Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. â€¦. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:4-7, 13 ESV)
Opening Illustration 1:
I read a story about a man who had couple of strokes which affected his behavior and loss of memory. Once a while he comes down rushing of the stairs shouting that he had forgotten it was Christmas. He urges his wife to help him put up decorations and wrap gifts.
The wife calls up their daughters, and the whole family gets together and celebrates Christmas that day. This happens many times during the year, the family learned to do this knowing that their father- husband becomes very happy. This will please him. Now every few months, her husband would suddenly announce that it is Christmas, and the family will again gather to celebrate the occasion. The fun part of the story that I read ends with this sentence: "It's kind of refreshing to have Christmas come as a surprise.â€
Donâ€™t you love surprises? Were you surprised last night or this morning when you opened gifts?
Opening Illustration 2:
There was this woman who wanted to do something in Christmas for her friends, but she did not want to spend money. I mean buying gifts for her was too much, she is stingy. Even buying Christmas cards was headache. But she decided eventually to send cards, so she waited to see that she can buy Hallmarks cards that are closeout for sale. She found cards that had generic words written in front about Christmas: â€œA gift from my heart to youâ€. She bought couple of boxes of those cards and did send to her friends. She was relived from sending Christmas cards. After couple of weeks she found two of them on her desk and she decided to open inside the cards to see what was printed inside. Surprise! â€œThis Christmas card is just to say a little gift is on its way.â€
The gift is not on its way. The gift has arrived. The gift is here today. We are here to celebrate and receive and take it out to shareâ€¦.
1. Anticipating the Gift of Christ
God surprises us in different ways. In Advent, we experienced waiting in anticipation: the surprise of hope, joy, peace and love, and today:
surprised by birth of King Jesus.
This is the proclamation of the divine presence in human flesh.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
-From Genesis to Revelation we see the element of surprise over and over again. The stories of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joseph, Elijah, Isaiahâ€¦and moreâ€¦. God works in mysterious ways. God keeps us on our feet seeking His will, and asking, â€œI wonder, my God, what is next?â€ â€œI am waiting for my next surprise gift!â€
-The OT has almost 300 prophecies about Christ. People were anticipating the birth of the Messiah. Some saw it; others did not see the gift. They missed Jesus.
-Zachariah and Elizabeth were surprisedâ€¦
-Mary and Joseph were surprisedâ€¦ God chose a 14-year-old simple, poor girl to bear the most important baby in the history of the mankind.
-Shepherds (who wants to talk to shepherds?) were surprisedâ€¦ Shepherds went back and told what they saw and heard.
â€œWe saw Angels in the skyâ€¦.hmmmm, singingâ€¦. We also saw the new born Messiah, the one we were expectingâ€¦hmmmmmâ€¦..â€ I donâ€™t know how shepherdsâ€™ wives took all these stories.
-Wise men from the East were surprised that the newborn King was not born in the most important city of Jerusalem. They needed further guidance to find the promised child in Bethlehemâ€¦.
-King Herod was surprised for the existence of a newborn kingâ€¦ oh he was ready to even kill children just that his kingdom would not be disturbed.
The birth of the Son of God is not something that happens every day to just anyone. Oh no, this is Godâ€™s plan. This is His time to interfere in the world; the divine becoming human. This is the climax of HISTORY. Life before Christ and life after Christ.
How about us today? When we read the story, are we surprised?
Waiting for the coming of the surprise. Are you full of Joy, Hope, Peace, love? Are you looking forward to 2017?
Anticipation: It means to look forward to something that only God knows and He will fulfill it in His time. This kind of thinking helps me put all my anxieties outside of my system, and learn that God knows and in His time He will fulfill.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2. Accepting the Gift of the Christ
a. Christ is our giftâ€¦
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 ESV)
b. The gift of Christ is for everyone. God so loved the worldâ€¦.everyone. The gift, the grace is given. The problem is us; we donâ€™t receive it; or we donâ€™t appreciate it. We donâ€™t give attention to it. You know what happens. We will miss the train. We will miss the surprises that God prepared for you and me.
Christmas makes sense when you accept Christ as your savior in your life. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. How bad is to reject the gift of Christ. How sad is that you will not enjoy his surprises in your life.
3. Sharing the gift of Christ (Go and tell it)
How do you keep such important news for yourself? How selfish one has be to not share.
Mother Teresa once said: It is Christmas every time you let God love others through youâ€¦ It is Christmas every time you smile at your brother (or sister) and offer him your hand.
Can I do it? Can I share it? Do I have enough strength to do it? Who cares?
Preacher from Kansas once found on the road a luggage which was fallen out of a wagon. In it beside cloths found a white box with a rubber band. He opened it and found a $20 gold piece. On one side it was written â€œ20 years of loyal faithful serviceâ€, on the other side was written: â€œPresented to Otis Sampson by Northwestern Stateâ€™s Portland Cement Company.â€
Preacher wanted to find this man. He wrote 75 letters to northwest seeking this man. He did receive a letter that Sampson was employed and recently is retired. The preacher received the address of this man.
Of course the preacher wrote to Mr. Sampson. Mr. Sampson was surprised and wrote back asking not to mail the luggage, but only that white box with $20 golden piece, because that is the most precious position he has.
The preacher did send the white box, and also he writes a letter telling about precious things in his life like, family, life, because he was rescued from the war; then he went on in the letter to say, although all those are precious for him but most precious gift for him was Jesus.
A year later in Christmas time the preacher received a box. In it was the white box with rubber band on it. Inside was the same $20 gold piece and a letter from the man saying: â€œLast Sunday, my wife and I were baptized in a little church here in Colorado. We want you to have my gold piece. We are too old people, and you are the first one to tell us about Christ, now He is our most precious gift.â€
Do you see what I mean when I say Surprised by Jesus?
When you leave the service today, our children will stand at the door with a box in their hand. In it there are surprises for youâ€¦
Please accept them, and see what those gifts are â€¦
Finally we arrive to the fourth Sunday, when the candle of love is lit.
