast in vv.8-11?
  •  Jesus says, “Do not sit down in a place of honor.”  In other words, don’t take the high seat!  Is Jesus forbidding the pursuit of honor in v.8?  What point is he making?
  • Jesus also says, “go and sit in the lowest place (v.10).” In other words, take the low seat!  What is the relationship between the low seat and being honored in v.10?
  • Interact with these statements: “Honor is not to be given not taken…It is God’s prerogative to bestow honor.  It is our prerogative to pursue humility…”
  • How did Jesus make it possible for us to love the low seat?
  • What are other examples of ways God would have us choose the “low seat”?

Application Questions:
  • Studying the responses and actions of the Pharisees helps us to see something of the ugliness of pride.  Just as Jesus sought to expose the pride of the Pharisees, he also seeks to expose the pride in his followers.  Is there any area of pride in your life that you sense Jesus exposing?  What is it?  What ways have you tried to cover it in order to appear better than you are?      
  • Jesus exposes us in order to clothe us.  How does being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ motivate and inspire you to pass by the high seat and make a beeline to the low seat? 
  • What would it look like practically to take the low seat in your relationships?  With Jesus?  With those at home?  Church?  Work?  Etc?
  • How will a focus on humility serve as the key to unlock many areas of spiritual growth in your life?

Prayer Points:
  • Ask God to, by His Spirit, expose and convict your heart of any pride in your life.
  • Confess to God any pride in your life and any way you’ve sought to cover that pride, that is, any way that you’ve been content with looking righteous instead of being righteous. 
  • Thank God for how he mercifully exposes pride for your good.
  • Thank God for how he has clothed you with the righteousness of his Son so that you don’t have to try and find significance and security in the rags of your own “righteousness.” 
  • Praise God for sending His Son to be born humbly, to live humbly, and to die humbly in order to put the very Spirit of humility within you.  Praise God for giving you a new instinct and desire to make a beeline to the low seat!
  • Pray that God would help you to make a conscience effort in your daily life to pass by the high seat and to occupy the low seat.