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Sunday, January 27, 2019

You Are A New Creation



This is the manuscript of the sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday
January 27, 2019.


2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (HCSB)16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know ⌊Him in this way⌋.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, ⌊he is⌋ a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

This new creation was brought about by the will of God. He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, created from nothing, just as the whole universe was created by God... from nothing. 

To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.


Text


2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (HCSB)16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know ⌊Him in this way⌋.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, ⌊he is⌋ a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

Introduction


We have heard these verses, especially verse 17 many perhaps hundreds of times;

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, ⌊he is⌋ a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come

What does that mean?

The old sinful person you once were has gone as a result of the finished work of Christ.

Romans 10:9 HCSB If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

Being a new creation in Christ means that you are constantly being renewed.

When you make that confession you are instantly saved, justified and made righteous.  You are no longer and enemy but now a friend of God.  You are not perfect, but through the work of the Holy Spirit you are being constantly renewed and sanctified so that you will be conformed to the image of Jesus, which is God’s purpose for you.

Romans 8:28-29 (HCSB)28 We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.29 For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

The first thing we need to understand is that this new creation is something created by God.

John 1:12-13 (HCSB)12 But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name,13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.

In order for this new creation to take place we must be born again.  Jesus told Nicodemus,

John 3:5-6 HCSB …. “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit,    he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.

This tells us that this new birth or creation was brought about by the will of God. We did not inherit the new nature, we didn't recreate ourselves. God didn't just clean up our old nature either; He created something entirely fresh and unique. The new creation is completely new, created from nothing, just as the whole universe was created by God from nothing. Only God could do that.

We don’t know how it happens but we know that it does. In Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus when he asked Jesus how is it possible to born again Jesus said

John 3:8 (HCSB) 8 The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

The new creature you have  become wasn't the result of anything you did

Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it  is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

You didn't work for it or pay for it, but somebody had to purchase it and it was very costly.

John 3:16-17 NKJV For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

Paul in his letter to the Galatians wrote:

Galatians 1:3-5 HCSB Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.  To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

1 Corinthians 6:19 HCSB Don’t you know that your body is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,

We have to now realize, as new creatures, that we no longer have an identity apart from Christ.

We own nothing from our hair follicles to our toenails.  Every cell, every bit of DNA was paid for in full. Christ didn’t die just for the “good” parts or the parts we let Him have; He wanted all of us.

That’s why it makes no sense for us to justify what’s natural or what makes us happy or what satisfies us, where we will and will not surrender, what we will and will not hand over to Christ. The choice isn’t ours. The price paid was for the whole shebang.

It all belongs to Jesus.

As New Creatures We Need to “Put Off” Some Stuff and then “Put On” Some Other Stuff


Since we are new creatures there are some things that we should put behind us or stop.

Colossians 3:1-9 (HCSB)1 So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God.2 Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth.3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God.4 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.5 Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.6 Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient,7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them.8 But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices.

With this new creation,“old things have passed away.” The “old” refers to everything that is part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, reliance on works, and our former opinions, habits and passions. Most significantly, what we loved has passed away, especially the supreme love of self and with it self-righteousness, self-promotion, and self-justification.

The new creature looks outwardly toward Christ instead of inwardly toward self. The old things died, nailed to the cross with our sin nature.

This new creation is constantly being renewed or constantly "changing into something new and different, something better." That’s really what renewal in Christ means. We were remade into something better.

We are told to stop or put off these things because as a new creation we now have the help of the Holy Spirit which gives us the ability to stop these things.

For some of us, it may have been quite a struggle to remove the old sinful self and totally renovate our lives. It may continue to be a struggle, but know this: if you stay steadfast in your relationship with God, He will continually work in your life to renew you and get rid of the of the sin that may constantly tempt you.

Philippians 1:6 (HCSB) I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

If we put something off, like taking off our clothes, then we need to put something else on.

Continuing in our scripture in Colossians;

Colossians 3:10-14 (HCSB)10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.12 Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,13 accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also ⌊forgive⌋.14 Above all, ⌊put on⌋ love—the perfect bond of unity.

Kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, acceptance of each other and forgiving each other, are all attributes of Jesus in whose image we are being conformed. The things that we are to put on, as new creatures, all add up to love which as verse 14 says is the perfect bond of unity.

