God’s Good, Gracious & Glorious Provision

From Ephesians 2:1-7. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Easter Sunday morning, April 20, 2014.

Intro:

I’m convinced that most of us take our salvation for granted.  Oh, we’re glad to give testimony in a testimonial service.  We are quick to give Him praise in a Sunday School class or in a discussion with friends.  But how often do we think about our salvation “outside” of church?  Is it something we are consciously aware of on a daily basis?  Do we thank God daily for His grace and mercy in saving us?  Or do we, over time begin to take it for granted?  I don’t think it is an intentional slight.  I don’t think we are “ungrateful”.  I think it is a comfortable truth we wear easily.  It’s like our favorite shirt we put on and never give it another thought.  I’m more convinced than ever that the key to living by faith is to be aware of God’s grace on a daily basis.  To live in a mindset that says, “Everything that I am; everything that I have; everything that I ever will be – I owe to the grace of God.”  Too often, it seems, we “get over” our salvation.  We lose the joy and the wonder of it all and we begin to think that God is lucky to have us.  When in reality – we are undeserving sinners who, apart from grace, are fit only for the judgment of God.  Ephesians chapter 2 reminds us of the wonder of our salvation.

Text: Ephesians 2:1-7

In chapter 1 Paul reveals the role of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in salvation.
He drives home the Trinitarian work of salvation.
Then he explores the subject of and the extent of the power of God.
Now he gives the prime of example of that power in action.

This is a glorious passage.  Paul with the skill of a surgeon cut through the trappings of religious life and got to the heart of the matter.  This is the heart and soul of the Gospel message.  In this passage you can build a sound doctrine of biblical salvation.  One of the things that concerns me is that with all the religious programming on radio and television there seems to be very little preaching of the Gospel.  I’m not picking on any one group or minister.  I don’t care whether you’re listening to a charismatic, Baptist, Presbyterian or what stripe of Christian minister it might be – you don’t often hear the Gospel.  You hear about politics.  You hear about abortion.  You hear about violence on television, in movies, video games etc.  You hear about 100 different social issues – but where is the Gospel?  Don’t misunderstand me; I have no problem addressing these issues.  They are rightfully addressed from the Word of God but I am concerned about the lack of Gospel preaching.  By the way I’m not immune from such criticism.

Even when I hear a preacher calling on people to “come to Jesus” I wonder if they have heard the Gospel.  I wonder if they have any biblical notion of what he is asking of them.  In this text Paul lays out for us the biblical Gospel.  From this text we learn…
Thesis: The biblical doctrine of salvation addresses man’s great need and God’s gracious provision.

As the biblical doctrine unfolds we will discover three great facts about salvation.

  1. Man’s Problem  (2:1-3)
  2. God’s Gracious Provision (2:4-6)
  3. Salvation’s Purpose (2:7)
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Faithfulness to the Biblical Gospel

Amos #03: from Amos 3:1-15. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, April 13, 2014.

Intro:

The gospel is glorious.  It really is good news.  It is the story of God’s love for wayward sinners like you and me.  Though we are deserving of his just, eternal, burning wrath God has chosen to love us.  He has chosen to redeem us.  To be gracious to us.  And that choice came at great cost.  It cost his Son.  Because God is holy, because he is righteous, he could not just ignore our sin.  In order to be gracious he cannot deny his holiness.  Sin must be dealt with.  The wages of sin is death.  The wrath of God must be appeased.  Thus God gave his Son to die in our place.  Because of Christ we live.  Because of Christ we have fellowship with God.  Because of Christ the Father lavishes his grace upon us.  This is the best possible news.

There is a danger in this.  If we are not careful we fall into the trap of presuming upon his grace rather than resting in his grace.  We insist on forgiveness.  We expect mercy.  We demand grace.  That is a perversion of the truth and it can be devastating as Israel discovered in the last half of the 8th century B.C.  Our text this evening is found in the third chapter of Amos.

Text: Amos 3:1-15

Amos, a fig picking prophet from Tekoa, came to the Northern kingdom of Israel with a message.  God called him to deliver a message of judgment.  It is clear from his first sermon that God is no respecter of persons.  Israel is condemned along with her pagan neighbors.  No doubt they were stunned to hear of God’s judgment coming against them.  Sure those “God-haters” deserve God’s wrath but we are his unique people.  His chosen ones.  Why would he condemn us?

