Our Advocate

Our Advocate: Meditation for the Lord’s Table

This is an exposition of 1 John 2:1-2. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 26 2017.

Intro:

We are a “Gospel People.”  A people born of the Gospel, rooted in the Gospel, identified by the Gospel.  The Gospel is not just good news for the lost.  It is good news for the saved.  We never move beyond the Gospel.  We never outgrow it.  We grow into it.  We mature in it.  It becomes the joy of our lives.  It grows sweeter with each passing day as we plumb the depths Gospel truth.  The great tragedy in the church is so many folks “get saved” and them seem to get over it.  I checked the box, said the prayer got dunked in water, I’m good now let’s move on.  No, we don’t move on.  We spend eternity exploring the wonders of God’s salvation.  The Gospel is not something I need for when I die, it is what I need in order to live.  Thus from time to time we come together around this table.  We come to remember and to reflect.  We gather to rejoice in the life that is ours because of Christ.  The life that is ours because of the cross.  Tonight I want to reflect on a brief word from John, the beloved apostle.

Text: 1 John 2:1-2

John the beloved is writing to his “little children”.
The aged apostle is writing, pastorally, to a group of folks he dearly loves.
He is writing to encourage and strengthen them in difficult days.
Yes, they live in a world that is in the hands of the Evil One – but they belong to God!

The two verses of our text remind us of an important truth.  A truth that ought to inform, instruct and guide the church in ministry.  This truth not only sets the agenda but reminds us of what ought to characterize our work and worship.  As we consider the great truths set forth in our text I remind you that:

Thesis: The hope of the world and the joy of the church is found in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus.

Having challenged us to holiness (2:1a) : My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin… – John realistically knows that we will fail.  What then?  John says, “Don’t despair.”  When you stumble and fall don’t lay there.  We are to come to God, confess our sin, own it and seek his gracious forgiveness and cleansing.  John’s point in this section is that we are to come in absolute assurance because of the work of Christ.

“If anyone does (when we) sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  He is the propitiation for our sins…”

The work of Christ is the basis on which the Christian approaches God with full assurance of forgiveness and cleansing.  John uses three terms to describe the work of Christ on our behalf.  Images guaranteeing our deliverance and resulting in abounding joy.

Christ our advocate
We are not to think of our Lord’s ministry as living the perfect life, satisfying God’s demands; giving his life in sacrifice on the cross; rising from the grave and that is it –
He promised Peter he would intercede for him – Luke 22:32
He prayed for his disciples and us – John 17
He promised to acknowledge those who acknowledge him – Luke 12:8
He has ascended to the right hand of the Father where he ever lives to intercede for his own! – Romans 8:34

Understand the distinction between biblical advocate and defense attorney.
A defense attorney pleads his client’s case.
Defending the accused largely upon the merits of his case.
That would be a huge mistake with God!
From John’s perspective – the accused has no merit!
The merit is found in his advocate.

We have an advocate that advocate is…

Jesus Christ the Righteous
Our advocate is heard on the basis of his character/nature.

He is the propitiation for our sins
This is a good word that we do not hear often anymore.
Propitiation = atoning sacrifice
Our advocate does not plead our innocence but rather our guilt!
Then he offers his vicarious suffering on our behalf.

Our advocate, Jesus Christ the Righteous drank the cup of God’s wrath as our propitiation.  This is the glory of the Gospel.  We have been reconciled through his blood shed on the cross.

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A Fully Gospel Ministry

A Fully Gospel Ministry: 2016 Gospel of Luke

A Fully Gospel Ministry is an exposition of Luke 13:1-9. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 26, 2017.

Intro:

One skeptic defined a pulpit committee as, “A group of people in search of a man who will be totally fearless and uncompromising as he tells them exactly what they want to hear!”  I don’t know that that is a fair representation of pulpit committees but it can certainly be said of an increasing number of churches.  The apostle Paul warned of a time when men would gather around them teachers who tell them what they want to hear.  During such times, the apostle warns, “They will not endure sound doctrine…they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”  In my opinion, we’re pretty much there.  “You have to be careful,” we are told.  “You’ll run folks off with that Hellfire and brimstone preaching.”  Today’s Gospel is a kinder, gentler message.  Now, hear me.  I’m not suggesting that biblical ministry means bludgeoning people with the Gospel.  I’m not suggesting that real ministry leaves them licking their wounds.  What I am saying is that as I listen to a lot of the preaching that is popular today – I’m left wondering who needs to be saved?  I’m all for being kind and gracious.  I’m in favor of being positive and upbeat, but in times of danger, love demands an urgent warning.  And that is exactly what we find in the ministry of Jesus.