If we go to 1 Corinthians 13 and Galatians 5 we again see those things we as new creatures are to put on.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 HCSB Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Galatians 5:22-23 HCSB But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Okay we are new creatures, where does the change take place?

Our hearts - It starts in our hearts


The heart is the center of life. It is within this uniquely created internal organ that we have physical life. Without it, life is just not possible. The heart is also the center of spiritual life.

 Proverbs tell us that we must guard our heart because it is the wellspring of both physical and spiritual life.

Proverbs 4:23 (HCSB) Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.

Our heart determines our actions and reflects whether or not Christ is the center of our lives. That is why it is important that we ask God to continually renew our hearts.

Psalm 51:10 (HCSB) God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Take an inventory of your heart today. Is your heart where it needs to be or do you need God's renewal? Ask God to renew your heart and commit that He will remain at the center of your heart.

Change also takes place in our minds

Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB)1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

We’ve heard that the mind is the devil's playground. There is a lot of truth in that statement. Most the spiritual battles we fight against our enemy take place in the mind. Maybe it's the guilt of a past sin that constantly comes to your mind or the cravings of an addiction that you have not fully overcome. Maybe you hear whispers of negative words that give you doubts about your faith or your ability to accomplish what God has intended for you to do.

So as the verses we just read say, allow God to transform you through the renewing of your mind. Pray and ask God to remove the negative thoughts our spiritual enemy continues to infiltrate your mind with and allow God to renew your mind and replace the negativity with clarity and purity. Let God help you fight the battle in your mind and gain victory.

How do we renew our minds? By spending time in God’s word, meditating on it, listening to it, applying it.

So if we are this new creation why do Christians continue to sin?


There is a difference between continuing to sin and continuing to live in sin. No one reaches sinless perfection in this life, but as I mentioned earlier God continues the work of sanctification.

Philippians 1:6 (HCSB) I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

We are being sanctified day by day, sinning less and hating it more. Yes, we still sin, but unwillingly and less and less frequently as we mature. Our new self hates the sin that still has a hold on us. The difference is that the new creation is no longer slave to sin. 

Romans 6:6-7 (HCSB)6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin,7 since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims.

Romans 6:11-12 (HCSB)11 So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires.

We now have the power to choose not to sin.

Conclusion 


The new creation is a wondrous thing created by God's  power and for His glory.  He created you for good works.

I preached a sermon here a couple of years ago in which I said that God created you to be a good works machine.

Good works are the fruit of the Spirit, the seal of God's ownership.  Good works conform to God’s law. or the Law of Christ.

Mark 12:28-31 HCSB One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all? ” “This is the most important,”  Jesus answered: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.    “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.    There is no other command greater than these.”

Galatians 6:1-2 HCSB Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Most of us think these good works are: attending worship services, praying regularly, studying Scripture, giving generously from our financial resources, joining a small group, going on mission trips, caring for the poor, working for justice for the oppressed, loving our neighbors, etc. These are certainly among the good works that God has prepared for us, but if we stop with them we miss the complete purpose of what God has prepared for us.  Our good works are not  just religious activities but a lifestyle.


This means that we don’t just do them in our spare time. Walking in good works means that this is what we do every day and in every situation. This means that your good works can include that which you do at work, in the classroom, on the football field, in your neighborhood, and in your community associations. If you're a boss, part of your good works involve the way you manage your employees. The more we grow in our faith, the more we see ourselves as God's masterpieces, the more we will indeed do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, by his strength, under his authority, and for his purposes.
  
We are God’s workmanship. God knows everything about us… every detail of our lives. He formed every part of us and planned every day of our lives before we were born.
  
PRAYER:   Help me, Lord, to walk in the good works you have in store for me. Help me to be open to all that you would have me do. Teach me to see my whole life as you see it. By your Spirit, may I come to see every moment of every day as an occasion to do good works—including good work—for you. Amen.


Sermon Audio








Sunday, January 13, 2019

What’s In It For Me?



This is the manuscript of the sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday
January 13, 2019.


How do we gain eternal security if we are seeking God? 1) Divest ourselves of what hinders us from finding true security in Christ, that "one thing"  2) Invest in the kingdom of God, which is the only thing that will last, and leave the rest. The first will be last and the last first. Follow Christ. He will take care of all of our needs. What this world counts as wealth and what God counts as wealth are two different things.