Working our way through the text we are reminded that…

Thesis: Faithfulness to the biblical gospel demands that we speak the truth of God’s wrath as well as his grace.

If we preach the grace of God without reference to his wrath we’ve failed to present the truth.  His grace only makes sense in light of his wrath.  To appreciate grace you must see it against the dark background of his holy and righteous wrath.
Now, God’s wrath is not a burst of anger.
Wrath is not God’s losing his temper and lashing out.
Rather it is his settled disposition against sin and unrighteousness.

Amos makes three things very clear in this text.

  1. The fact that we have known God’s blessing demands that God judge our sin.  (3:1-2)
  2. The certainty of God’s judgement demands that we warn of that coming judgment in the hope that there will be repentance.  (3:3-8)
  3. Without repentance judgment will be devastating, leaving no place to hide.  (3:9-15)

Conclusion:

This reminds me of those described in Revelation 6 who at the time of God’s judgment cry out for the mountains to fall on them and bury them that they might be relieved.  (Rev. 6:16-17)

“…for the great day of the wrath has come.  Who can stand?”

That’s the question isn’t it?
Who can stand in the judgment of God?

Only those who stand in Christ who stood where we stand and bore the wrath of God in our place.  Only in him will we find shelter from the inevitable judgment.

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The Peril of Spiritual Neglect

Hebrews #03: from Hebrews 2:1-4. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, April 13, 2014.

Intro:

We are in a time of crisis.  Southern Baptist are in a period of sharp decline.  Our numbers reflect those of the early 1970’s.  We have bigger and better facilities, we have more money than ever before, greater means of communication yet attendance and membership are in free-fall.  If we were to take the time most everyone of you could name people, friends, family who were once very active in the church who now seldom if ever walk through the door.  Southern Baptists boast 16,000,0000 members but are lucky if 4,000,000 are in church on any given Sunday.  900 Baptist Churches closed their doors last year.  Unfortunately we are not alone in our struggle.  Churches of every stripe are in decline.  The Church’s voice, once dominate in our culture, is now just one of many voices – and perhaps the least listen to.  This is a truth that grieves me.  Is your heart broken?  Are you burdened by these facts?  I’m burden because the name and the fame of our God is despised.  I’m grieved because God is not honored as God.  I’m also heart-broken because if you listen you can hear the faint rumblings of a gathering storm.  That storm just beyond the horizon will bring great devastation.  As the winds begin to blow, when the rain falls – I’m wondering if there will be any left standing?  Having neglected their souls, having drifted from the moorings of their faith, where will they stand?

Spiritual neglect is not a recent phenomenon.  Before the end of the first century our Lord instructed John the beloved to write to 7 churches in Asia Minor.  He said to the church at Laodicea, “I wish you were either hot or cold.  You are luke-warm and I want to spew you out of my mouth.”  He said to the church at Ephesus, “You have abandoned your first love.”  Within a generation of the founding of the church there were those who had lost their way.  The author of Hebrews, less than a generation from the ascension, wrote, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”  Within 40 years of the cross there were those who had abandoned the faith and others who were on the verge of walking away.  We are called to a Gospel work.  Part of the Gospel is to warn of the peril of spiritual neglect.  Our text this morning is found in the opening words of the 2nd chapter of Hebrews.

Text: Hebrews 2:1-4

Note our text begins with a “therefore.”
When you come upon a therefore you must ask, “What’s that there for?”
It means this warning in chapter 2 must be understood in light of chapter 1.
In light of God’s ultimate, final word in the person of the Lord Jesus…

Who is:

  • Heir of all things
  • Creator of all things
  • The radiance/effulgence/shining forth of God’s glory
  • The exact imprint of His nature
  • Who has made purification for our sins
  • The Son
  • Who alone is to be worshiped
  • Whose kingdom will have no end
  • Who is eternally the same/unchanging
  • Who is the sovereign ruler of all

“…we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift from it.”

The message of the biblical writer is clear…

Thesis: Biblical faith demands constant vigilance and determined commitment to the faith embraced.

The Gospel is the glorious good news that if you repent of your sins and trust in Christ and in him alone you will be saved.  Once you are his you forever remain his but be careful.  This is not “one and done.”  I’m not saying, “You walked the aisle, signed the card, got dunked in water and you’re done.”  Biblical faith, saving faith, is an active persevering faith.

