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Reynolds Corners Baptist Church - Sermons
History Is Important
1 John 1:1
Why do Christian scholars pour so much energy into the study of ancient grammar, cultures, archaeology and history? Why can we not just accept that Jesus was a spiritual giant like no other who left us teachings that if followed would make life better for everyone? We cannot take that route to understanding Jesus because we believe that in Christ God intervened in world history in a fashion accurately foretold and described in the pages of a book that was completed almost 2,000 years ago. When we read Scripture we are not reading a philosophy textbook, but factual history that cannot be ignored without sacrificing its primary message, that God took on human flesh to save sinners.
The Cross, Not the Law
As Paul closes his letter to the Galatians we find that there is no easing off his staunch opposition to those whose teachings varied from his, particularly on the subject of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His disapproval was not based in anger, but in a deep concern that false teachers were leading converts away from the only path that led to salvation. He calls the motives of these teachers into question and continues to insist that all the law-keeping in the world would not bring spiritual life or growth. The thing that those who were attracted to legalism needed to hear was not about the right set of rules, but about the Righteous One who alone could save by grace.
Planning for Spiritual Growth
We may not have the rule book with the ten steps to spiritual living that the legalists offered, but we are not left without any guidance on what to do to grow spiritually. If we want to grow, then we should be ready to support those who will instruct us in God's ways financially and otherwise. We should remember the importance of the decisions we make, large and small, since those choices are the seeds of the character we will harvest. We should apply ourselves to the work of preparing for a harvest of righteousness since it requires diligence and hard work. We should be watchful for those opportune times to sow seed pleasing to God and take advantage of each of them.
Lifting Up The Fallen
It is sad that some have no appreciation for being citizens of this country, taking the privileges we have for granted. What is even sadder is Christians who take the church for granted and see little real need for being a part of its fellowship. We live in a fallen world and that means having to deal with trials and sorrows, some of our own making. In such times when we face temptations that could be overwhelming, God has given us his church to lift us up. There we will find spiritual people who will help us when no one else can. There we will find those whose love will help bear us up under our burdens. Being truly Christian in this world is not possible apart from such strength.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Having considered what the fruit of the Spirit looks like we do well to consider why it is so important. It is important because it marks a radical change in our lives, a manifestation of a change not just in behavior but in our very nature. This fruit is important because it helps us to properly relate to God's law. As valuable as the law is, only those who are walking in the Spirit will be able to use it effectively to understand and abide by that law. This fruit is utterly incompatible with any prideful contempt of our brothers. Peace, joy, kindness and love will compel us to work to build up our brothers, not tear them down. Generally, the church needs more fruit than gifts to grow.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman of water that would spring up within her to become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Paul speaks of fruit that serves as evidence that we have that eternal life. Do you hunger for righteousness as Jesus said those who are blessed by God will? This fruit will satisfy that hunger because it provides that character necessary to know your soul is being well nurtured by the Spirit. There is a love that compels us to do what is right for our fellow man, joy that does not depend on having just what we want, patience so we do not act based on passion, and so on. This fruit is God's free gift that strengthens to spiritual life we have been given.
Free, But Not Free To Sin
Because married people are free to leave their spouse, many do. Because they have the right, the freedom, to have an abortion, many women do. When there are no consequences for sinful actions, many take advantage. Paul has argued that believers are free from the law, but that freedom does not lead to sin for those who share in Christ's righteousness. For a church facing divisions Paul reminds them that they are not free to sin, and he does so by focusing on sins that lead to destroying relationships that are essential to the Christian community. Paul is no more tolerant of lawless immorality than the most stringent legalist. Freedom from the law sets us free to be righteous.
Rules for our children meant to protect them cars and fires and other dangers become unnecessarily constricting when they grow up to be adults. Forbidding an 18 year old from crossing the street would make it hard for him to get a job. As they grow older we impose fewer rules on them, but that does not mean they are left without any guidelines. In the spiritual realm freedom has been wrongly interpreted to mean we are free to live however we want. There is still a law we are to live by, the law of love. There is still One who tells us how to conduct ourselves, the Spirit. As it turns out, the goal of freedom is service to God and men, and the ability to fight against sin.
Unflinching Devotion to Grace
No matter how well we begin or how much progress we make, tomorrow our commitment to God's truth will be tested again and we must be ready. The conviction that people must work for heaven is so deeply ingrained in us that we must renew our refresh and reaffirm our commitment to the gospel of grace often. The slightest addition to the conviction that it is faith in Jesus alone that saves us can lead us a long way from that assurance God wants us to have. We must remember that our confidence is based in what Christ has done, not what we can do that makes the difference. This is the scandal of the cross: that we are sinners utterly dependent on grace for eternal life.