Text: Luke 13:1-9

Our Lord is far from the mild-mannered character that is so popular today.
His teaching often enraged the religious establishment.
It wasn’t that they thought Him a bit of a nuisance – they wanted to kill Him!
In all the accusations made against Him, no one could say, “He played to the crowd.”
At this point in Jesus’ life and ministry momentum is mounting toward the cross.
He has just rebuked the multitude for their hypocrisy.
They can read the skies but they cannot read the times.
They can read the winds but not the Spirit.

Some in the crowd try their hand at “reading current events” only to hear again the sting of rebuke.

Thesis: Faithfulness to the ministry of Jesus demands that we preach the full Gospel.

Our work is His work.
The purpose of the church is to do the work of the Savior.
We our driven by His agenda not ours.

In our text we find two essential elements of the Gospel as Jesus preached it.
Elements that are not popular today.
These are things we’d just as soon not talk about.

  1. Full Gospel preaching demands a call for genuine repentance.  (13:1-5)
  2. Full Gospel preaching urges repentance now before it is too late.  (13:6-9)

Conclusion:

We are purposefully not told what happened.  The story is left open.  To be told in the lives of those present that day.  Let each supply the answer in his own life.  God’s judgment is real.  Yet God in grace is patient.  But His patience will not last forever.  One day, God alone knows when, the opportunity to be saved will be withdrawn.  The procrastinator will die in his sin and be lost forever.

To die without Christ is to perish.
To leave this life without Christ is to enter the world to come without hope.
What you need to know is that “perishing” is not just the end of the vile and the loathsome.  A man may perish in his own bed surrounded by family and friends.  He may be well thought of, admired and loved but if he is unrepentant – he is damned.

There is only one way to heaven.  One way to life eternal and life abundant and that is through the person of the Lord Jesus.  You must come to Him on His terms.  That demands repentance.

But listen to God’s promise for those who will repent:

“Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.  (Isaiah 55:6-7)

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Joy!

Joy!: from Selected Psalms

The PsalmsJoy! is an exposition of Psalm 126. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, March 22.

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Hope: Our Birthright

Hope: Our Birthright: 2017 Study of 1 Peter #02

This is an exposition of 1 Peter 1:3-12. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 19, 2017.

Intro:

Have you ever lost hope?  Have you ever been in the midst of a situation when there appeared there was nothing you could do?  Overwhelmed you just threw up you hands and said, “I quit?”  As far as you could tell there was no reason for going on.  You were just too tired to care and besides it just wasn’t worth the effort.  Have you been there?  Are you there now?  The loss of hope is a devastating thing.  Hopeless people do desperate things.  Hopelessness and despair are major killers.  Hope isn’t just something that helps us over the hurdle – it is essential to life.  Hope is necessary for survival.  Without hope life is a dark and grim existence.  Yet more and more we are becoming a hopeless society.  Vast numbers are living on the verge of despair.  In a crisis I appreciate when others are there to give comfort but I prefer someone to give me hope!

If I’m ever stuck in an elevator and I push that button and tell them I’m in car number 6 in building number 3 – I’m not interested in feeling a hand on my shoulder and a fellow passenger say, “I feel your pain.”  I want to hear a voice from outside that car say, “We know where you are.  We are working on it now and we will have you out in 5 minutes.”  It’s nice to have someone who shares your burden it is better to have someone who gives you hope.

But where does that come from?  How do you find it?

Webster defines hope as:
“A desire accompanied by an expectation.”
“A belief in fulfillment.”
“To expect with confidence.”

In an increasingly despairing world where are we going to find hope?  War rages.  Threats abound.  Cherished beliefs are mocked.  Traditional values crumble.  Our once dominant worldview is marginalized.  Where do we turn?  Well, we find some help from a wise old man.  He wasn’t a king or philosopher.  He was not a sage or guru.  He was a fisherman.  A man who traveled the road of despair but joyously found a way out.  His name was Peter.  Our text this evening is found in 1 Peter 1.

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-12

Peter was a follower of Jesus.
He came to Jesus through the efforts of his brother Andrew.
Andrew came to Peter and said, “Come, we’ve found the Messiah.”
Peter was unique among the apostles.
He was a mixture of courage and daring yet he lacked consistency.
He was quick to speak but often slow to think!

It is hard to imagine Peter’s pain as a result of denying Jesus.
Immediately he went out and wept bitterly.
We can only imagine the pain of seeing his Lord crucified.
The despair of seeing his lifeless body limp on the cross.
And then came that word – “I am alive.  Go.  Tell my disciples and Peter.”