There are three things I want to call to your attention from this text.

  1. The biblical writer warns of the peril of spiritual neglect.  (2:2-4)
  2. The biblical writer underscores the insidious nature of such neglect.  (2:3, 1)
  3. The biblical writer provides us the antidote for such neglect.  (2:1)
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The Sovereign Judgment of Our God

Amos #02: an exposition of Amos 1:3-2:16. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, April 6, 2014.

Intro:

One of the hallmarks of biblical faith is the belief in the one true God.  Part of the reason why we draw the eire of the culture is our insistence that the whole world will one day answer to our God.  That does sound arrogant and it would be an audacious claim if it was made on the basis of our own assessment but such a claim is the revealed will of God.  He will judge the nations of the earth.  All men will given an account to Him.  Our God is not some tribal deity presiding over a select band of followers.  He is the creator of the heavens and the earth.  He is the supreme judge before whom every knee will bow.  However we cannot afford to be smug in our proclamation for we too will answer to Him.  The privilege of knowing Him, of having His word delivered to us and our unique relationship with Him does not mean we can sin with impunity.  That is the lesson the Northern Kingdom of Israel learned through the preaching of the fig picking prophet from Tekoa.  Our text this evening is found in Amos chapters 1 and 2.

Text: Amos 1:3-2:16

Near the end of the Northern Kingdom God called Amos to leave his flock and his farm in Judah to travel north to the kingdom of Israel.  He was assigned the task of declaring God’s sure and certain judgement on the nation.  His message was hard.  The truth bleak and yet there was the hint of grace within it.

The book of Amos is said to be one of the most readable, relevant and moving portions of the Word of God yet it is, for the most part, ignored.  Why?  Because its message hits a little too close to home.  Amos thunders against social injustice and dead ritual.  Subjects no more popular in the 8th century before Christ than they are today.  However it is a message that must be heard.  One that we must face head on.

In the text before us this evening Amos speaks of God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbors and then on Israel itself.  No doubt there were rousing “Amens!” as the prophet denounced the sins of Israel’s enemies.  But the mood quickly changed as he set his sites on God’s wayward people.

Listen to his words…

Thesis: Amos’ sobering message reminds us that God’s sovereign judgment is both comforting and frightening.
His judgment cuts both ways.  It is comforting in that the enemies of God will be dealt with.  Those who deny God and treat others with contempt will get what is coming to them.  God will not be mocked.  Whatsoever you sow that you will also reap.  What a comfort that is until you recognize your own sin.  The cry for justice is not one way.  Justice for our enemies and grace for us.

Looking at this text I want to draw out three truths.

  1. God will judge those who treat others with brutal contempt.  (1:3-2:3)
  2. God will judge those who defiantly set aside His sovereign commands.  (2:4-5)
  3. God will judge those who flippantly presume upon His grace.  (2:6-16)
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The Focus of Our Biblical Faith

Hebrews #02: an exposition of Hebrews 1:4-14. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, April 6, 2014.

Intro:

Have you ever thought, “You know life would be a little easier if I didn’t believe?”  Ever find yourself so beaten down by those around you who do not believe, it would just be easier if you just walked away?  Let’s face it living the Christian life is not easy.  Life is not all sunshine and no rain.  At times you find yourself at odds with the people you love and the people you have to work with.  Living by faith in an increasingly unbelieving culture can be grueling.  While you may not be tempted to deny your faith all together there is the temptation to “tone it down.”  Maybe you should not be so vocal.  Continue to believe in Jesus just don’t push the unique Son of God angle or demand that He is the only means of salvation.  Hold your beliefs privately, quietly do more to blend in with the surrounding culture.  Maybe then life would be a little easier.  Things would not be so tense at work or at family gatherings.

