Do You Love Him?

Sermon Titled “Do You Love Him?” (John 14:23) – based on Week 9 of the Experiencing God Study – Sunday 15th March, 2015

  • John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

In last week’s Experiencing God study, the theme was “Obedience,” and Blackaby had this to say, “You will not obey God unless you believe Him; you cannot trust Him unless you love Him; and you will not love Him unless you know Him.”

That last stipulation is, I believe, the key to arriving at a level of faith where obedience comes naturally. Many believers feel that knowing about God is the same as knowing Him, but that kind of knowledge lacks intimacy, and without intimacy it’s impossible to wholeheartedly believe, trust, love, and obey. It’s also that kind of knowledge that causes a person to walk both sides of the fence, picking and choosing which of God’s commands to obey. The problem however, is that disobedience and double-mindedness generally results in decisions that produce both regret and consequences.

On the bright side, a little misfortune in the way of consequences can be just what a person needs to reconnect with, and get close to God. There are many examples throughout the Bible where faithful men and women did great things for God, after repenting of wayward sins. The consequences of their disobedience caused pain and suffering, but it also led them back to the arms of their loving Father.

When Christ revealed Himself to Peter, after His resurrection, Peter could hardly speak (I think it’s important to note here that Christ went to Peter; John 14:23 says that the Father will go to those who love Him). Peter was so emotionally wrought and disturbed by his lack of faith, that he could barely stand the shame he felt. He had shown such intense convictions about following and honoring Christ, yet when Christ was arrested and condemned by the crowd, Peter quickly denied knowing Him.

In John 21:16, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” And Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus asked Peter the same question not once, but three times. He did so to emphasize that it was Peter’s love that He was looking for, not a confession. God knew that if Peter truly loved Him, then he would be unfaltering in his obedience, and ready to do all that he had been set apart to do.

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As the Bible tells us, Peter’s ministry was quite remarkable, and indicative of an obvious transformation of heart and mind. In his earlier days of discipleship he had been very outspoken and quick to act, often giving Satan the opportunity to take hold of his emotional tendencies and use them as a manipulative vice.

We must also be careful not to make ourselves vulnerable to Satan’s deceptions, but sometimes that isn’t possible until we’ve experienced a season of spiritual growth. During such times, God waits patiently but also walks us through those seasons, quietly nurturing and shaping us into usable vessels.

If you’re someone who feels as if you’re in a growth phase, and not quite ready to obey God, allow Him to at least speak to you and draw you to Him; arm yourself with His truths so that you can withstand the temptation to lean on your own understanding. Satan will try hard to keep you from obeying, but if you truly desire to be led by the Holy Spirit and not by the flesh, then you need to progress from knowing about God, to actually knowing God.

  • Know the ways of God so well that you will recognize deceit as soon as it appears, and know the ways of God so well that you will obey Him – because you believe Him, trust Him, and love Him.

The Cost Of Discipleship

Sermon Titled “The Cost of Discipleship” (Luke 14:25-33) – based on Week 8 of the Experiencing God study – Sunday 8th March, 2015

  • Luke 14:27 “And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

There are two critical turning points when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God:

  1. Crisis of Belief – that moment when you know that God is calling you to do something, but you immediately have doubts. Without faith at these crucial moments, you will almost certainly make the wrong decisions.
  2. Adjustment of Life – everyone in the Bible who received a calling from God had to make some major life adjustments. David for example, had to leave his flock of sheep in order to become a king. He stepped out in faith, trusting that once he made the necessary life adjustments, that God would accomplish through him what He had purposed to do, and in his case, it was to make him a king.

Obedience is never easy; it often involves making life adjustments that are costly not only to one’s self but to others as well. Responding to a calling from God may require life adjustments that concern specific circumstances, relationships, thinking patterns, commitments, actions, or beliefs, and any time we need to make changes in one or more of these areas, it’s likely that our changes will have a direct bearing on those involved in the “specifics.”

Such acts of obedience rely on our willingness to make sacrifices, and honestly, while some reading this may not want to make the kinds of sacrifices that God asks of us, Jesus doesn’t really give us an option. He says very clearly that we must deny ourselves if we choose to follow Him. Sure, no one wants to be told to give up things that they’d rather hold on to, but unless Christians understand that becoming a disciple is the next, and expected step after receiving salvation, most will lack the faith to obey.