Paul summarizes in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 saying â€œFaith, Hope, and love, and the greatest of all is love.â€
Because God loved us, we have hope, joy, peace, and faith in HIM.
In this season of Advent, I have been reading the stories of Christmas in Luke and Matthew. We have been touched by characters like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary the mother of Jesus. Rarely people talk about a character called Joseph, the man who raised Jesus, the man who became the earthly father of Jesus.
In any nativity scene, Joseph stands silently near the manger. He is not even given a single line to speak! Zechariah spoke too much and he was silenced. If you notice, neither Matthew nor Luke recorded Joseph speaking one word. Joseph doesnâ€™t even get a line. (To play Joseph in a nativity scene will be easy).
So what does Joseph do? He acts. He practically demonstrates love. He does things that make me think about his love and obedience towards God as well as his love and respect towards Mary.
It is Advent â€“ Christmas time. It is time to show love. In Gary Chapmanâ€™s â€œThe Five Love Languages,â€ there are five ways of showing and receiving love. Letâ€™s see how they apply at Christmas:
Quality Time â€“ We visit each other at this time of year.
Encouraging Words â€“ Even complete strangers give us good wishes.
Touch â€“ There will be lots of hugging from family members and others.
Acts of Service â€“ We cook meals, wash dishes, decorate homesâ€¦
Gifts â€“ Letâ€™s not forget the gift giving!
Do you know that in the last 3500 years, there have been just 230 years of peace throughout the civilized world? It is the past 100 years that will undoubtedly be remembered as the military century. Of all war fatalities over the past half millennium, fully three-quarters occurred during the twentieth centuryâ€”including roughly 26 million in World War I and 53 million in World War II. 1
And the number goes on. Peace, what is peace? Ask any child in Syria about peace. Ask any refugee about peace. Ask about peace and comfort to anyone who is suffering these days in Oakland after the terrible fire that killed more than 35 people.
These are realties we live in, yes in this broken world. In this world, sin has alienated humans from God and from each other. Sin has destroyed relationships: Adam and Eveâ€™s relationship with God, followed by Cain and Abelâ€™s relationship with each other. Sin has stolen peace between God and man, and as a result, between human and human as well.
What do we mean when we talk about peace? Everyone talks about peace, and they mean it well, mostly external peace, the absence of war and enmity. The strange part is that the world does not see that the root of the problem is human sin. This means in order to have genuine peace, one has to start with God and himself/herself. Only God can give that peace.
1. Peace with God
Our alienation from God broke the relationship between creature and the Creator. God, our Maker, delights in restoring back our intimate relationship with Him. He wants peace and He initiates that by sending His Son.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 ESV)
This child-king, Prince of PEACE will bring the peace of God to humanity.
How about Zachariahâ€™s prophesy after long time of being speechless? Here are his words:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; â€¦.whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.â€ (Luke 1:76-79ESV)
Angles were singing to the shepherds when Jesus was born:
Glory to God in the highest,Â and on earth peace.Â (Luke 2:14)
Godâ€™s desire is to give peace to humanity and teach us that it comes only when we glorify Him. God is most glorious person, reality, existence in your life. Five times in NT God is called â€œthe God of peace.â€2 Jesus himself said,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)
We will continue in English.
Paul said: â€œFor he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.â€ (Ephesians 2:14 ESV)
John Piper adds on this topic: â€œWhat this means is that the peace of God, or the peace of Christ, can never be separated from God himself and Christ himself. If we want peace to rule in our lives, God must rule in our lives. Godâ€™s purpose is not to give you peace separate from himself. His purpose is to give you peace by being the most glorious Person in your life.â€1
It starts from this foundation when we seek the peace of God or Christ. God must rule over our lives. We cannot search for peace without asking His peace to rule over us.
Paul explains in his letter to the Romans: â€œTherefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.â€ (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)
We are justified by faith; that means we have peace with God through Jesus. This is foundation. Please build all your relationships on this foundation.
2. Peace with yourself
It is a very disturbing thing when you lose peace with yourself. You cannot escape from yourself. Youâ€™ve got to live with yourself.
Have you accepted yourself? Do you know that you are the beloved child of God, made in His image? He loves you despite all you have done.
Sometimes guilt and shame steal away our peace.
Are you living in anxiety? Do you keep fighting with yourself?
Some people keep hearing this and do nothing about it.
Albert Einstein said â€œThe definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different resultsâ€.Â
Paul was not living in a very peaceful life on the outside (prison, torture, persecutionâ€¦.)
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
Anxiety is something I fight with it as well. When I am attacked with it, I go to God in prayer and thanksgiving. I evaluate my life and bring forth my anxieties to Him. I ask His peace to rule over me. I breathe Jesus in and breathe out all the anxiety. I ask the Holy Spirit to fill me up with His presence.
3. Peace with Others
When we lose our peace when we are in conflict with others. I recently heard a person say, â€œI love Christmas, but when this or that person is invited for the Christmas party, I lose my peace.â€
Illustration: A pastor was invited to a new church. Eighty members voted of whom 78 vote Yes and 2 voted No. The newly elected pastor knew the result of voting. The first six months of his ministry he tried to find out who were those two who were not in his favor. After he found out he did everything to please them. Do you know what happened? After one year 78 were fed up from him and voted against him and only two wanted him. You can guess who those two were????
â€œBe weary when everyone speaks well of you.â€ (Luke 6: 26) Let me tell you. My father-in-law once said: â€œWatch out from the ones who keep praising you and from the ones keep criticizing you. Donâ€™t give attention to those. You cannot please everybody.â€ The Bible says in Acts 5:29 Â â€œWe must obey God rather than be pleasers of people.â€
In Romans 12:18 Paul says, â€œIf possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.â€
In this season some people get depressed or they donâ€™t want to be around certain people in gatherings. Some of us have problems with others and we lose the peace with them. Funny, we want to have peace of God but we donâ€™t want to have peace with others.
Paul wrote about healing those broken relationships:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV)
Just allow God to work in you. If you do not allow Him to work, you will become bitter.