Stand Firm In Your Freedom
Mention the word freedom and most people automatically think of political freedom, freedom from tyrannical rulers who seek to control every aspect of our lives. The spiritual freedom Paul speaks of is freedom from the law that promises life for our obedience but can never deliver because sin eliminates even the possibility of the perfect righteousness we need. Some seem to want to gain eternal life by faith in Christ and obedience to the law, but Paul makes it clear that we must choose one or the other. When we choose faith alone as our way to eternal life we find that faith expressing itself in love towards God and others. Faith brings with it a new heart that desires to be obedient.
Whose Child Are You?
It makes a difference who your parents are. If they are American or Somalian citizens, rich or poor, influential or unknowns outside their small circle of friends makes a difference in the choices you make, how you think, the rights you enjoy and how you live. This is true also in the spiritual realm. Are we born of those who trust in Christ for their hope of eternal life or of those who hope by their good works to gain that great prize? Are our spiritual forebears those who are working hard to gain a place in heaven or those who have been set free by the truth about Jesus to enjoy walking in his righteousness with the Lord. Our spiritual heritage is a matter of great importance.
Are You Ordinary?
Why do you serve the Lord? Is the root motivation that the Bible tells you to or is it because you love God as your Father and his Son as your Savior so that you are eager to please them? Paul is trying to argue against the legalists who were demanding obedience to the Old Testament law that Christians obey the Lord because they have been set free to do so. Having been born again we have a new heart, a new mind so that sin no longer dominates why we act as we do. Apart from this new birth religious people are driven by rules and regulations to find spiritual life. As Christians we already have that life and eagerly embrace the Word of God as describing the way we want to live.
Helping Brothers Grow Spiritually
Expectant mothers await the day of their child's birth and can sometimes have a difficult time of seeing beyond that blessed day. Once that day has passed though, it does not take long to realize that the real work of being a mother has just begun. We can give so much thought and prayer to bringing someone to trust in Christ that we give little thought to working with them until they reach spiritual maturity. For that to happen Paul shows us that building a loving relationship is important. This work is always challenging and sometimes heartbreaking. Setbacks may come that leave us perplexed and concerned, but by God's grace we will press on until Christ is formed in them.
Longing For Lost Blessings
Job's great losses had led to a bitterness so some are tempted, like his friends, to say that his problem was sin and a lack of faith. But the problem with this assessment is that the losses that most disturbed Job were not for worldly wealth and glory. He missed the days when he walked with God as a friend. He missed that wisdom sought after by others because it was just and good. He missed the chance his wealth had provided to show benevolence towards the needy. In other words, he missed those blessings that God so often promised to his faithful people. Job's desires in this were godly, but what he did not know was that they come to full fruit only when Jesus returns to reign.
Wisdom Beyond Our Reach
Men can do some amazing things in pursuit of those things they count to be worth the effort. They willingly sacrifice things of importance like human companionship and risk to their health and life to acquire those things they value as treasures. Wisdom is a treasure more valuable than anything this earth can offer, and yet as Job had discovered, it cannot be found or purchased for any price by man on his own. People can do amazing things, but they cannot discover wisdom. As it turns out, wisdom cannot be found by knowing where to look for it, but only by turning to Who has it. The starting point to finding wisdom is fearing God who is the only source of this treasure.
A Warning to the Accuser's Friends
When circumstances cast a shadow of doubt over a good man's name, some are jump on the bandwagon and join with others in questioning his character. Job continues to cling to his conviction that he is innocent of the sins his friends have accused him of and calls on the Lord to judge them as they have said the Lord would judge him. They spoke from a position of apparent safety and security, but Job warns them that falsely accusing a righteous man could lead to loss of that security overnight. It is a dangerous thing to accuse and revile the person God counts to be righteous. There are times to call men to account for their sins, but we must be careful not to defame God's saints.
God's Glorious Power
Job's friends were frustrated that he would not accept their counsel and repent. He was frustrated with them for not seeing that he was not a great sinner. As great as their differences were, there were a few things they agreed on, and the glory of God was one of them. Bildad spoke of the Lord's sovereign power over all creation and his holiness that made man seem a worm by comparison. Job spoke of God's rule over his creatures that extended even beyond the grave and a power that could suspend the earth over nothingness. Though adversaries in how God's will was worked out among men, both these men agreed that there was a glory to God's person and work that was awe inspiring.
Vindication Will Come
Despite God's seeming indifference to Job's suffering, this godly man still believed that the righteous Judge would one day vindicate him. Job loved the ways of God and thus was confident of a good outcome on meeting him; confident, but not presumptuous. Though he trusted God, Job still found the Lord to be terrifying. His real question was not, Will God judge the wicked? but When will God judge the wicked? What made their crimes particularly heinous was that the victims were the weakest in society. The rich and powerful preyed on society's most needy people. The wicked seemed to have easy lives, but Job believed that their comfort would one day end in judgment.