In Mark 10:17-31, we discover Jesus’ teaching on wealth and reward in the kingdom of God. But it is also God’s call for seeking Him, to know how to come to Him, and  to trust Him.  


To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.


Text Mark 10:17-31

Mark 10:17-31 CEV As Jesus was walking down a road, a man ran up to him. He knelt down, and asked, “Good teacher, what can I do to have eternal life?”  Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good. You know the commandments. ‘Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Do not cheat. Respect your father and mother.’ ”  The man answered, “Teacher, I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man.”  Jesus looked closely at the man. He liked him and said, “There's one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”  When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “It's hard for rich people to get into God's kingdom!” The disciples were shocked to hear this. So Jesus told them again, “It's terribly hard to get into God's kingdom! In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom.”  Jesus' disciples were even more amazed. They asked each other, “How can anyone ever be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”  Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be your followers!”  Jesus told him: You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given 100 times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. But many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first.

I want to describe two people to you this morning.  I think you'll recognize both of them.

Here’s the first guy:

He’s rich. Italian shoes. Tailored suit. His money is invested. His plastic is platinum. He lives like he flies – first class. He’s young. He works out at the gym. His belly is flat, his eyes sharp. Energy is his trademark, and death is an eternity away. He’s powerful. If you don’t think so, just ask him. You got questions? He’s got answers. You got problems? He’s got solutions. You got dilemmas? He’s got opinions. He knows where he’s going, and he’ll be there tomorrow. He’s the new generation. So the old had better pick up the pace or pack their bags.

He has mastered the three “Ps” of life today. Prosperity. Posterity. Power.

Who is he? He is the top salesman in his district, making it up the career ladder. She is the rising lawyer who was just made a partner at her prestigious law firm. He’s the successful real estate broker who has more listings than he can handle – except he can handle them just fine. In the Bible, he is the rich young ruler. Until today, life for him has been hang gliding in a clear, blue sky – but he runs into Jesus. He has one question, What’s in it for me, and what do I have to do to get it?

Here is the second person?  He serves as an elder and a Sunday school teacher. He knows his Bible. He is committed to the Great Commission. He shares his faith. He is a true man of prayer. He is raising his family in the faith. He is a disciple of Jesus Christ. But he also struggles. He struggles with one question, What is in it for me? Since I have given You so much, what can I get in return? I want health. I could use more money. I just want You to make my kids turn out all right. I just want to retire early.

He is every Christian who has come to think of a relationship with God as a deal – I will give You my life, but what do I get in return? To some degree he is probably all of us who have left all to follow Christ. In the Bible, he is Peter.

Mark 10:28 CEV Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be your followers!”

Common to both the rich young man and Peter is the question that I am posing today – What’s in it for me?

What’s in it for me is a major theme with some ministries that claim to be Christian. There are some ministries, and  don't need to mention names, where the  message is that if you have faith in Christ, you will have wealth galore. If you just give more, God will heal more. If you give more to this ministry God will give more to you. It all plays to the question on the heart of an unbeliever or a believer – What’s in it for me?

Here in Mark 10, we discover Jesus’ teaching on wealth and reward in the kingdom of God. But it is more. It is God’s call for seeking Him to know how to come to Him and for us believers to know how to trust Him.

We've all gotten things in the mail or our e-mail gives you tips on increasing your wealth, But what I am giving you is not tips but truth that will set the record straight on wealth and reward in the kingdom of God.

The Way to Have Eternal and Worldly Security Is to Divest or get rid of some things. 

In our text we see that Jesus tells this young man he needed to divest.

We call him the rich young ruler because when we put Matthew, Mark, and Luke together, we get the whole picture. In Matthew 19:16-22, verse 22 says that he is young.

Matthew 19:22 CEV When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he was very rich.

In Luke 18:18-22 he says in verse 18 that he is a ruler.

Luke 18:18 NKJV Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

In all three accounts, he is rich, but he needed to get rid of some things in order to have eternal life.

He needed to get rid of a zeal or excitement that was without knowledge.

There can be no mistake, this man had zeal. He ran to Jesus. He called Jesus Good Teacher. But did He really know who Jesus was? The Lord calmed him down with a strong dose of caution. “Only God is good.” Jesus was not denying the claim but was showing that this young man had zeal but lacked knowledge.