John Piper says: â€œKeep being more amazed that your wrongs are forgiven than that you are wronged. Be amazed that you have peace with God. You have peace with your soul. Your guilt is taken away.â€2
How liberating when we make peace with others. How liberating to remember how Christ forgave you and liberated you from the heavy â€œsinsâ€.
Why donâ€™t you allow God to surprise you?
You see my sermon series are about Godâ€™s way to work in our lives. He surprises us: surprised by hope, by joy, by peace. You have your part here. Humbly be receptive to all these surprises.
Some practical ways to enjoy Godâ€™s peace in your life:
Volunteer at a food pantry
Listen to someone with a different point of view
Go caroling to people who may be alone this Christmas
Forgive one person in your life
Surprise someone with a kind anonymous note, giftâ€¦
Listen to Handelâ€™s Messiah and mediate on the words
Go through toys and donate some to other who donâ€™t have
Apologize for something you shouldnâ€™t have done
Share treat with neighbor
Help stranger in need
Read, pray and mediate on John 14:27
Compliment someone else behind the back
Invite someone and share a meal
Make a donation to worthy cause
Surprise the treasurer of the CACC
Write thank you note to someone who has made your life better
In the darkness of the virginâ€™s womb, the child grows. In the darkness of the worldâ€™s pain, the blessed light begins to kindle. In the darkness of our own doubting, the great hope begins to rise again like a lump in the throat: the hope that God will come to us truly, that the child will be born again in our midst, the Prince of Peace in a world at war, the hope that God will ransom us and our world from the darkness that seeks to destroy us. --Frederick Buechner
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13 ESV)
Let us examine Maryâ€™s song
1. Maryâ€™s Heart is bursting with JOY
â€œMy soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, (Luke 1:46-47 ESV)
MSG translation: â€œIâ€™m bursting with God-news; Iâ€™m dancing the song of my Savior God.â€ In my words, â€œMy soul rejoices in the Lord, I am extremely JOYFUL deep in my heart.â€
Have you ever felt that way in your life? When was the last time your heart burst with joy?
I donâ€™t know much about Maryâ€™s background, how she was raised, why God chose her. But I see a special relationship between God and herself. When the angel appeared to Mary, he said: â€œGreetings (Rejoice), O favored one, the Lord is with you!â€ (Luke 1:28 ESV); â€œDo not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.â€ (Luke 1:30 ESV). Found favor with God? Who am I to find favor with God?
There is a personal relationship between God and Mary. The essence of her joy comes when she exalts God. My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. In exaltation she finds inner joy.
I believe our joy comes from this point. Do I know God personally? Do I worship and exalt him? Mary is human, and not a prefect one. She is like you and me. She was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. How wonderful and joyful to be an instrument of God. *
Illustration: Like Mary, I rejoice every time I hear that one of my former students or parishionerâ€™s life is changed by accepting Christ in their life. There is someone in this church who started to attend our church when one day I gave him a hug. I just simply expressed the joy of Christ to that person. That memory brings joy in my heart.
Who or what could make you that happy?
Sometimes I watch â€œWheel of Fortuneâ€, or â€œThe Price is Rightâ€â€¦ People jump with joy. How long does that joy remain in their heart? Millions of people think they know the answer to this question, but I fear they are mistaken. There is something different when the joy of God touches you. Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11 ESV)
2. Maryâ€™s/our Responsibility
â€¦ for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. (Luke 1:48-50 ESV)
Once I heard a preacher said:
Two of the most amazing discoveries you will ever in life come when you realize:
a) God is working out His plan for this world, andÂ
b) He has chosen a special part for you to play in accomplishing His plan.1Â
Mary, the humble servant of God, will be called blessed. She will be called blessed because she accepted the responsibility to bear Jesus. She is ready to become the servant of God. She accepted the privilege from the Mighty One who will do great things in her life and through her life in the life of others. The Mighty One will show mercy for those who fear Him, worship Him, honor Himâ€¦
What a responsibility to be an instrument of God in bringing all these blessings!
Let me also say that her life was not easy after all. To be pregnant without marriage was extremely shameful in those days. After Jesus was born, King Herod did not like to have another â€œkingâ€ around him. Mary and her family faced danger, they had to escape. NT Wright says: â€œA sword will pierce her soul; she is told when Jesus is a baby. She will lose him for three days when he is twelve. She will think he is gone mad when he is thirty. She will despair completely for a further three days in Jerusalem, as the God she now wildly celebrates seems to have deceived herâ€¦But moment of triumph will return with Easter and Pentecost, and this time it wonâ€™t be taken away.â€ 2
She sees beyond her own struggle and pain Godâ€™s power, mercy, and holiness. Mary sings for joy that a God so great not only notices a poor nobody like her but actually invites her to be a part of His plan to save the world.Â
While you are enjoying Godâ€™s presence this morning, also ask yourself where is your responsibility to share that Joy with others. God has chosen a special part for you to play in accomplishing His plan. We had a sermon series about â€œYou are called.â€ By now you know how much your pastor believes that â€œchurchâ€, you and me, should be light and salt in this world. How long you will ignore his call?
3. A Genuine Revolution- Share the Joy
Everyone these days is talking about the man of revolution Fidel Castro who passed away. Let me introduce the real revolution. Let us continue with Maryâ€™s song:
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (Luke 1:51-53 ESV)
Another paraphrased translation: â€œHe bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses,Â pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold.â€ (Luke 1:51-53 MSG)
What was Jesusâ€™ first sermon?
â€œThe Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.â€ (Luke 4:18-19 ESV)
Jesus came to bring Godâ€™s Kingdom in this fallen world, the broken world where priorities are upside down. â€œThy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.â€ We recite these words almost every Sunday in Lordâ€™s Prayer I pray that you mean it. By praying the Lordâ€™s Prayer, you are declaring that Christ brought the kingdom of God here on earth, and we are part of that kingdom. We have responsibilities towards this creation. Do you see yourself any way bringing the joy of Christ in this world? Do you see yourself where you can bring the Good News to the poor and weak, to the humble and the oppressed, to the refugees and homeless, to wounded ones and the ones who are hurting?