In Luke 14: 25, we are told that large crowds of people traveled with, and followed Jesus; however it’s likely that they followed Him because they had seen or heard of the miracles He had performed in the lives of others, and so they anticipated, perhaps, more miracles – and hopefully in their own lives.

The truth though, is that God is not looking for a crowd of followers who are hoping for just the blessings and miracles; He is looking for those among the crowd who are willing to follow Him, and pay the cost of doing so.

So, even though our steps of faith and obedience will most likely result in some uncomfortable life adjustments, each step will most certainly lead us to a more intimate relationship with God, and to opportunities to do things that we would could never accomplish on our own.

David Livingstone, a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary, understood fully what he would gain by denying himself and taking up his cross daily to follow Christ; his words should inspire us to seek the same:

  • “Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. Sever any tie but the tie that binds me to Thyself.”

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Defining Faith

Sermon Titled “A Conquering Faith” (Hebrews 11:6) – Week 7 of the Experiencing God Study – Sunday 28th February, 2015 

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  • Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Without faith, it is impossible to please God!

At first glance, the above words are not so intimidating; we are after all Christians, and Christians believe in an unseen God, so of course we have faith. Faith becomes intimidating however, when we hear from God and immediately surmise that what’s being asked of us is too much or too difficult.

When God told Moses that He had heard the cry of the Israelites and that He was going to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians, He also added, “So now, go. I am sending you!” (Exodus 3:7-10) Moses was shocked to the core; he replied, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He reacted that way because a) God’s directive led him to a crisis of belief where he doubted at first that God could do through him what He purposed to do, and b) because the mind cannot perceive what the heart is able to; Moses perceived with his mind instead of his heart (God’s Spirit resides in our hearts) – Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, and lean not on your own understanding.” 

In stark contrast to Moses’ reaction, Simon (a fisherman) responded quite differently when asked to do what seemed impossible. After a full night of work and failing to catch any fish, Jesus sent Simon back to the ocean and told him to let the nets down for a catch. Skeptical that any fish would be caught, Simon nevertheless acted in faith and chose to simply trust. He said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything, but because you say so, I will let down the nets (Luke 5:5). 

Any time God calls us to act, we will always be led to a crisis of belief; how we respond reveals what we believe about God, and whether our understanding of faith is flawed or flourishing. A flawed understanding of faith will present itself whenever we use our non-spiritual minds to try and make sense of eternal matters, or when we have convinced ourselves that our faith has failed because previous situations did not turn out as we had hoped.

Steve Penney, a minister from Queensland, Australia, had much to say about faith when his eldest son Andrew lost his fight to cancer in 2003. Having grown up in a Christian family (Steve’s father was also a preacher), Steve took hold of his faith during the months that his son battled for his life, and clung to all the scriptures that he believed would bring to pass a miracle of healing. When Andrew died, Steve was left with a faith dilemma that needed to be dealt with.

Steve could have believed what others were saying – that his faith had failed him – but despite his pain and anger, he knew that couldn’t possibly be true. “Faith is a gift from God,” he said, “therefore it cannot fail.” But there had to be more to it, he thought, and so he searched the scriptures for further answers. What Steve came up with, is what he believes the Lord revealed to him, and what he hopes will help others develop their faith in God.

The key verse that Steve was led to, was 1 Corinthians 13:13 – “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love.” The first thing Steve realized that he needed to do, was to return to the Father’s love and learn to trust Him again. “Trust,” said Steve, “is the implicit, essential ingredient of love.” You cannot say you love your spouse, for example, and in the same breath say that you don’t trust him or her.

From the loving arms of the Father, and with a renewed trust, Steve learned to hope and believe once more, eventually emerging with a faith even greater than before. In last week’s Experiencing God study, I recall Henry Blackaby saying that the struggles we face and overcome are like “God’s highway over which He intends to do much larger things.”

Steve’s revelation of faith, hope, and love didn’t end there; he went on to explain that the way to truly increase our faith is by doing three things:

  1. Sit in the Father’s arms: whenever you are faced with a crisis of belief (and you will be), run first to the loving arms of your Heavenly Father.
  2. Stand up in Christ: it’s okay to remain in the security of God’s arms – for a while – but you can’t stay there forever. You need to find hope once more, because hope strengthens the heart (Psalm 27:14), and from the heart will you find the courage to stand up in Christ and believe that He will equip you to do great things.
  3. Walk in the power of the Holy Spirit: now that you believe that God is who He says He is, and that He will do what He says He will do, you can put aside your fears and start walking in faith.