Hope was reborn in the heart of that despairing, defeated disciple.
Now, years later, as an old man he is writing to believers in the face of despair.
Persecution, pain and suffering await them.
Peter says to these hurting, struggling believers, “There is hope.”

The words of Peter echo through the centuries bringing encouragement and life to embattled believers today.  His words, inspired of the Holy Spirit remind us that:

Thesis: Hope is the birthright of the child of God.

I know there are those who do not believe that “doctrine” is practical.  I know there are those who prefer messages that deal with “real life issues” but consider this.  Peter is writing to a group of folks who are in desperate times.  Facing life and death issues and he begins by making a profound doctrinal statement about the nature of salvation! 

And by the way he doesn’t talk to them about salvation because they are going to need it after they die but because they are going to need it in order to live!

There are four things I want you to see related to our hope in Christ.

  1. Our hope is anchored in God’s gracious work of redemption.  (1:3-5)
  2. Our hope is fortified through adversity.  (1:6-7)
  3. Our hope is secured by saving  faith.  (1:8-9)
  4. Our hope has been the focus of God’s progressive revelation.  (1:10-12)

Conclusion:

This is our hope.  Regardless of circumstance.  Regardless of how troublesome life may be – there is hope for the child of God.  There is peace and security in Christ.  This is the birthright of the child of God.

Hope that is anchored in God’s gracious work of redemption.
Hope that is fortified by trial.
Hope that is secured through saving faith.
And hope that has been the focus of God’s progressive revelation.
Take heart child of God – rejoice in your salvation.

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Wake Up! Understand the Times

Wake Up!  Understand the Times: 2016 Gospel of Luke #51

This is an exposition of Luke 12:54-59. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 19, 2017.

Intro:

How do you respond to storms?  Do they frighten you?  Do you “blow them off”?  How do you respond?  My grandmother had a plan.  Tornado warning or sever storm?  She took her lawn chair and set it in the closet.  Got her flashlight, telephone, battery powered radio and her dog and set in the closet.  Centrally located, no outside walls – she had everything she needed – she was set!  She had a plan and she worked it.  Me?  I used to be more cautious than I am now.  There was a time when I became a Pentecostal every time a storm threatened!  Not so anymore.  Now I have to guard against not paying enough attention.  What happened?  Why the difference?  I lived in a mobile home for five and a half years!  For five and a half years – I lived in a tin box secured to the earth by a few metal straps.  Put me in a building with a foundation, I don’t even break a sweat.

In that environment I have a sense of security.  Granted, it may very well be a false sense of security but I feel secure.  The truth is I may lay down in confidence and wake up in Oz but in my mind I don’t have a thing to worry about.  Besides all you have to do is take a look around.  I’ve been through a couple of tornadoes.  When the sky around you starts taking on that greenish, yellow color and the air becomes real still.  When the hair on the back of your neck stands up – because it is just too weird – find a hole in the ground, jump in and then pull the hole in after you!  “Use your smarts man.  It’s common sense.”  Many a man has suffered the consequences of my kind of security.  Being secure and “thinking” you’re secure are two very different things.  That, it seems to me, is the point our Lord is making at the end of the 12th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.

Text: Luke 12:54-59

Context of Luke’s Gospel

Writing to Theophilus – evangelistic, who is Jesus, what did He do and why did He do it?

Immediate context – the rich fool, wise person doesn’t worry about stuff, is ready in service, stops for a reality check.

Jesus has been speaking to His disciples – at this point – Luke 12:54 – He once again turns to the crowd around him (which would include some from the religious establishment) to address them.  Jesus said, “I’ve come to cast fire upon the earth.”  The fire would work to purify those who believe but would destroy those who remain in unbelief.  To one it the gospel is the aroma of life to the another it is the stench of death.  He now presses the crowd to take a stand one way or the other.  Which side are you on?  The believing or the unbelieving?

Thesis:  Surviving the troublesome storms of the Last Days demands that you be spiritually alert.

As an aside let me say again, I definitely believe we are in the last days.  Of course we have been for the past 2000 years.  I don’t have any idea how much longer it will be but the last days began with the coming of Jesus and will end with His return.  That may well be before I finish this sermon.  Some of you are thinking, “Oh, I hope so!”  I am convinced that the Christian is to live each day in light of the return of the Lord.  I am to live each day is if Christ were coming tonight.  That is the attitude I find reflected in the New Testament and I’m convinced that is to be the attitude of the church today.  Live each day “before the face of God.”  Live each day in the awareness of God’s presence and will.

Now, in our text we find two essential characteristics of being “spiritually alert.”