If your heart is bursting with joy, itâ€™s time share it.
I had a phone conversation with Rev. George Dabbo in Canada. He was telling how he and his church want to support the poor, the needy, the refugees not only in Canada, and also in Syria. He was sharing how tough is the situation in Aleppo, especially the elderly. Just providing diapers became a challenge for the local people.
â€œJesus came to turn everything on its head, and show us reality is not defined by human reasoning, but by Godâ€™s standards- which are very different from our own.â€3
Do you have a Magnificat song in your life? Do you have song of JOY?
Are you surprised by Hope? Are you surprised by Godâ€™s JOY?
Why donâ€™t you read this poem again, and ask yourself where are you concerning in relationship with God. Maybe you had joy one day, and today you lost your joy. Come to Jesus and he will give you JOY. Jesus said: These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:11 ESV)
* Like the Prophecy of Zephaniah: Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!Â Shout in triumph, O Israel!Â
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,Â O daughter of Jerusalem!Â
The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,Â He has cleared away your enemies.Â
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more.Â
In that dayÂ it will be said to Jerusalem:Â
â€œDo not be afraid, O Zion;Â Do not let your hands fall limp.Â The Lord your God is in your midst,Â
A victorious warrior.Â He will exult over you with joy,Â He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. (Zeph. 3:14-17)
1. T. Michael Crews. Who is This Glad Girl and Why is She Singing? 2006Â
2. N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone 14-15
3. T. Michael Crews. Who is This Glad Girl and Why is She Singing? 2006Â
Music is a powerful instrument that stirs emotions, memories and thoughts. I can hear a simple melody from Gomidas which can transport me to memories of choir, musical nights at home, concerts in various cities...etc. I can hear a line from JS Bach that transports me to Aleppo, to my childhood where I listened for hours the musical works of this great composer. Music brings joy to my heart. I pray that this morning by examining the Magnificat, the song of the Mary, the mother of Jesus, will bring a different kind of joy in your heart, mind and soul.
The joy of Mary and Elizabeth
When the angel gave Mary the news that she would conceive by the Holy Spirit, she was surprised and afraid. The angelâ€™s first words of were: â€œGreetings,Â O favored one,Â the Lord is with you!â€(1:28). The word â€œgreetingsâ€ in Greek is Chairo* which means Rejoice, be glad. Of course, young Mary was terrified and confused. The angel comforted Mary the same way Zechariah was comforted with the words â€œDo not be afraid.â€ God has His ways to surprise humanity. Zechariah and Elizabeth were surprised by the news of the pregnancy and now the same angel gives the Good News of the birth of Jesus to Mary.
Mary visits Elizabeth. Both are pregnant in unusual circumstances. â€œMaryâ€™s visit to Elizabeth is a wonderful human portrait of the older woman, pregnant at last after hope had gone, and the younger one, pregnant far sooner than she had expcted.â€1 This visit was a special visit. When Mary entered the house, the baby leaped in Elizabethâ€™s womb. There was joy in the atmosphere. Then Elizabeth said: â€œBlessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.â€ (Luke 1:42-44 ESV)
Mary and Elizabeth shared a dream. It is an old dream of the people of Israel. God made a covenant with Abraham that He would bless all the nations of the earth. These pregnancies are Godâ€™s plan to fulfill that promise. John will prepare the way for the coming of King Jesus, the Messiah, the One who will bring salvation, hope, peace and joy. Both Mary and Elizabeth knew Scripture very well. They knew that they would live tough days under Herod the Great. â€œThey searched the scriptures, soaked themselves in the psalms and prophetic writings which spoke of mercy, hope, fulfillment, reversal, revolution, victory over evil, and of God coming to the rescue at last.â€2 No wonder John the baby leaped for JOYâ€¦ No wonder the room is full of JOY.
Mary sang a song of Joy (read the Luke 1:46-56)
Maginificat, (the first word in Latin) a poem and song written by Mary. It is one of the most famous songs in Christianity. We Armenians have a great sharagan Medzatsoustse based on it. Many great musicians such as Bach have Maginificat masterpieces.
The words are almost biblical quotations. It looks like Mary had memorized them as a Jewish girl. Maryâ€™s song echoes the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 and from book of Psalms. Hannah also sang in joy celebrating the birth of Samuel and what God would do through her child. When God appears to humanity, there will be joy, a joy that will revolutionize life. Samuelâ€™s birth brought the nation of Israel to God. Johnâ€™s birth brought repentance for the sins of Israel. The birth of Jesus is the climax; it brought the Good News of Salvation for humanity which needed to experience the joy of salvation.
We will continue in English.
*Chairo is the same word used Matthew describing the wise men when they say the star: When they saw the star, they rejoicedÂ with exceeding great joy
1 NTWirght Luke for Everyone, P16
2 ibid, p15
Surprised by Godâ€™s message? I am sure Zechariah and Elizabeth were surprised as well as confused.
Can you think how Zechariah came out of the Temple speechless? Can you imagine how he described the angel who told him about the birth of John the Baptist? (I can see him using his hands to explain this complex messageâ€¦ hmmm, there are funny stories in the Bibleâ€¦)
Lukeâ€™s gospel is about Jesus. Actually, all gospels are about Jesus. Luke delays mentioning the name of Jesus for the first 30 verses. Jesus is not born until later. The story of John the Baptist is not a coincidence. Advent means coming. Israel was waiting for the coming of the Messiah. Today after two thousand years with wait with anticipation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Luke delays telling the story of the birth of Jesus. Luke will tell us about Maryâ€™s extraordinary pregnancy and Jesusâ€™ birth. But he preparers the minds of the readers with another extraordinary story of the birth of John the Baptist.
Arenâ€™t all we surprised? Why in the world God delays the pregnancy of Elizabeth? She is old and not expecting any children anymore.
Does this remind you of any other surprise pregnancies?