So now, you have all three members of the Triune (the Holy Trinity), working in your life and empowering you to go out and do whatever it is that God calls you to do. You may still have questions, and you may never understand why certain things have happened in your life, but you trust God anyway. You trust Him because you know that nothing is lost or wasted in the purposes of God, and that every trying circumstance is a cross-bridge to a higher level of faith.

On that note, let’s not forget the ending in Hebrews 11:6 – that God is a rewarder of all those who trust and follow Him!

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God Speaks To Us

Sermon Titled “God Speaks To Us” (John 5:16-24) – Week 6 of the Experiencing God Study – 22nd February, 2015

  • John 5:16-14 16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

Why does God speak to us, and how can we know that He does? Those are both good questions, and ones that the verses above can help us with. In John 5:16-24, we hear from Jesus as He responds to the Jews who were relentlessly seeking to destroy him; they deeply resented Jesus’ claims of deity and his blatant disregard of the Sabbath.

When Jesus spoke, he vindicated himself by explaining that God (his father, not by creation or adoption, but by nature), did indeed end his work of creation on the seventh day – and then rested – but yet he is always at work. Not work as we understand it, but work that involves the saving of as many lost souls as possible. In that capacity, God never ceases to work – His nature is “to work,” just as it is the nature of fire to burn, or of humans to breathe. And since Jesus is the son of the Father, and he does what the Father does, he too is always at work, whether on the Sabbath or off.

Jesus continues his response to the Jews; he addresses their protests regarding his so-called equality with God, and says, “I tell you the truth, the son can do nothing by Himself, he can only do what he sees his Father doing.” His statement is not a weak admission, but a bold proclamation; he is essentially saying that first and foremost, he is the son of God, and second, the nature of his relationship with his Father is such that he can do nothing “independently” or apart from Him.

Jesus’ words were offensive to the Jews; how dare this insignificant man, this mere son of a carpenter, assert that God is his Father? That was possibly the most vile form of blasphemy – deserving of death – and incredibly, that thinking still stands today; Christians are still persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ (see this article posted just a few days ago about twenty one Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS).

Still, Jesus is not intimidated. He goes even further with his statements, and says that he is:

  1. Equal to God “in works” – John 5:17-19 “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I too am working………the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing.” These verses suggest that Jesus is able to literally see the works that God is doing, and that he therefore has exclusive knowledge. If he alone has the power to see and know what God is doing, and if he has the power to heal the sick and crippled, then surely he also has the authority to work on the Sabbath.
  2. Equal to God “in judgment” – despite the many divine miracles that Jesus performed, many still rejected him. Yet, God purposely gave Jesus the final authority to judge, so that all men would honor the son. If a man chooses not to honor Jesus, he is unequivocally making a simultaneous decision to also dishonor God.
  3. Equal to God “in honor” – if the son is to be honored on the same level as the Father, then that makes the two equal, and if the two are equal then we have a way of answering the questions presented at the beginning of this post: “Why does God speak to us, and how can we know that He does?”

Assuming then, that Jesus’ words are true and that he is the son of God, with equal authority, we can find the answer in John 16:12-13. When Jesus was near the end of his time on earth, he spoke to his disciples and forewarned them of his pending departure, adding that he had much more to say to them. He reassured them that they would continue to hear from him, but through the Holy Spirit, who would be sent in his place to guide them into all truth – as directed by God the Father. 

God, through his son Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, wants to speak to us; He has much more to say to us! He desires for us to listen and to respond, to be the church and not just go to church. That means listening to His Spirit on a daily basis, and responding to those cues to help in small ways (helping a single mom in your neighborhood, showing concern for a troubled co-worker, or volunteering at church), and also in ways that will require a larger sacrifice (a significant financial contribution, turning down a promotion, or going on a mission trip).

Too often we’re tempted to listen only for the cues that satisfy our needs. Joyce Meyer says that when we are unwilling to hear in one area, then it may render us unable to hear in other areas; we remain fixed in one place, unable to move further on in our faith and in our relationship with God. 