The Bible speaks about people who have excitement without knowledge. Paul wrote this about his countrymen:

Romans 10:1-3 CEV Dear friends, my greatest wish and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved. I know they love God, but they don't understand what makes people acceptable to him. So they refuse to trust God, and they try to be acceptable by obeying the Law.

Zeal can be an enthusiasm that is not biblical, and it can actually stand in the way of our relationship with God. Being excited about religion is not the same as trusting in Christ as Savior.

Having a zeal, running to Jesus but not trusting in Christ alone for eternal life is a hindrance. You and I must divest ourselves of zeal without knowledge.

Jesus probes deeper into the heart of this man, just as Christ does us.  He does this because He loves us. I know that because this text tells us that Jesus loved this man who eventually went away sad and would not accept Him.
 
This young man needed to  divest himself of self-righteousness.

Jesus saw that this young man was proud of his accomplishments, so the Lord said, “You know the law.” Jesus listed six laws dealing with the outward commandments associated with our fellow man.

Mark 10:19 CEV You know the commandments. ‘Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Do not cheat. Respect your father and mother.’ ”

This man said, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

I’m sure that he had kept the law outwardly. He hadn’t murdered, committed adultery, stolen anything, lied, defrauded anyone. I have every confidence that he was the perfect, obedient child. He prides himself on a careful attention to the outward things of life.

It was here that Jesus told him, “You lack one thing.”

Mark 10:21 CEV Jesus looked closely at the man. He liked him and said, “There's one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me.”

Based on what he had done, this rich young ruler thought he had it all.

This young man was relying on his own righteousness – What must I do to be saved. But what about the inner man?

In His sermon on the mount, in Matthew 5-7, Jesus showed that a man can keep the law outwardly and still be a sinner. Paul said that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 CEV All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would come to convict the world of sin and righteousness.

John 16:8 NKJV And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

 In our text, Jesus shows us the folly of our supposed righteousness and our need of His righteousness. Either you can keep the law and earn God’s favor or else you are a sinner and need a Savior. Jesus came, in fact, because you and I are sinners.

We cannot come to God based on our righteousness. He says our righteousness before Him is like filthy rags.

Isaiah 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

So we have to divest ourselves of self-righteousness, which is unbelief and it is a sin against Christ and the blood He shed for sinners. We come to Jesus, just as we are, without one plea and cry out to Him. It’s called repentance.

We must also divest ourselves, of what Jesus called “one thing.”


I love the scene in the movie City Slickers where Billy Crystal's character, Mitch, is alone with Curly, played by Jack Palance. Curly is giving Mitch some life advice.

 Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger] This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean nothing.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"

Curly: That's what you have to find out.

Jesus looked at the young man and loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing.” The thing keeping him from God was his wealth.

Jesus went on to teach His disciples that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. They were astonished because they associated God’s favor with physical blessing. After all, Abraham was rich, David was rich. Having money wasn’t bad. And they were right – except that wealth can become a great stumbling block. When you have it all, you don’t need God. Wealth can become the “one thing.” Security in other forms can become the “one thing.”  If your security is in anything other than God that is the “one thing” you need to divest yourself of.

What to invest.

We have been talking about divesting ourselves of things but we also need to make investments.

Jesus’ investment advice is contrary to the way most invest today.  Most people look at all the data and what the experts suggest and follow their lead.  However  some of the most successful people do just the opposite.  When they see people buying Apple stock because the price is soaring they don't buy. They buy when the news is bad and the price is down, and they hold it.  When the price goes up then they sell with big profits.  That's investing as a contrarian.  

They don't follow the crowd. They leave them and go
to the back of the line where the investing is good.

Peter and the disciples needed to learn about contrarian investing and how it works with the Lord and so should we.

You see, Peter was upset. Jesus had told the rich young ruler to give it all away and follow Him. The disciples had already done that. Peter was asking, What’s in it for me?

Mark 10:28 CEV Peter replied, “Remember, we left everything to be your followers!”



Then Jesus told him that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Mark 10:31 CEV But many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first.

What does it mean, “the first shall be last and the last first?” The man who has invested in temporary things and looks to be on top of the world, but who has not humbled himself before Jesus Christ, will be bankrupt on the day of judgment, which will happen first when he dies.