Abraham and Sarah having a child at an old age (Gen 21). They both received a promise from God and they lived with that promise all their years waiting with anticipation for its fulfillment. First when Sarah heard that she would become pregnant she laughed. It was laughter of doubt and unbelief. God kept His promise. She became pregnant and bore a child, Isaac (meaning he laughs, laughter). And Sarah said, â€œGod has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.â€ And she said, â€œWho would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.â€ (Genesis 21:6-7 ESV)
Sarah laughs; this time it is not laughter of doubt; it is laughter of joy. Surprised by HOPE? Surprised by God? When she had the child, her hope was fulfilled, the promise became a reality. She laughed again. Sarahâ€™s faithless laughter turned into laughter of grateful exaltation.
How are you doing this morning? What are you expecting from God in this season? What is a desire or dream you are waiting for? Does it make you laugh thinking God might actually fulfill it? Surprised?
2. What was John the Baptistâ€™s role in bringing Godâ€™s HOPE into this world?
Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Joseph, ordinary people. God will use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Luke did not make Zechariah a hero. He was a righteous and God-fearing man. Zechariah was speechless. He became a priest without a voice.
It made me think. I am badveli. How about if God takes my voice? How can I be an instrument of God without my voice?
Let me ask you how God can use you without your voice? Just be silent a moment and ask yourself what does it mean to be speechless.
Let me answer in two folds.
A. It is a good time to examine our words. What are we talking about? What are the words that come from your mouth? Who is the center of your words?
B. When my gift of speech is taken from me, God is reminding me who is in control. It is a good reminder to trust God in our weakness.
Trusting Godâ€¦rightâ€¦.TRUSTING GOD.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
In my words: You trustâ€¦ He willâ€¦
I believe God manifests Himself in our silence. He showed to Zechariah how His promise would be fulfilled. When God promises, He does.
In the same chapter, we find God appearing again to Zechariah and this time Zechariah receives the message:
Please read entire the message. Here is the last part:
â€œAnd you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.â€ (Luke 1:76-79 ESV)
John, the new prophet of the Most High, is coming to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah, the real HOPE that brings salvation to humanity and to the universe. The real HOPE that is not temporary. A real hope that can bring new birth, a new creation in our lives.
Surprised by HOPE?
Yes surprised by God. Yes surprised that his hope is with us by his birth, death and resurrection. His hope is also not yet. One day He will return and we will be all completely transformed to a new life.
So what is the message this morning?
1. When God promises something, He does it in His time. Trust him, HE WILLâ€¦
2. We are in the advent season. We are waiting for the hope of the world to come. Examine and see where your â€œhopeâ€ is leading you.
3. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. How about us, how can we prepare the way for the birth of Jesus in our lives? Practically what does it mean? How much are you ready to receive Christ in your life?
Let me finish with NT Wright. I enjoyed his lectures this last week in SMU.
â€œThe story is about much more than Zechariahâ€™s joy at having a son at last, or Elisabethâ€™s exultation in being freed from the scorn of the mothers in the village. It is about the great fulfillment of Godâ€™s promises and purposes. But the needs, hopes and fears of ordinary people are not forgotten in this larger story, precisely because of who Israelâ€™s God is â€“ the God of lavish, self-giving love, as Luke will tell us in so many ways thought his gospel. When this God acts on the large scale, he takes care of smaller human concerns as well. The drama which now takes centre stage is truly the story of God, the world, and every ordinary human being who has ever lived in it. Thatâ€™s how Luke intends it to be.â€1
Go and be surprised by God everydayâ€¦.
What are you hoping for in this season? Advent starts with the end of Thanksgiving weekend. Traffic and traveling are crazy these days. People are traveling and making arrangements to have family gatherings. I hope you had time to be with your family or friends, gathered around the table, having fellowship and fun. I hope you had time to slow down and relax, instead of thinking what gifts you need to buy, instead of rushing for black, red, yellow, green Fridays and Mondays, you name itâ€¦
What are you hoping for in this season?
We just had our elections; we were looking forward to our favorite candidate to win. Some are happy and hopeful, some are frustrated and angry, yet others are lost. What are we hoping for our country?
This is First Sunday of Advent. We lit the first candle, the candle of HOPE. Hope, where is hope, Badveli?
Let us see what the Word of God will say about hope. My passage is about the birth of John the Baptist. I wanted to read the entire story to you so you identify the characters and realize how they received the good news of the birth of a child. (read the biblical passage).
1 Zechariah received a visit from the Angel
Zechariah was married to Elizabeth who was the cousin of Mary the mother of Jesus. Zechariah was a priest. His turn arrived when he would enter the Temple to burn the incense in the morning and evening prayers. This was something that did not happen every day. It was an honor that he would do this service to the Lord and for His nation Israel.
We read that Zechariah and his wife did not have children for a long time. In fact, they had passed the childbearing age. In that culture, a childless woman was mocked. There was shame and guilt associated with being barren. We read that â€œthey were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.â€ (Luke 1:6 ESV)
Zechariah entered the Temple to perform his priestly duties. There he encountered angel Gabriel who gave him the good news. His wife would bear a child and he would be called John. The appearance of angels was not a normal occurrence in any respect. You can see how Zechariah felt. â€œAnd Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon himâ€ (Luke 1:12 ESV). In fact, Zechariah asked for sign. The Angel told him not to be afraid, and told him about John the Baptistâ€™s role in bringing new hope for the nation of Israel.
Surprised by Hope?
Of course Zechariah is not only surprised, he is terrified. What was the message?
â€œfor he will be great before the Lord. â€¦ he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.â€ (Luke 1:15-17 ESV)
After this massage, the angel gave Zechariah a sign. He could not speak after this event. He and his wife would become instruments of God by having this newborn child. The son to be born would fulfill the biblical promises God had given about sending someone to prepare the coming of the Messiah.
Surprised by Godâ€™s message? Surprised how God works in our lives? And surprised that you cannot even talk.
We will continue in English.
On Thanksgiving Sunday, there is no more appropriate psalm than Psalm 100 subtitled â€œA Psalm for Grateful Praise.â€ It is very short yet uplifting and full of joy and praise.