God is not asking for us to invite Him into our lives so that He can follow us on our life journey; instead He is asking us to give up our life journey and follow Him on His, thereby placing all of our hope and faith in Him (because we believe the testimony of His son), and trusting that when He speaks to us it is always for our good. 

On the flip side, if God is not speaking to you, then ask yourself why, and consider what that means if Christ says that only those who are in relationship with He and His Father, and those who believe in the Gospel, will be saved from condemnation.

God speaks to us, but will you listen, and will you respond?

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Have You Read The Harbinger?

Have you read the book The Harbinger, by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn? It was published in 2012, but I only recently heard about it. It was my mother, actually, who urged me to read it, and I’m glad she did because few books stir my spirit the way this one did.

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Like all best-seller books that deliver a controversial theme or message, criticism is a natural response, and The Harbinger is no exception. Based on an ancient Biblical prophecy (Isaiah 9:10), The Harbinger tells a story (in narrative form, with fictional characters), that reveals what the author believes is the answer to the mysteries that lie within the prophecy. The answers, according to Cahn, explain the occurrence of such events as 9/11 and the 2008 Stock Exchange collapse. But central to the mysteries revealed, is the underlying and explicit reminder that there are grave consequences of rejecting God and His Word.

I don’t have the theological background or understanding to argue whether or not Cahn’s interpretation of Isaiah 9:10, and how it relates to current-day and future events is accurate or even plausible, but it is nonetheless thought-provoking. This book was intriguing, difficult to put down, and spiritually arousing. Of all the words written in the book however, the most compelling of all – to me – were these:

[The following dialog is in reference to eternal salvation]

“AND IT BEGINS…..”

“IT BEGINS WITH THE RECEIVING….WITH THE OPENING OF ONE’S HEART…..WITH THE TURNING AWAY FROM DARKNESS AND TO THE LIGHT……WITH THE GIVING OF ONESELF……..THE COMMITTING OF ONE’S LIFE – A VOW OF LOVE…….A PRAYER….DECISION…..A TOTAL AND UNCONDITIONAL YES.”

“AND IT TAKES PLACE……”

“ANYWHERE, ANY PLACE, ALONE OR WITH OTHERS, WHEREVER YOU ARE. IT TAKES PLACE ANYWHERE, FOR IT TAKES PLACE IN YOUR HEART.”

“AND AT ANY TIME?”

“NO, NOURIEL,” HE SAID. “IT DOESN’T TAKE PLACE AT ANY TIME. IT ONLY TAKES PLACE AT ONE TIME.”

“WHAT ONE TIME?”

“NOW….” SAID THE PROPHET. “NOW IS THE ONLY TIME IN WHICH IT CAN HAPPEN. AS IT IS WRITTEN, ‘NOW IS THE TIME OF SALVATION,’ NEVER TOMORROW, ONLY NOW.”

“BUT IF WE WERE TALKING TOMORROW, IT COULD STILL HAPPEN THEN.”

“YES, BUT ONLY WHEN THEN HAS BECOME NOW, AND TOMORROW IS TODAY. BUT WHEN IT DOES, YOU MAY NOT BE THERE.”

“AND WHY WOULDN’T I BE?”

“HOW FAR AWAY FROM ETERNITY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, NOURIEL?”

“HOW COULD I POSSIBLY KNOW THAT?”

“BUT YOU CAN KNOW THAT,” HE REPLIED.

“THEN WHAT’S THE ANSWER?” I ASKED. “HOW FAR AM I AWAY FROM ETERNITY?”

“ONE HEARTBEAT,” HE REPLIED, “ONE HEARTBEAT. THAT’S IT. THAT’S ALL. YOU’RE ONLY ONE HEARTBEAT AWAY FROM ETERNITY. EVERYTHING YOU HAVE – YOUR LIFE, YOUR BREATH, THIS MOMENT, IT’S ALL BORROWED, IT’S ALL A GIFT. AND AT ANY MOMENT IT ALL ENDS WITH A HEARTBEAT…..JUST ONE HEARTBEAT, AND THERE’S NO MORE TIME. ONE HEARTBEAT AND THE CHANCE TO BE SAVED IS GONE. ONE HEARTBEAT AND THERE’S NO MORE CHOOSING – IT’S SEALED FOR ETERNAL LIFE OR ETERNAL DEATH.”

“BUT IF I DIDN’T CHOOSE….”