  1. The spiritually alert person accurately assesses the times in which they are living.  (12:54-56)
  2. The spiritually alert person prepares now for the judgement to come.  (12:57-59)

Conclusion:

Some are bothered by this analogy because of the wording “your adversary” as a reference to God but that is the testimony of Scripture!

There is coming a day of reckoning.
You had best settle accounts before it is too late – 12:58-59.

How do you settle up?
Acknowledge your sin.
Confess that you deserve God’s righteous judgment.
Trust in the Lord Jesus alone.

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Secure

Secure: Selected Psalms

The PsalmsSecure is an exposition of Psalm 125. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, March 15, 2017.

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Alien Existence

Alien Existence: 2017 Study of 1st Peter #1

This is an exposition of 1 Peter 1:1-2. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 12, 2017.

Intro:

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this or not, but our world has changed dramatically in the last few years.  Life is very different today.  We now have a Department of Homeland Defense.  We talk daily about threat levels.  There is increase talk and anger about controlling our borders.  Terrorism is a topic of daily conversation.  If you’ve flown or taken someone to the airport or pick someone up at the airport lately you’ve seen first hand some of the changes.  But beyond the geo-political changes, we changed in other ways as well.  A decade ago a large Christian denomination openly embraced a practicing homosexual as bishop of New Hampshire.  Prior to the vote an Episcopal seminary professor said, “I don’t know how I will vote.  I believe it would be wrong for me to make a decision prior to seeing what ‘the spirit of Jesus’ might do in these meetings.”  A few weeks ago a pastor in Denmark said, “I do not believe in a heavenly God, in the afterlife, the resurrection, or in the Virgin Mary.”  He denied that God was the creator, or the almighty, nor in Jesus as the Son of God or His seconding coming or the resurrection of the dead – but following an official investigation by his bishop he was cleared of any wrong doing and returned to his parish!  The International Herald Tribune’s story carried the headline, “In Denmark, A Man of God, but Without that ‘God’ Part.”  When members of his church were asked about the controversy one responded, “Danes, we don’t talk too much about God, and Christianity is not a big force here.”  Apparently it’s okay for a Christian church to have an atheist for a pastor!

Of course what was “over there” years ago is at our front door today.  What is really disturbing about all of this is the wider discussion that is taking place.  Harry Biswanger of the Ayn Rand institute is the leading proponent of what is called objectivist philosophy.  This philosophical worldview sees the human being as a “free, independent, sovereign individual who exists for his own sake.”  Biswanger and others find the whole concept of a God to whom we are accountable as “an impossible and degrading concept.”  Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard finds the Ten Commandments “contrary to every principle of moral judgment.”  The real problem for many is that the Ten Commandments remind us that we are not a law unto ourselves.  We answer to God and that simply is not acceptable!

Several years ago All Soul’s Unitarian here in Tulsa was applauded for its work in helping churches to embrace and accept homosexuals and in advancing the idea that there is nothing inherently wrong with polygamy!  The pastor, in an interview with the Tulsa World, explained the origins of the Unitarian Universalist Church as breaking away from traditional Christianity through denial of the doctrine of the Trinity and affirming that all religions lead to God – and then said, “But we remain orthodox Christians.”

I’ve said all this to say – I’m feeling more and more like an alien.  The landscape is less and less familiar to me.  I’m feeling less and less like I belong here.  The nagging question is, “How are we to live in this foreign land?”  For some answers we turn to the Scriptures and begin this evening a study of 1 Peter.

Text: 1 Peter 1:1-2

It is virtually universally accepted that Peter, the apostle is the author of this letter.  He is writing to a group of churches in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  His message could be summarized as:

  1. Believers live as aliens and strangers in this life.
  2. Holiness matters – be prepared to suffer for righteousness’ sake.
  3. Live a transformed life as a testimony to others and as a means of glorify God.

It is also clear that this book is written during a time of persecution or on the verge of persecution.  I’m convinced that it was written in the early 60s.  Sometime between 62-64, just before the persecution of Nero.  Peter encourages these believers to live courageously, trusting Christ in the face of tremendous trial.  Within 18 months of its completion Peter became a martyr for the faith.

There are elements of 1 Peter that are hard for American believers to identify with.  Though our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to biblical faith, we have not faced persecution.  Though we have experienced a down turn in the economy we are not, on the whole, familiar with real poverty.  While Christians around the world readily identify with this book most American believers do not.  But I’m convinced that Peter has much to say to us in preparing us for the days to come.  This evening I want us to look carefully at Peter’s greeting to these struggling believers.  In his greeting we are reminded that:

Thesis:  Regardless of life circumstance believers find their identity and sense of well being in their relationship to Christ.