They were young in the faith.  They had believed the message of the Gospel and had trusted in Jesus as Messiah, as Lord and master.  By so doing they were spurned by their families.  The government came down on them.  Their faith cost them dearly.  Some had turned back.  They walked away from the faith.  Others were thinking of doing the same thing.  The writer of Hebrews took pen in hand to write to them about persevering.  His focus was on the person of the Lord Jesus.  Who is he and what did he do?  What sustains your faith in the face of great opposition is not a doctrine or a creed but a person.  The Lord himself.  The writer begins by saying God is not silent.  He has spoken many times in the past through various means.  But in these last days he has spoken his final word in the person of his Son.  Jesus is God’s final, ultimate word.  The Lord Jesus is the effulgence, the shining forth, of the glory of God.  He does not reflect God’s radiant glory he is that glory.  Further he is the exact imprint of God’s nature.  He is God.  This is the same one who has made purification for our sin.  He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  He has the superior name.  The name that is above every name.  And the one before whom all will bow.  The writer implores struggling believers to look to him.  Having stated the glory of the Son he now sets forth the evidence supporting his superiority.  Our text this morning begins with verse 4 of chapter 1.

Text: Hebrews 1:4-14

In our text the writer makes the case that Jesus is superior to angels.  That seems strange.  Why would he need to do that?  In order to understand you need to fix in your mind the temptation facing these struggling believers.  They are being pressured to back off their new found faith.  These harassed, persecuted and beleaguered saints were on the verge of turning back.  Their faith had cost them dearly.  But they would not have to blatantly deny Jesus just compromise a little.  Agree that Jesus was an angel but not God.  You can affirm, even revere him but not as God.  An angel, a great man, a wise teacher even a supreme teacher but not God.  But to compromise would be to deny.  Jesus is not a good man he is the god-man.  He is not a way of salvation.  He is the way of salvation.  He is not a hope he is the only hope.

As we work our way through this text we are reminded that…

Thesis: “A biblical faith steadfastly affirms and glories in the supremacy of the Lord Jesus.”

The writer expertly gathers various Old Testament texts to affirm the superiority of the Lord Jesus.  As we work through those we discover 5 affirmations of biblical faith.

  1. Biblical faith affirms that Jesus of Nazareth is uniquely the Son of God.  (1:4,5)
  2. Biblical faith affirms that Jesus alone is worthy of worship.  (1:6)
  3. Biblical faith affirms Jesus’ unique status as Sovereign over all things.  (1:7-9)
  4. Biblical faith affirms Jesus as the Eternal One.  (1:10-12)
  5. Biblical faith affirms Jesus as the almighty ruler and king.  (1:13-14)

Conclusion:

Are you beaten down?  Have the cares and sorrows of this life so overwhelmed you that you want to throw in the towel?  Take heart this glorious Son of the Living God is your God and he had given charge over his angels concerning you.  Does that mean your troubles will vanish?  No.  But you are not alone.  His power is sufficient.  These things are ultimately for your good and His glory.  Don’t turn back.  Don’t walk way look to Him.

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That’s Not What We Had in Mind!

Amos #01: an exposition of Amos 1:1; 7:10-17. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 30, 2014.

Intro:

It was a time of remarkable growth and prosperity.  After years of struggle they finally had some breathing room.  The economy was good.  They were becoming a power in the region.  They were in the middle of a building boom.  They had a nice, comfortable life.  That’s why they were so angry.  The last thing you want, when you have a nice respectable life going, is some preacher stirring up trouble!  To make matters worse he wasn’t one of them.  He was not even recognized by their religion.  He was from the south for heaven’s sake.  At first his preaching was pretty good.  He denounced all their enemies.  He spoke of God’s judgment on the surrounding nations.  Their initial reaction was, “You know, this guy is making a lot of sense.”  He was definitely getting good press.  There were certainly some “amens” and a few no doubt shouted, “preach it brother!”  Then he did the unthinkable.  We quit preach’n and went to meddl’n.  He started denouncing the sins of Israel.  He dared to say God was bringing that same judgment down on them.  “Who does this uneducated, unsophisticated farmer think he is?  What right does he have to waltz in here and say these things?”  His name was Amos.  A fig-picker turned prophet.  This evening we begin a study of the book that bears his name.

Text: Amos 1:1; 7:10-17

James Boice said that Amos was one of the most readable, relevant, and moving portions of the Word of God.  But in much of the church history little or no attention has been paid to it.  He goes on to suggest the reason for its being slighted is that it speaks so powerfully against social injustice and religious formalism, and thus many who would otherwise read it would be condemned by it.

It is true that issues of social justice have not been on the front burner in the evangelical church.  That, I think, is in reaction to the social gospel movement of the early 20th century and that social justice has long been a hobby horse for more liberal churches.  Yet event a casual reading of Scripture makes it abundantly clear God has a lot to say about or treatment of the poor and the need for justice.