His priorities can’t help him deal with his sin before a Holy God. On the other hand, the man who is poor in spirit, who may or may not have vast financial holdings, that man who quietly gave his all to Christ and to His work, who placed God first in his life and, thereby, made himself last in the world’s eyes, will receive great reward here, even through persecution, and eternal reward in heaven.

Matthew 5:3 NKJV “Blessed  are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This is the Christian contrarian way to wealth and reward in the kingdom of God. Jesus was teaching that following Christ is not subtraction. It is multiplication. Not just tenfold. Jesus promises a hundredfold.

Mark 10:29-30 CEV Jesus told him: You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given 100 times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life.

So how do we gain eternal security if we are seeking God? Divest ourselves of what hinders us from finding true security in Christ. Invest in the kingdom of God, which is the only thing that will last, and leave the rest. The first will be last and the last first. Follow Christ. He will take care of all of our needs. What this world counts as wealth and what God counts as wealth are two different things.

Let's stop asking What’s in it for me?

Let's pray,.

Father, I divest my life of all pretensions of holiness. I turn from seeking to please you through my righteousness. I want to invest my life and my all, because I am overwhelmed that you would do that for me. And I follow you no matter what. And I trust you no matter what comes. You are my only security. You are my treasure.”

In Jesus’ name, Amen

What is the “one thing” that keeps you from Jesus Christ? What is the “one thing” that keeps you from giving your life to Him today?

This rich young ruler was zealous but without a knowledge of God and man. His question – What must I do to inherit eternal life? – was the wrong question. He should have asked, Lord, how could a sinner like me ever stand before a holy God? It is not what I can do, but what God will do. He kept that law because you could not keep it, and when you come to Him by faith, He will lay your sins on His Son and impute His Son’s righteousness to your life.

Sermon Audio






Sunday, January 6, 2019

In 2019 You May Stumble And Fall But You Will Get Up





This is the manuscript of the sermon preached at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA on Sunday
January 6, 2019


This year will be just like last year—only entirely different! Some things will be the same, much will be different, and some things will be brand-new to us. Be encouraged. The future rests in the good hands of a God who loves you more than you can imagine. You may stumble,yes you may fall but you will get up because God will not allow you to be utterly destroyed. This is God’s promise to you.

To hear the audio click on the YouTube image at the end of the manuscript.

Psalms 37:23-24 NKJV The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord , And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him  with His hand.
Since this is the first Sunday of 2019, I wanted to bring a message that would encourage us as we enter into another year.  The words that we just read have encouraged people for centuries, and they can help us today.
Let's look at the word though at the the beginning of verse 24: “Though he fall.” Some translations, like the New American Standard Bible, say, “When he falls.” Here's the way verse 24 reads in that translation;
Psalms 37:24 NASB  When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Notice that it does not say, “If he falls” it says “when he falls”.There is a big difference between “when” and “if.”  If states a probability; when declares a certainty.
David, when he wrote this Psalm, understood that all of us will fall sometimes. We stumble, we lose our way, we struggle, and sometimes we trip and fall on our journey. No one is exempt. We all fall sooner or later. It’s what happens after we fall that makes all the difference.
There are two points I want to make today:

1.    God ordains every step we take—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative.

2.    God promises that when we fall, we will not be utterly destroyed.

God ordains every step we take—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative.

In verse 23 of our tezt;
Psalms 37:23 NKJV, The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.

The verb “ordered” is very strong in the original Hebrew.  The Hebrew word kûn means to establish something so that it has a strong foundation.

Proverbs 16:9 says
A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

And Proverbs 3:6 says
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

As believers we know that, if we let Him God will direct our steps.