Repent, Of Something
For the sake of argument Eliphaz gives Job the benefit of the doubt and accepts that he was a blameless man, but his response to that is, ‘So what?' Even if Job had been righteous it would not have benefitted God so that he was obligated to answer Job's prayers. But Eliphaz was convinced Job was not blameless and begins to list some of the sins he believed his friend was guilty of. Job had argued the wicked do prosper, but Eliphaz insisted that was very short-lived. He closes his words to Job with a plea to repent so that he can once again enjoy the blessings of God. Once again we find in the words of Job's friends wise counsel for the wicked, but know Job was not wicked.
Blessings of the Wicked
It is easy to tell who is a Christian and who is not. Christians are blessed with all the good things of this world and unbelievers are poverty stricken and sick most of the time. At least that seemed to be what Job's friends thought. Job had come to see things differently. The wicked enjoyed the blessings of family, provisions and peace in death. It seemed to Job that life's blessings were all random, given to the just and unjust so that righteousness or sinfulness made no difference. And yet despite all this, righteous Job still wanted nothing to do with the wicked even if their way could offer blessings. Job was disheartened, but with our greater revelation, we know it was not as Job thought.
The Terrifying End of the Wicked
Do we really need another sermon on judgment? One might think not, but the fact that Scripture is filled with warnings about it and descriptions of it, our Lord seems to think we do. Zophar offers these words to the wrong person and for the wrong reasons, but they are nevertheless and worthwhile picture of the judgment that will come to the wicked. By considering his words we are reminded of what life will be like for the wicked when judgment falls and thus more motivated to urge them to flee the wrath to come. They also speak to us of the terrible suffering endured by our Lord on our behalf so that we can appreciate even more the blessed life he gained for us through it.
My Redeemer Lives
Everything in his life told Job the good things in life were forever gone and that there was no hope left for him. His friends who had come to comfort him had instead attacked him with relentless, baseless lies. God punished him and left him no chance to defend himself or even ask questions. He was left to suffer alone, to be abandoned and reviled by everyone, even children. It is in this context that we hear Job state, despite all that circumstances seemed to say, that he believed his Redeemer would come and vindicate him. Though he had no reason to think so, he believed he would be blessed to see his Redeemer. Faith in such times is not easy, but does prove it is genuine.
Hell: Good Sermon, Wrong Audience
The unrighteous need to hear about the future that awaits them if they do not turn in repentance and trust in the Lord for the forgiveness of sin. The pictures of the misery and torment of hell are not for frightening young children. They are there to warn unrepentant sinners of the darkness that awaits them. It is not a fate foisted upon them by the world they live in, but a future that descends from their own choices in life. Bildad did a good job of describing the terrifying place that awaits the wicked in the life to come. The problem was that he was speaking to a righteous man about the fate of the wicked. Job thus found neither comfort nor edifying instruction in anything Bildad said.
We believe that God's gift of faith that enables us to trust Christ as Lord and Savior once given will never be finally crushed and disappear. But that does not mean that faith remains invariably strong, even in the best of Christians. Job illustrates that even a man counted as blameless and righteous by God rise to the mountaintops of faith and then almost in the next moment sink into a valley of despair. People with genuine faith will not always find life to be easy and their future bright, but like Job, they never give up on God altogether. No matter how hard he may seem to make life, they continue to hold on to the belief that he is good and will deliver them one day from their struggles.
Counseling others is so much easier when you do not have to waste time listening to what the one you are trying to help has to say. Job was indefensibly sinful and so all his attempts to justify himself had to be just hot air. Eliphaz, along with his two friends, had offered gentle counsel to Job (like ‘your children deserved to die' in 8:4), and Job inexplicably responded with anger. Eliphaz does his best to turn his friend around by pointing out what awaits the unrepentant sinner. His counsel was sound, if only Job had been the great sinner they thought he was. Rather than condemning a struggling saint, let us make it our goal to edify and encourage so as to build up his faith.
When Only God Has The Answer
Though they had come to do so, Job's friends brought him no comfort. They were blind to the possibility of a righteous man's suffering very much or very long, and lied to make their point that Job was not righteous. Finding no comfort in their words Job longed to stand before God to find answers, as dangerous as that was. As Job considered his sufferings and the sufferings of all men, he realized how brief and full of trouble our lives are. Hopelessness would have overwhelmed him except for one fact: he still had faith that God was good. This gave him hope, even though that hope was fragile. In times like his, our only hope rests in God's power to renew our spirit.