There are two things I want us to note from our text.

  1. We, as the people of God live as aliens and strangers in this life.  (1:1)
  2. The believer finds his worth and sense of well being in Christ.  (1:2)

Conclusion:

This world is not our home – thus to seek fulfillment and understanding here can only lead to frustration.  To seek meaning and purpose in this temporary dwelling is to invite heartache and despair.

Peter’s advice to first century Christians is sound advice for twenty first century believers, “regardless of your life circumstance find your identity and sense of well being in a relationship with Christ.”

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A Time for Sober Reflection

A Time for Sober Reflection: Gospel of Luke #50

A Time for Sober Reflection is an exposition of Luke 12:49-53. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 12, 2017.

Intro:

There is a disturbing trend within the evangelical church over the last 20 plus years.  It is an increasing desire to be user-friendly.  Schools, books, seminars now offer insight into how to make the church and the Gospel palatable to an increasingly secular world.  On the surface that doesn’t sound like such a bad deal.  After all, didn’t the apostle Paul say that he becomes all things to all people so that by all means he might save some?  The problem is the lengths to which some would take this user-friendly approach.  One wonders if soon you may drive past the “Lite Church” home of the 7% tithe.  Only 8 commandments – your choice.  It’s everything you could want in a church and less!  In an honest desire to reach as many folks as possible with the Gospel some have been willing to give away the store.  The result is a cheapened Gospel and a weakened church.  Years ago a friend told me about a pastor who boasted of a “powerful and moving service” in which he and others dressed in clown outfits and served the Lord’s Supper to children!  That is not moving it’s blasphemous!  To take something as holy and sacred as the memorial to the cross of our Lord and make it a part of a clown act is contemptible.  In a mad dash to be innovative and cutting edge we have sold our soul.

Now that does not mean that I believe that the biblical thing to do is to make things as obscure as possible.  Make the Gospel as unappealing as you possibly can.  I am all for explaining the Gospel in terms contemporary folks can understand.  We must communicate as effectively as possible.  Our methods need to adapt to the age but we must guard the message.  We must not allow the method to become the message or to obscure the message.  We must never loose sight of the fact that the Gospel is the call of God for folks to come out from the world and be separate.  I must admit I am disturbed by the attitudes that say, “Do your best to make sure your building doesn’t look like a church.  Change your worship service so that it is more like a concert or an evening at the theatre.  Don’t be to churchy in what you do.”  That bothers me.  I was told to come out and be separate.  The church is to be distinct from the world.  It ought to be a clear choice.  That is not just buildings but attitudes, perspectives and methods.  To be sure we must guard against extremes on both ends of the spectrum.  I’m not at all suggesting that anything beyond the 16th century is too modern.  I am not advocating we return to the Puritanism of the American Colonies or the Fundamentalism of the 1920’s.  What I am suggesting is that we must be diligent to ensure that we are biblical in our message and our methods.  That we make sure our focus is on the Gospel and its requirements.  That demands some honest evaluation.  That requires serious reflection on our part.  That requires that we periodically stop for a reality check.  Not unlike what our Lord did in Luke 12:49-53.

Text: Luke 12:49-53

Context

Growing animosity/hostility.
Discussion about the foolish and the wise.
Talk of End Times
All of this with his disciples.
Now it is reality check.  You need to know what you are in for.

Thesis:  Faithful preaching and teaching the Gospel requires an honest evaluation of the Lord Jesus and his mission.

The Gospel is about Him!  The Kingdom of God is about Him.  We must learn to evaluate our methods and ministry in light of who He is and what He came to do.  We find two things in our text that are crucial when we come to such an evaluation.

  1. An honest evaluation acknowledges His zeal in accomplishing His mission.  (12:49-50)
  2. An honest evaluation recognizes the inherent division caused by the Gospel.  (12:51-53)

Conclusion:

The Gospel is offensive.  The Gospel says you are a hell bound sinner and unless you repent and trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation you will be eternally condemned.  How do you make that palatable?  If you can do it without it being offensive it ceases to be the Gospel!

Faithful preaching and teaching of the Gospel requires an honest evaluation of the Lord Jesus and his mission.

Such an evaluation acknowledges his zeal to accomplish his mission and recognizes the inherent division caused by the Gospel.

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A Grateful Life

A Grateful Life: Selected Psalms

The PsalmsA Grateful Life is an exposition of Psalm 124. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, March 8, 2017.

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Restoring God’s Worship

Restoring God’s Worship

This is an exposition of Ezra chapter 2. This message by guest preacher Dennis Gunderson was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 5, 2017.

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