“THEN YOU ALREADY HAVE. IF YOU DON’T CHOOSE TO BE SAVED, THEN YOU’VE CHOSEN NOT TO BE SAVED. YOUR LIFE AND YOUR ETERNITY…..IT ALL RESTS ON ONE HEARTBEAT. AND WHAT WILL YOU DO ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT? REMEMBER THE QUESTION, NOURIEL…..BECAUSE IN THE END IT’S THE ONLY QUESTION. REMEMBER THE QUESTION……BECAUSE NO ONE KNOWS WHEN THAT DAY WILL COME. THE ONLY THING YOU CAN BE SURE OF IS THAT IT WILL COME, AND THE ONLY TIME YOU CAN BE SURE OF IS NOW. NOW IS ALL YOU HAVE. AND NOW IS THE TIME OF SALVATION.”

“IT’S TOO BIG A DECISION TO MAKE JUST LIKE THAT.”

“IT’S TOO BIG A DECISION NOT TO,” HE SAID.

“I WOULD HAVE TO SEE TO BELIEVE.”

“NO, NOURIEL, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE IN ORDER TO SEE AND TO FIND WHAT YOU ARE SEARCHING FOR.”

“AND WHAT IS IT THAT I’M SEARCHING FOR?”

“THE MEANING, THE PURPOSE OF YOUR LIFE, THE REASON YOU WERE BORN. IT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN EVER FIND IT…..ONLY IN HIM WHO GAVE YOU LIFE, CAN YOU FIND IT’S MEANING.”

“I NEED TIME.”

“AND YOU HAVE IT, NOURIEL…….UP UNTIL THE LAST HEARTBEAT.”

Living The Good Life

Recap of sermon by Phil Camden, former Senior Pastor of Church 180 in Newcastle, Australia – “Living The Good Life”

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Society says that doing good is simply not doing bad. The problem with that line of thinking, especially for Christians, is that we can get so focused on abstaining from all things bad, that we miss the call to do all things good. The consequences would then be that Christians become tainted with all the “don’ts” versus all the “do’s.” People begin to say things like, “Christians don’t have a life, they don’t do this, they don’t do that, and they would never do that!” And that’s okay, I guess, since there are certain things that we shouldn’t do anyway, but wouldn’t it be better for Christians to be known for all the good things that we do?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:15, Paul says that we should not do harm to one another (or pay back wrong for wrong), and that we “must strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” While it’s true that he is giving us a command to not do something, he is also giving us a non-passive command to actively follow God’s call to do good. Doing good should therefore be the hallmark of every Christian.

The question still remains though, since different groups and cultures interpret the meaning of “doing good” in different ways: “What does doing good look like from a Christian perspective?” One way to answer that is to consider some of the theories of past philosophers, which by the way, are still widely accepted:

  1. Good is the experience of pleasure and the eradication of pain – in other words, anything that causes pain is bad, and the best solution therefore is to get rid of the pain. But Jesus taught that in order to experience real goodness, there must at times, be pain. He encourages us to try and endure the hard times, rather than flee from them.
  2. Good is the acquisition of knowledge and the eradication of ignorance – the gnostics especially, believed that if you were full of knowledge, you were good. This philosophy suggests however that we should assume that our educators are always right about what is good. It also assumes that if we’re taught what is good, then we’ll do what is good. You just need to observe the interactions of parents and young kids to know that that is not always true.
  3. Good is the greatest benefit for the greatest number; the majority rules – this has to be false too, otherwise we would not have seen wars in which minority groups have been persecuted, all because the majority groups have been led to believe that they are superior.
  4. Good is having goods – it’s true; some actually believe that the wealthy must be wealthy because they have been blessed for their goodness. Jesus said however that we should not “serve up” to people just because they possess wealth or carry a title. Neither of those things are absolute indicators that a person is good; God looks at the heart of a person, not at what he or she owns. We too, must learn to see with the eyes of God, and not judge with the eyes of man.
  5. Man on his own can choose what is good for himself – this is a prevalent belief, encouraged by self-help and psychology books that teach that we are all born good, but with the potential to be negatively influenced by bad experiences. The Bible says however, “No, you were not born good, you were born with sin in your hearts! Sin that pervades the very core of your beings.” Paul the apostle, addresses our sinful natures, and says, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out……the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…….Who will rescue me……..Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:18-25). We cannot, on our own, do good; the sin that we were born with will always influence our decisions, no matter hard we try.