1. Shout with Joy: Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
The psalm indicates that the worshipers are going to enter the Temple. There is only one way to enter the Temple. Shout with joy, make a joyful noise, shout as loud as the trumpet declaring that God is your Joy, that God is your Lord, that God is everything in your life. Pretend youâ€™re entering the Warriors game. You would shout with joy in the presence of the players. I pray that today you are entering His presence with joy and you are declaring that God is your Lord.
2. Serve theÂ LordÂ with gladness!
Our service this morning is to the Lord. Whatever you do, is addressed to God. Last week a husband was worried about his wife who was spending too much time on the Food Festival. Her answer to her husband was, â€œI am serving the Lord.â€ We serve not CACC; we serve the Lord. How should be serving? With gladness, with joy. I am worried sometimes that in His service we can lose our joy. I think we need to remind each other that our gratitude to God is the right motivation for our service to Him.
3. Come into His presence with singing!
We are in the presence of God. The word presence in Hebrew is face. How do I come face to face with my Maker, my Redeemer? I come singing. The Hebrew word singing that is used here also means singing joyful songs. Maybe this morning there is something that is bothering you. Maybe you are feeling good or not so good. I donâ€™t know what situation you are experiencing, but when you come in the presence of your God, come with JOYFUL singing. If you canâ€™t find songs, God will put them in your mouth when you are in His presence.
4. I am thankful because I know Him.
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3 ESV)
Knowing God means to have an intimate relationship. â€œLord, I am thankful because you are my God, because of who you are. I am thankful because you shape me day by day to be transformed into your image. I am thankful because I know you. You are my God.â€
5. Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving
After four things the psalmist said, the person is ready to enter to worship God. His/her heart is full of joy and gratitude. â€œI will enter His presence with thanksgiving and a grateful heart wherever I am.â€
This morning we will approach the Table that Jesus prepared.
Jesus answered them, â€œTruly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.â€ (John 6:26-27 ESV)
Come to the Table with joyful songs. Come in adoration and humility. Come empty so Jesus will feed you the food that will endure to Eternal life.
All the eyes were on the election this last week. Everyone wanted to know who the next president would be. Now we do have a new president elected by the people. So what is next? People wait with anticipation for something new that will happen in our country.
Those verses from the Bible spoke to me during my quiet time:
â€œRemember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV)
This sentence hit me: â€œBehold, I am doing a new thingâ€¦â€ May I remind you that â€œIâ€ refers to God? What an encouragement. We all are looking for some answers in this crazy world. How about learning to come in humility to God and allow Him to lead you to a new life.
Last week, I gave you a tool for reading Godâ€™s Word. I hope some of you are practicing so that His Word can bring â€œsomething newâ€ in your life each day.
Isaiah reminds his audience: â€œRemember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.â€ Let me use my words: â€œOh Israelites, stop contemplating on the old days.â€ If you read the previous verses you will see how God rescued them from the Egyptian chariots, delivering them from the Red Sea. That was in the old days; now they are in exile and cannot see any hope. They think God has forgotten them. They think deliverance was once upon a time. Isaiah is saying to them, â€œThe same God of the old days is the same God of today. He will deliver you in the wilderness.â€ Yes, in the wilderness. God will make a new path. The ESV commentary says: â€œWhere there is no clear path forward, God creates one, like â€˜rivers in the desert.â€™ Where there is no natural relief or refreshment, God provides it.â€
Let me ask you, how secure is our political arena? I donâ€™t know. My role is to pray that God will lead us day by day in this world. I have seen His hands leading me in the â€œdesertâ€ of life. Often where there was not a clear path, God created a â€œriver in the desertâ€, a river that helped me, a river that refreshed me every day. God is in the business of doing â€œnewâ€ things. It is often difficult to see, but we can learn to be attentive to the workings of the Holy Spirit.Â
Paul says to church of Corinth: â€œTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.â€ (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
Paul encouraged the Ephesians to put off the old self, the old, corrupt and deceitful desires, and put on a new self renewed in Christ. (Eph. 4:22-24)
It is a daily decision to take off the old self and renew it with God who can clothe me with His presence, who can renew my mind.
Come this morning to God; empty yourself so you can be ready to accept the new things from Him.
Take a moment and invite God to do something new in your life. Get ready to breathe in something full of hope, promise and wonder.
When we look to our passage in 2 Timothy 4 we find Paul encouraging young Timothy to preach the WORD. In chapter 3, Paul explains how precious scripture is because it is inspired by God. In fact, he says it is â€œbreathed out by Godâ€. And now he commands Timothy to use the WORD of God in his daily teachings.
I asked you tell me how His Word is alive in your life. Here is another email: â€œThe word of GOD is ALIVE and has been part of me as though it were â€˜printed in stoneâ€™sâ€™ as long as I remember. It has been reaffirmed on a regular basis when I think of the apostle Paul and his journey-the effect, the inspiration-to so many people in the then -known world. One who had never met Jesus traveled such a distance to â€˜transform livesâ€™ before his was sacrificially ended. The Bible in my life is alive partly because of him- because of his FAITH- it strengthens my faith, alwaysâ€¦â€
â€¦preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV)
Preach it every season; preach at every opportunity you have. On the one hand, reprove or rebuke and on the other hand exhort with patience. People can reject your teaching. In fact, they would love to hear only what they want to hear. Stay firm and teach the TRUTH of Jesus Christ.
This is not the first time people turned away from listening or rejected the Word of God.
In the Old Testament, we read about the prophet Jeremiah. He was prophesying to Southern Kingdom of Israel called Judah. King Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, was not obeying Godâ€™s commandment. Jeremiah had a prophecy to pass on to the king. He dictated to his scribe Baruch who eventually passed the word to the King through other messengers from the court.
So they went into the court to the king, having put the scroll in the chamber of Elishama the secretary, and they reported all the words to the king. Then the king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and he took it from the chamber of Elishama the secretary. And Jehudi read it to the king and all the officials who stood beside the king. It was the ninth month, and the king was sitting in the winter house, and there was a fire burning in the fire pot before him. As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot. (Jeremiah 36:20-23 ESV)
Why did the king burn the word? Maybe he thought if he destroyed the words, they wouldn't come true. Perhaps he trusted that he could politically maneuver in a way by which he could avoid such a fate.