But this verb ordered is stronger than that. . God not only “directs” our steps, he also “determines” or “orders” or “ordains” our steps.
 This includes our going out and our coming in,
 Deuteronomy 28:6 NKJV “Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

Psalms 121:8 NKJV The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Ordering our steps includes our lying down and our getting up, our waking and our sleeping,
Psalms 3:5 NKJV I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
It includes our business dealings; our buying and our selling,
James 4:13-15 NKJV Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will  happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”
Yes God will direct all our steps if we let Him.
 There are no accidents with God. Nothing ever happens to the child of God by luck, chance or fate. No circumstance, whether good or bad, can come to us apart from God’s determined purpose for us.
Romans 8:28-30 NKJV And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to  be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

All of us wonder what this new year will bring. What will happen in 2019? Will it be a good year or a bad year for us personally?
My guess is that the answer is that this year will be a lot like last year. You’ll have good days and bad days. You'll have some victories and some defeats. You may be sick for a while and you’ll be healthy most of the time. Some of your prayers will be answered; some won’t be answered. Some of your dreams will come true, some won't.  Some of your plans will come to fruition; others will remain undone. You’ll discover that some of your friends will be there when you need them. Others will fail you when you need them most. In many respects, life will be the same this year because we all face the same ongoing challenges in our walk with the Lord that we had last year.  But know this: Your steps in the coming year are “ordered” by the Lord. He is in charge of the details of your life.

My first point was that God ordains every step we take—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the positive and the negative.

The second point is that God promises that when we fall, we will not be utterly destroyed.

Let's go back to our text;

Psalms 37:23-24 NKJV The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord , And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him  with His hand.
 
Here's the way the New International Version translates verse 24 
Psalm 37:24 NIV though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Let's say you are out for a walk. I usually go for a walk with a group of guys on Tuesday. Some times during that walk I don't see or notice a rock or a hole so I trip, stumble and sometimes fall.  Life is like that some time. We all stumble in many ways and often we fall. However our text says that we won't be “utterly cast down”.
The word translated “utterly cast down” in our text, means to be cast headlong into a deep pit.
If you were at the Grand Canyon peering over the edge, looking down 3,000 feet, and someone pushes you from behind, when you finally hit bottom, you won’t dust yourself off, get up and keep on going, like I do on Tuesdays.   If you get pushed off the ledge of the Grand Canyon you will be “utterly destroyed.” Well God promises that won’t happen to you and me. Though we may face desperate, life-changing circumstances this year, God will not allow us to be utterly destroyed because nothing can happen that will break our relationship with him.
Romans 8:35-39 NKJV Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The reason nothing can separate us is clear because He upholds us with his mighty hand.
Isaiah 41:10 NKJV Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Think of a father walking along with his young child by his side. There are two ways this father and his child might hold hands. The young child may reach up with their tiny hand to hold their father’s big hand. That works until the child stumbles and lets go of their father’s hand. But if the father places his big hand around his child’s tiny hand, the child is safe no matter what happens because their father’s hand holds them up. They may stumble but their father’s hand “upholds” them.
Our “fall” may be a fall into trouble, or even a catastrophe.  The fall might be because of the loss of a job, a health problem, the breakup of a marriage, the end of a friendship, bankruptcy, or any kind of personal crisis. Or it could be the result of a series of foolish choices that led you in a wrong direction so that you hurt your walk with God and hurt those around you as well. Sometimes the “fall” of circumstances can cause a “fall” into bitterness, substance abuse, anger, rage, abusive language, foolish decisions, lust, or other sinful actions.
The Bible repeatedly shows how easily this can happen to even the best people. We see men and women who are faithful one day and fickle the next. We see worship mixed with worry, courage followed by cowardice, faith matched with doubt, generosity followed by greed, kindness overcome by arrogance. We learn that strong people sometimes do very stupid things. Saints often act like sinners.
Noah built an ark to save his family, and when the flood was over, he got drunk and exposed himself to his sons.
Genesis 9:18-23 NKJV Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. And Noah began to  be  a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

By faith Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, following God’s call to the Promised Land, and when he got there, he lied about his wife Sarah—not once, but twice!
Genesis 12:10-13 NKJV Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was  severe in the land. And it came to pass, when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai his wife, “Indeed I know that you are  a woman of beautiful countenance. Therefore it will happen, when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say you are my sister, that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.”
Then the second time;
Genesis 20:1-2 NKJV And Abraham journeyed from there to the South, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur, and stayed in Gerar. Now Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Before Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, he killed an Egyptian and tried to cover up the evidence, by burying the Egyptian in the sand. After David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd,” he committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah the Hittite murdered in a vain attempt to cover his sin.
Then there is Peter, on one hand, he has the courage to declare to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God, then in the Upper Room, he boastfully declares that even if everyone else falls away, he will never fall away.
Matthew 26:33 NKJV Peter answered and said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.”
But this tough guy soon turned to butter. When confronted by a teenage girl around a campfire, he lost his nerve, began to swear, and three times denied the Lord.
These stories are in the Bible both to instruct us and to encourage us. They teach us that even the best people when under pressure can do very foolish things. No one is beyond the reach of temptation. Very godly people can make some very wrong choices—and suffer greatly as a result. And even cause others to suffer with them. It’s good that the Bible shows this to us—or we would be tempted to think, “I’m beyond that temptation.” Don’t ever say that. You don’t know what you’re “beyond.” Today’s “victory” may actually set you up for tomorrow’s “defeat.”
I Peter 5:8-9 NKJV Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