Yet look around.  When we consider the number of people who live in abject poverty around the world it would be easy to question, “Does God care?”  When we consider the wide discrepancy even in this country between the wealthy and the poor it would be natural to wonder, “Does God care?”  When a child is brutalized, when a young girl is taken captive and made part of the sex trade industry – does God care?  When some schemer at work moves up the company ladder, does God care?  When you are slighted or your reputation is slandered – does God care?

Be careful if you’re asking that.  Because I would have to ask you, “Do you want Him to care?”  Do you want Him to care if you’ve slandered another?  Do you want Him to care if you’ve used the system to gain advantage over another?  If you’ve cheated in your spouse?

In light of these questions and in light of what God reveals to us through his prophet Amos, I have good news and bad news for you….

God cares!

The good news is the bad news.  God cares about sin and injustice.  He cares about our treatment of others and our obedience (or lack of obedience) to His commands.  As we begin our study of this most relevant prophet I want us to see that…

Thesis: Amos serves as a model of prophetic ministry.

We, like all churches and all believers, have been called to a prophetic ministry.  We are to represent God to the people.  We are to cry out against sin and injustice wherever we find it.  We are pretty good at pointing the finger but we must never forget judgment begins in the house of God.  We cannot afford to overlook our own sin.  In seeking to understand how we are to carry out this prophetic work let’s look at Amos.

There are three things I want to note.

  1.  Amos warns of the insecurity of a stable yet unrighteous nation.  (1:1a)
  2.  Amos reminds us of God’s delight in using the least qualified in extraordinary ways.  (1:1; 7:14-15)
  3.  Amos demonstrates the power of an uncompromised faith.  (7:10-13, 16-17)
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Sustaining, Enduring, Overcoming Faith

Hebrews #01: an exposition of Hebrews 1:1-4. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 30, 2014.

Intro:

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments this week in what is said to be, “the most important religious liberty case to come before the court in a quarter of a century.”  The specific issue has to do with the mandates of the affordable care act and the rights of private businesses owned by people with deeply held religious convictions.  But the issue is really much larger than that.  At stake is religious liberty.  If you’ve been paying attention in recent years you’ve noticed that the language has changed.  There are those who no longer talk of freedom of religion but rather freedom of worship.  That is an important distinction.  Freedom of worship says, “Sure worship as you please – in your church and leave it there.”  Freedom of religion is that you are free to live out your religious convictions within society.  It is no secret that the culture in general has shifted.  The place of religion is being pushed from the public to the private sector.  Your faith is your private business it has no place in public life.  Your faith says homosexuality is a sin?  You had best keep that to yourself.  Your faith demands that salvation is found in Christ and in Christ alone?  You might want to rethink that.  Orthodox Christianity, once the dominate faith of our country, is being marginalized.  Church attendance is shrinking.  Our message is being denounced as bigoted, outdated and culturally backwards.  I watched last week as Stephen Corbert spoke of dwindling church attendance by saying, “Here’s the church; there is the steeple; open the door and where are all the people?” as his audience howled.

What do you do when your faith is lampooned?  How are we to react when what we hold dear is mocked and ridiculed?  How do we stand when the tide of public opinion is against us?  Worse yet, where do we turn when our faith is on the wrong side of the law?

They were second generation believers.  They did not hear Jesus himself rather they believed his message as delivered by those who heard him.  As Jews they had longed for Messiah.  Now they had come to believe that Messiah had come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Their new found faith cost them dearly.  Family and friends turned on them.  The government outlawed them.  They were struggling to continue in the faith.  Some had already turned back.  Others were contemplating it.  The writer of Hebrews says to them, “Don’t turn back.  Christ is better than the best the world has to offer.”  Our text this morning is found in the first chapter of Hebrews.

Text: Hebrews 1:1-4

The book of Hebrews is different.  It doesn’t begin like a letter but it certainly ends like one.  It is not addressed to a specific individual or group yet clearly is written with a specific group in mind.  It most likely began as a sermon or series of sermons.  As for who wrote it, I think Origen was right when he declared, “God only knows who wrote this!”  What we do know about the author is that he was well educated, was extremely well versed in the Greek Old Testament and that he wrote with great eloquence.  Most likely the book was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD (references indicate the sacrifices where still being made).  Probably written to Jewish Christians living in Rome.