How sad is to see the king of Judah burning the Word coming from God.
How sad is in our lives, when we do â€œburnâ€ or ignore His Word. How tragic it is to not HEAR (ears dull of hearing).
The story ends tragically. The king is killed and punished. Judah falls to the enemy and the Israelites are exiled.
Please notice one thing. Burning Godâ€™s Word will not stop His voice from being heard.
Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: â€œTake another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. (Jeremiah 36:27-28 ESV)
Who are you to burn Godâ€™s WORD? Paul says even though he is chained to the prison wall, yet Godâ€™s Word will not be bound. It is important that each of us experience the power of Godâ€™s Word.
Thomas Jefferson created his own personalized Bible using technique similar to that of King Jehoiakim. Jefferson titled the finished product: â€œThe Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.â€ He took several copies of the Bible and literally went through the Gospels, taking a penknife and cutting out the sections of Gospels that he LIKED. Then he pasted those sections he liked into a journal â€“ and that became his Bible.
The Bible is not a book of advice. This is not a book that you pick and choose what you like and ignore what your donâ€™t. This is Godâ€™s breath coming on us to make us alive. This is the Good News of Jesus Christ that transforms our lives.
Here is another email: â€œIn these dark corners of our world in Beirut, the Word of God spreads a living hope in my inner being that through His Word I get the reassurance that God has made wonders in my life.
The word of God gives me peace, patience and confidence. It reassures me that God is in control (not me). It affirms me that God is still faithful and My Heavenly Father is alive and is interacting with me.
The Word of God reminds me that God will make a way when it seems to be no way. The Word of God is not just some sort of sentences & wise words, it is more than that. As if when I read His Words, I also hear the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit and my soul glorifies the Lord.â€
Also another person said: â€œGod's word is my most precious daily "go-to" for gaining understanding and insight into things that matter most. It is God's "love letter" to me - which has drawn me into a relationship with Him. It continues to show me God's high and perfect perspective. It gives me a glimpse into who he is, and what his plan is for me personally, in Christ, as well as for his whole creation. It directs me to recognize his will - what he says is best for me, and what he expects from meâ€¦â€
My dear brothers and sisters. You are hearing my sermons for almost 12 years. I am not sure what you remember. One thing, please do not forget. Go to His Word. Use the reading tools I mentioned. Get deep in His Word.
Paul ends this section like this:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 ESV)
How do you want continue your life. Are you fighting the good fight? Are you in the race? Are you keeping the faith that passed to you from others?
Where are you in your spiritual journey?
Please answer those questions. Get involved. Ask God to come and visit you and give you streams of living waterâ€¦
2 Timothy 4:1-5
â€œYour word is a lamp to walk by, and a light to illumine my path.â€ (Psalm 119:105 NET). Indeed, the Bible is a compass, a map, a manual, a book that is ALIVE.Â
I emailed you during the week and asked you to share with me in a few linesÂ about the following questions. â€œHow is the BibleÂ alive in your life?Â How does it transform you?â€
Some of you replied to me. Here are some of the answers I got: â€œProvides wisdom, peace, and love at work and at home. Provides support to be steadfast in my faith.â€ â€œIn an unpredictable and often frightening world, it is calming to know that the Word of God is always relevant. His message is constant. His message is soothing. He tells us, â€˜Don't worry. I've got your back.â€™â€ â€œWhen my husband died 26 years ago, I was in great grief for months and then one day all at once it dawned on me that God is still there in my life, nothing has changedÂ and I was filled with joy and hope.â€ â€œThe Bible is alive in my life because I learned the value of â€˜quiet timeâ€™ when I was in C.E. Our youth leaders always made time for us to be by ourselves and pray and meditate in complete silence.â€ â€œWhen I read a passage, I notice how relevant the passage is to my life in the moment. Just last week, I read about Jacob, and how his life was about to change drastically, and he accepted uncertainty by letting go of the land that was his comfort zone. Lately, God has been calling me to make a change. And those lines comforted me to know that it is God's will, even if it means I'm uncertain of what is to come. I trust Him.â€
John Piper says about the Breath of God: â€œI love the Bible the way I love my eyesâ€”not because my eyes are lovely, but because without them I can't see what's lovely. Without the Bible I could not see â€˜the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.â€™ Without the Bible I could not know â€˜the unsearchable riches of Christ.â€™ Without the Bible I would not know that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior. I love the Bible because it gives the wisdom that leads to salvation, and shows me that this salvation is nothing less than seeing and savoring the glory of Christ forever, and then provides for me inexhaustible ways of seeing and knowing and enjoying Christ.â€1
My intention today is to help you to fall in love with the Word of God, to assist you to read it in a way that it speaks to you and you hear the â€œvoiceâ€ of God.
The following are practical tools you can use when you read the Bible.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is there a SIN to confess?
Is there a PROMISE to claim?
Is there an ATTITUDE to change?
Is there a COMMAND to obey?
Is there a BLESSING to enjoy?
Is there an EXAMPLE to follow?
Is there a PRAYER to pray?
Is there an ERROR to avoid?
Is there a TRUTH to believe?
Is there SOMETHING for which to praise God?
Is there SOMETHING new to learn about Godâ€™s character?2, 3
Here is another tool for Bible reading:
- Pray before you read the passage.
- Read it loud once and close your eyes.
- Pray and think about it.
- Read it a second or even a third time and circle the words that stand out.
- Ask: What did it mean to them? What does it mean to me? How can I apply this?
- Write your thoughts in a journal.