We may fall again and again, trouble may come again and again, we may struggle again and again—and again! But it is the Lord’s purpose that we should rise—again and again and again.
Here's what Scripture says about that;
Proverbs 24:16 NKJV For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.
Psalms 145:14 NKJV The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who  are bowed down.

When you fall, in 2019, and we all will, remember this: God never intends you to stay down forever. He intends for you to “rise up” and keep on walking with him.
Here are four practical applications of this truth.

1. Every detail of life is under God’s control.

Romans 8:28 NKJV And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Psalms 37:23 NKJV The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord , And He delights in his way.

2. God loves you and nothing can separate you from Him.

God loves us with an everlasting love. We talked about that last week.  Nothing we say or do can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39 NKJV For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God “permits” us to fall when he could stop it. If he permits it, then what he permits must ultimately be for our spiritual benefit. Not the fall itself, but what we will eventually learn from it. God “allows” us to suffer when he could stop it. Not that suffering itself is good, but it is often the pathway to enormous blessing for us.
Romans 8:28-29 NKJV And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to  be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
3. God will not let  our trials destroy us.
Verse 24 of our text
Psalms 37:24 NKJV Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him  with His hand.

That assures us that though we may “stumble” or “fall” temporarily, we will not be utterly destroyed. God will not allow anything to permanently destroy our relationship with him. We just read that not even death itself can sever our strong connection with God.
During the worst moments, we hang on to God, by faith, believing that better days will eventually come.
When we read the book of Job we know that he lost everything but even in the midst of that he said;
Job 23:10 NKJV But He knows the way that I take; When  He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.

Here's what it says at the end of Job’s book;
Job 42:12-13 NKJV Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters.

He was blessed with twice what he lost.
Joseph was cast into prison on a phony rape charge but after several years:
Genesis 41:39-41, 43 NKJV Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there  is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt.

Sometimes our trials lead to a promotion. God had bigger things in mind in for Job and Joseph He wasn't finished with them. He's not finished with us either when we stumble or fall. 

Look at Peter. After all his bluster and boasting he denied Jesus.  He fell and I'm sure he may have thought that he would never overcome his fall but look at what happened. Peter would eventually return, and when he did, he would be a better, stronger man, humbled by his failure, ready to serve the Lord with a humility born out of painful failure.
John 21:15-17 NKJV So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

1, Every detail of life is under God’s control, 2 God loves you and nothing can separate you from Him,  3 God will not let  our trials destroy us, and

4. We will not utterly fall because God will not let go.

Though we stumble and fall a thousand times, God’s love is firm because his purposes are eternal. Our salvation rests not on our performance but on God’s unchanging character.
“No saint shall fall finally or fatally. Sorrow may bring us to the earth, and death may bring us to the grave, but lower we cannot sink, and out of the lowest of all we shall arise to the highest of all” (Charles Spurgeon).
Here are three good mottoes for 2019: Fight on! Hang on! Walk on!
God will not put you in an unbearable situation in 2019. But he may allow you to be in a situation that seems unbearable so that you will turn to Him. Remember that God does not give his strength in advance but only when needed. Each day this year you will have what you need. We can go forth into the new year with confidence, hope, and joy.
I said earlier that this year will be just like last year. Let me change that statement just a little: This year will be just like last year—only entirely different! Some things will be the same, much will be different, and some things will be brand-new to us. Be encouraged. The future rests in the good hands of a God who loves you more than you can imagine. You may stumble,yes you may fall but you will get up because God will not allow you to be utterly destroyed. This is God’s promise to you.

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