We do know that those who received this letter faced a very real threat: But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,
33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.  34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.  (Hebrews 10:32-34)

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  (Hebrews 12:4)

Martyrdom was a real possibility for these believers.  What would the writer of Hebrews say to encourage these beleaguered saints?  What would he say to bolster their faith?  Two themes dominate the book.  Who is Jesus?  What did Jesus do?  He preached Christ.  He pointed to Jesus.

What is it that will enable you to stand against unbelief?  What is it that will sustain you when buffeted by doubt and hounded by those who refuse to believe?  When the winds of persecution begin to blow what will enable you to persevere?  Not doctrine.  Not as statement of faith.  Creeds and confessions will prove inadequate.  Your faith must rest squarely on the person of the Lord Jesus and His glory as revealed in God’s holy Word.

As these opening verses make clear…

Thesis: In the face of great adversity sustaining, enduring, overcoming faith demands a clear, unobstructed view of the exalted Christ.

No doubt these believers where asking some hard questions.  “Does God know what we are going through?  Does He care?  Where is He?  Why doesn’t He answer our prayers?  Why is God silent?”

The writer of Hebrews responds, God is not silent, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his son…”
1:1-2 tell us that through the Old Testament God revealed himself in true yet incomplete ways.  Various fragments or pieces of the puzzle supplied by the prophets.  Further God spoke in a variety of ways.  He spoke to Moses through the thunder and lightening at Sinai.  He whispered to Elijah at Horeb with a still small voice.  Ezekiel saw visions, Daniel dreamed dreams.  God appeared in human form to Abraham while He spoke through an angel to Jacob.  But in these last days God has spoken his final, ultimate word through His Son.

What follows is a glorious picture of the Lord Jesus.  Setting forth the reasons why we should look to him in times of crisis.  In chapter 12 the writer tells us to “fix our eyes on him” as the author and finisher of our faith.

  1. In times of crisis look to Jesus as the heir and goal of all things.  (1:2a)
  2.  When overwhelmed by the power of your enemies look to Jesus as the sovereign creator of all things.  (1:2b)
  3.  When you feel wholly inadequate look to the One who is God of very God.  (1:3a)
  4.  When you reach the end of yourself look to Him who is your Savior and Lord.  (1:3b-4)

Conclusion:

I’ve no doubt there are dark and troublesome days ahead.  I’m afraid we are heading into unchartered territory for us but I’m confident of this my hope is not in a doctrine, confession or creed but in the Lord Jesus himself.

  • Who is the heir and goal of all things.
  • Who is the sovereign Creator of all things.
  • Who is God of very God.
  • Who is Savior and Lord.
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Grace-filled Ministry

This exposition of Matthew 9:9-17 by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 23, 2014.

Intro:

I’m one of those who thinks that what you believe is important.  It really does matter – it really makes a difference.  Me – I’m conservative.  Real conservative.  Ultra conservative – a little on the fundamentalist side.  But I also believe there are things far more important than just being “right.”  Right doctrine is critically important.  I believe we are responsible to God to maintain the faith handed down to us by our forefathers.  We have been entrusted with a precious treasure and we must guard and protect the truth.  But we are just as responsible to God to demonstrate the love and grace of the Lord Jesus when and as we proclaim and live out that truth!

Just as in the Lord Jesus we beheld the both the truth and the grace of God – we must embody both God’s truth and His grace.  Grace and truth are not antithetical they naturally go together!

One of the reasons I don’t like to consider myself a fundamentalist is that most of the ones that I have known through the years are just down right mean!

Theologically I don’t have a problem.  I agree with them pretty much down the line.
The problem is with their demeanor.  Da more conservative they are, da meaner dey get!

Fundamentalists tend to be narrow, harsh, unyielding, unsympathetic, unforgiving and well, just down right nasty!

I was asked once to attend a meeting with a group of pastors.  I went and found that it was a group of pastors who were, for the most part, very conservative in their theology.  I agreed with these guys as they discussed theological positions and interpretation of Scripture.  The problem was, they were the most depressing group of men I’d ever been around.  I had been quiet most of the meeting.  I was a guest, I didn’t want to upset anyone.  But finally they forced my hand.  They ask me to respond to what was being said.  I responded with what I thought was a very funny answer.  The only other person to laugh was the other visitor!  After an awkward silence I said, “I think you guys need to lighten up.  You’re taking yourselves way too serious.”  That was about 14 years ago – I’ve not received another invitation.