To demonstrate the power of innate sin, Pastor Camden described a radio interview in which he heard the announcer speaking to Dick Smith, owner of Dick Smith Electronics. The interview took place just after Smith had sold his company, and the announcer was praising him for donating $2 million to the Salvation Army. Smith replied with the following, “You may think it is a generous gesture, but truthfully, I did it so that I could feel good about the rest of the millions in my bank account.” How is that for honesty? Pastor Camden’s point, was that no matter how good we want to be, sin is always at the root of our actions.

So that leaves us with a dilemma: If man is not born good, but is responsible to choose to do good, and if he has no power to be good, yet he must be good, then what’s the solution? The only solution is God.

Jesus explains; “No one is good,” He says, “except God the Father.” On one occasion, as He was leaving a group of children who had gathered around Him, a man ran up to Him, fell before Him, and said, “Good Teacher – what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone.” Jesus was not denying His divinity; He was implying that if the man called Him good, then the man obviously recognized that there was something about Him that was Godly, since all goodness comes from God.

So, if God is the only one who is truly good, then the only way we can acquire some of His goodness, is to be connected to Him. And the only way to be connected to Him is by becoming born-again Christians, baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit and marked with His seal; we then become a part of the temple of the living God, able to do good because God’s spirit and nature now lives within us.

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Obey God Because You Love Him

Sermon Titled “The Revealing Power Of Love” (John 14:15-24) – Sunday 8th February, 2015; based on week 4 of the Experiencing God Study.

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There is a recurring theme throughout John 14, and that is, that God is with those who obey Him. The problem however, as this study repeatedly reminds us, is that obedience requires some major life adjustments and “now” never seems to be a convenient time to commit to those adjustments.

The reluctance to commit stems partially from fear (fear of the unknown), but mostly because of the sinful nature we were born with. Self-centeredness is at the heart of sin, and unfortunately most people want to be the drivers of their own lives. I say “unfortunately,” because without God at the steering wheel, we’re opting instead to navigate our way through all of life’s trials on our own.

Henry Blackaby explained it like this:

  • “Suppose you had to cross a field full of land mines, and a person who knew exactly where each one was buried offered to take you through it. Would you say to him, “I don’t want you to tell me what to do. I have free will! I don’t want you to impose your ways on me”? 

Once we’re ready to let God take the lead however, which will only happen when we truly know God, He begins to build our character to match the assignments He has chosen for us. The bible says that God knew us before we were even born (Jeremiah 1:5), so He already knows what we’re capable of and which assignments our hearts will be drawn to; He just has some finishing touches to take care of first.

As we respond to His commands and do the things that God calls us to do, we begin to grow in our faith and understanding, and God chisels away even more at our character, shaping and molding us to perform more of the tasks that we were purposed for. Many Christians though, will occasionally turn their eyes and ears towards the call of sin, and slip back into a season of rebellion. The goal for us all therefore, is to quickly recognize those momentary lapses, so that we may repent and get our eyes back on the Lord.

The words from John 14:15-24 teach us some fundamental truths that should motivate us to stay in relationship with God:

  1. If we love and obey Christ, He will send us a Counselor (the Holy Spirit) – to be with us; to live with us.
  2. The Holy Spirit will help us to remain free of sin, by reminding us of Christ’s teachings; He will let us know, through the truths of scripture, and a sense of conviction, when we are moving back towards a self-centered focus.
  3. Whoever loves Jesus, also obeys His commands; obedience is the way that Christians show their love for God, and God in turn, loves those who are obedient (although, God loves us even BEFORE we love and obey Him).

Still, the choice to fully commit to to a God-honoring life is not an easy one. We are so conditioned to want to negotiate first, to say things like, “God, if I follow this path, will you please bless me,” or “God, if this path does not lead to blessing, please close this door and open one that will.” We fashion our responses around expectations based on past experiences and socially accepted norms, not realizing that if we just say “yes” to God, that He’ll reveal paths that we would never have imagined; paths that do bring about blessings, but only because the blessings are byproducts of our obedience.

So yes, there will be risks and sacrifices involved, but choosing to follow the path without God also involves enormous risk; it’s up to each person to do a risk assessment and decide what they value more – temporal pleasures, or eternal life. Which do you choose?