These were men entrusted with the Gospel of Grace.
They were the bearers of “Good News.”
They took their responsibility seriously.
In fact too seriously.  So seriously that they destroyed the meaning of the message.

That’s nothing new.  It’s been going on since the days when Jesus walked the earth.  Those who saw themselves as the guardians of the truth of God had robbed the message of it are meaning.  Through their determined orthodoxy they destroyed the joy of being the people of God.  It is not surprising that they would be the one’s who were determined to destroy the Lord Jesus and His message of love and grace.

The Scribes and Pharisees were constantly in the crowd seeking the grounds for an accusation against the Lord.  We find them again, lurking in the shadows of Matthew chapter 9.

Text:  Matthew 9:9-17

A careful examination of this text provides us with great insight into the ministry of the Lord Jesus.  What was his ministry like?  What was the tone or attitude of his ministry? How would you characterize the ministry of Jesus?  What, in turn, is to characterize our ministry?

As we explore this text we’re reminded that:

Thesis:  A grace-filled ministry mirrors the ministry of the Lord Jesus.

We are called not only to preach the message of God’s grace we are called to live the message of God’s grace.  Grace should characterize what we teach, how we teach and how we live!

I want you to note 2 characteristics of grace-filled ministry in our text.

  1. A grace-filled ministry delights in extending the Gospel to those most in need.  (9:9-13)
  2. A grace-filled ministry imparts joy rather than despair.  (9:14-17)
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Heirs of an Unhindered Gospel

2014 Acts #38: an exposition of Acts 28:17-31. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, March 23, 2014.

Intro:

We all know there are certain words that just don’t go together even when they go together.  Phrases that have become commonplace but the words themselves are contradictory.  We call them oxymorons.  Officially an oxymoron is defined as “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words.”  Originally it meant something pointedly foolish.  We talk about jumbo shrimp.  We say we’re doing nothing.  Just how do you draw a blank?  We think someone is pretty ugly or we take a working vacation.  Common words we use together that don’t go together – like long-winded preacher.  Come on, really?

There are other things that are not oxymorons but they seem equally foolish because we just don’t see how it could possibly be.  One great example is found at the end of the book of Acts.  Paul has been falsely accused.  He has been arrested and imprisoned for two years.  His life has been threatened.  Corrupt politicians had sought political gain by using him as a pawn.  Paul appealed to Caesar and finally was sent to Rome.

Along the way Paul found himself in the midst of a violent storm.  A storm so fierce seasoned sailors feared for their lives.  After assurance from God, Paul declared that they would be safe though the ship would be lost.  Once the ship ran aground and the castaways made it safely to shore.  Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake.  By the grace of God he survived.  For three months Paul ministered to the people of Malta and God granted success.  Finally Paul reaches Rome.  He spends another two years in prison with no formal charges brought against him.  Yet in spite of being held prisoner by the most powerful nation on earth, in spite of having a guard chained to his wrist 24 hours a day – Paul’s Gospel went forth unhindered for that two-year period!  During that two years visitors moved freely in and out of Paul’s residence.  Paul was faithful to preach and teach with great boldness throughout that time.  It is also at that time Paul wrote the New Testament books of Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians and Philippians.  It may well be that Paul’s most fruit years of ministry took place while shackled as a prisoner in Rome.  Chained yet unhindered.  Locked up and yet free.

Our text this morning is found in the 28th chapter of the book of Acts.

Text: Acts 28:17-31

Dr. Luke has come to the end of his two-volume history of the life and ministry of Jesus.
As a careful historian he has told of Jesus’ ministry and the movement of the Gospel from Jerusalem to the capital of the Roman Empire.

The outline of Acts is found in chapter 1 and verse 8.

“You will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”

  • Jerusalem = Acts 1-7
  • Judea and Samaria = Acts 8-12
  • The ends of the earth = Acts 13-28

As we reflect on Paul’s ministry and the advance of the Gospel we find some encouragement for our own ministry.  After all we are heirs of this same ministry.  In a real sense the book of Acts is unfinished.  We are writing the final chapters.

As we conclude our study we are reminded that:

Thesis: We have been called to boldly go forth as heirs of an unhindered Gospel.

Regardless of our circumstance, regardless of the forces aligned against us the Gospel is powerful and will accomplish God’s ordained purpose.  If the pagan power of Imperial Rome cannot chain the Gospel, neither can secularism, postmodernism or the tide of public opinion.

In considering Paul’s ministry in Rome we find three characteristics of a faithful Gospel servant.

  1. The faithful Gospel servant passionately pleads the “good news” of Christ.  (28:17-23)
  2. The faithful Gospel servant prophetically denounces unbelief.  (28:24-29)
  3. The faithful Gospel servant powerfully proclaims the unhindered message.  (28:30-31)

Conclusion:

At the end of Acts we are left to wonder whatever became of Paul?
Luke doesn’t tell us.
Why is that?
It is because; in the final analysis it doesn’t matter.

The whole point of Paul’s life, in deed the book of Acts, is what matters is that we are faithful in the calling we have received.  Paul wasn’t the church.  The gospel is not dependent upon Paul anymore than it is dependent on me or you.

We have been called to boldly go forth as heirs of an unhindered Gospel.

May we passionately plead the good news of Christ;
Prophetically denounce unbelief;
And powerfully proclaim this unhindered message.

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Portrait of a Christ-like Ministry

This exposition of Matthew 12:1-14 was delivered by Pastor Rod Harris at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 16, 2014.

Intro:  

The cultural and intellectual shift of the last 2 decades have dramatically affected our world.  We have witnessed a denial of truth (as far as ultimate truth – truth with a capital “T”) and a rejection of long held religious truth.  While you might expect a complete denial of all meaning and all spiritual reality there is in fact a grasping for something that will “make sense” of all that has happened.  This is an exciting time for the church.  We have been given a platform for revealing the reality of our faith.  This is an exciting time for the Gospel of Christ!  This is an exciting moment to be alive and involved in the work of God.  We must seize this opportunity, this open window, for the time is coming when no man can work.  We must work while it is day.  We must faithfully declare the un-searchable riches of God’s grace.

In a consumer world of choice and self-gratification we as the church must fight in the arena of the marketplace to be heard.  The world is asking, “What are my options?”  “How does what you are “selling” differ from what others offer?”  What makes Christianity different from other world religions?  What separates Christianity from the rest?  These are the questions that the world is asking.  They are not unlike the questions asked by the world of the first century.

Matthew, the former tax collector turned apostle, took pen in hand to write an outline of the life and ministry of Jesus.  His purpose was not to produce a biography but rather to pull together a selective history for the purpose of demonstrating that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world.

In chapter 12, Matthew presents two Sabbath controversies that demonstrate mounting opposition from the religious establishment.  Here we find the first rumblings of a gathering storm that will ultimately irrupt in the cross of Calvary.  As we explore the incidents recorded in the opening words of Matthew 12 we learn something of the character and nature of the ministry of the Lord Jesus.
Text:  Matthew 12:1-14

Here our inspired narrator, with the skill of an artist paints for us a moving portrait of the ministry of Jesus.  This is vitally important to us as the church for we have been given the responsibility to carry on the ministry of Jesus.  In that respect the last chapter of Acts has not been written for we are living it!

In our text we learn a very valuable lesson.

Thesis:  The life-giving ministry of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the fatalistic faith of a religion of rules.

Throughout this section Matthew highlights the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.  Each event widens the gap between the two.  Each serves to draw the line a little darker, until we come to verse 14, which says, “The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.”

There are two fundamental concerns about Christ-like ministry reflected in this text.

  1. The ministry of Jesus majors on grace rather than on Law.  (12:1-8)
  2. The ministry of Jesus places mercy above orthodoxy.  (12:9-13)

Conclusion:

What kind of ministry are we going to have?

A ministry that is driven by programs, agendas, policies and rules or a ministry that is alive and responsive to the needs of others and the truth of the Gospel?

Too often our vision and understanding is too small.
We can’t put ministry in a box any more than we can put God in a box.

Policies are necessary.
Programs can be helpful.
Structure is essential.
But ministry must be driven by truth and grace!

We are not trying to get people to buy into our system.
We are not seeking to recruit representatives for our organization.
We are seeking to bring people into a living relationship with the living Christ!

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