We will continue in English
1. John Piper, All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God and Profitable
2 Timothy 3:10-17
When you buy a new machine, a phone, a TV, a carâ€¦ it comes with a userâ€™s manual. I hate reading those manuals. I try to operate those gadgets or appliances on my own without reading the manuals. Sometimes that works, but most of the time I say: â€œI wish I read the manual before I did anything.â€
Paul talked about the last days in 2 Timothy chapter 3. Last Sunday we examined 23 sins that people will face in the church and outside the church. Those are serious sins that destroy our relationship with God and each other. As your pastor, I prayed during the week that we take those words very seriously. Why? Because as your pastor, it is my duty and calling to pray and instruct you. Do you know that it is not a coincidence that I am your pastor? God appointed me to be your pastor. You prayed and you asked me to become your pastor. Therefore, it is my calling to teach the Word of God that will instruct, encourage, and sometimes discipline. Where do we get these instructions? From a manual which is â€œbreathed out by Godâ€ (Asdvadzashounch). Paul advises young pastor Timothy: â€œAll Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV).
The Bible is the book which is breathed out by God. (Asdvadzashounch). I believe only Armenians call the Bible (Greek for book) â€œthe Breath of God.â€ It is based on this passage: â€œAll Scripture is breathed out by Godâ€¦â€(16)
Your view towards the Word of God is fundamental when we speak about faith. We, as Armenian Evangelicals (Avedaranagan), believe that the Word of God is in the center. Look to our alter. The book that is breathed our by God is in the center of the church. Our theology, our doctrine, our creeds, our faith, our church bylaws are based on the Word. If you believe God is the Maker of everything including you and the entire humanity, then you acknowledge that He would give us a userâ€™s manual to understand the Maker and ourselves. This is the Word of God. Thanks be to God.
But is it really the Word of God? Yes, the Word of God is reality. Remember, â€œReality is home address of God.â€ Do people take this seriously? Who cares what the Bible says? Sixty-six books written by 40 authors over more than a thousand years. Why should that be our guide for living a healthy, godly life? And this opinion is common everywhere, even in our churches.
I want to read to you what the CACC membership class teaches when it comes to the Word of God:
God has revealed Himself to us through creation, through the living Word (Jesus Christ), and through the written Word (the Bible). We believe that the Bible was inspired by God in the original languages and that it is true and without error (John 3:33; Romans 3:4).
By inspiration we mean that God so directed the human authors that their individuality and literary style were preserved. Yet, at the same time the full message and intent of God was recorded. In Armenian, we say that the Bible is â€œAsdvadzashounchâ€, the â€œbreath of Godâ€ (2 Timothy 3;16,17; 2 Peter 1:21)1
We will continue in English.
1. Calvary Armenian Congregational Church Membership Class Lesson 1: What We Believe p 8
2 Timothy 3:10-17
A pastor entered a class as the lesson was in progress and asked, "Who brokeÂ down the walls of Jericho?" A lad answered, "Not me, sir." The pastor turnedÂ to the teacher and asked, "Is this the usual behavior in this class?" TheÂ teacher replied, "I believe this boy is an honest boy, and I really donâ€™tÂ
think he did it." Leaving the room, the pastor sought out a deacon and explained what had happened. The deacon said, "I have known both the boy andÂ the teacher for several years, and neither of them would do such a thing." ByÂ this time the pastor was heartsick and reported the incident to the Christian Education Committee. They said, "We see no point in making an issue out ofÂ this thing. Letâ€™s pay the bill for the damage to the walls and charge it toÂ upkeep. Anyway, our insurance may even cover it.â€ 1
Shall I laugh or cry about this exaggerated joke? Every anecdote has a lesson to teach. People donâ€™t know much about the Bible and many even donâ€™t care.
In his book, â€œVanishing Grace, What Ever Happened to the Good News?â€ Philip Yancey writes:
We have been spoiled in the United States because of our religious heritage. There was once a common Christian consensus. A few generations ago, Billy Graham would fill the largest stadium in any city, stand up, and say â€œthe Bible says,â€ and have the audience nod along. Today, belief in the Bible canâ€™t be taken for granted, so appeals to the Bible wonâ€™t have the same power. The new paradigm, in this culture, is that you reach out with acts of mercy that touch peopleâ€™s hearts, and hopefully they want to know why.
Now in my neighborhood, I look around. They donâ€™t have any idea why the Word of God is important. Philip Yancey wants the church to be aware of this and learn to approach the neighbors with mercy and love, hoping that they will ask us the source of our compassion.
Coming back to our passage, after the warnings of the â€œlast daysâ€ sins, Timothy should remain steadfast in his walk with the Lord and follow his teacher Paulâ€™s steps.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me â€¦.which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. (2 Timothy 3:10-11 ESV)
Timothy should also remember what his parents (Grandmother Lois and mother Eunice) taught him:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)
One more time Paul reminds Timothy what was passed to him from his parent and grandparent. One more time Paul reminds him how valuable a treasure has been entrusted to him.
In my words: â€œSuffering and persecution will appear in your life, my dear brother Timothy, as they happened to me. God rescued me and so He will do to you. Hold on and stay firm in your faith.â€ How? Paulâ€™s emphasis here is on the Word of God which is the breath of God (sacred writingsâ€¦ all scripture).
Those sacred writings and scripture are the Old Testament in this context. We read this passage today with different eyeglasses. Today these verses are all of scripture which means Old and New Testaments. Why?
Let me give you some reasons, as stated by John Piper:
-One is that Jesus saw his own teaching on a par with (as equal to) Scripture (Matthew 5) and having the authority of God. â€œI do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.â€ (John 14:10)
-Another is that Jesus prepared for his apostles to speak with divine authority for the sake of the church. â€œWhen the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.â€(John 16:13)
-Another is that the apostles claimed to be inspired by God. â€œWe impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit.â€(1 Cor. 2:13)
-Another is that Peter said that Paulâ€™s letters were part of the authoritative Scriptures. â€œâ€¦as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these mattersâ€¦â€ (2 Peter 3:15-16)2
All scripture is breathed out by God.
That means God inspired the authors to write His word. Inspiration does not mean like a musician who got inspired from something and therefore he/she composed music. Or you listened a musical and you were inspired.
That is not what â€œinspired by Godâ€ means. It means these authors with different styles and backgrounds were led by the Holy Spirit to write those words:
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21 ESV)
So those words continue to have life, because Godâ€™s breath is in them. It is like in creation, God breathed on Adam and he was alive. Godâ€™s Word is ALIVE.
N.T. Wright says:
â€œThe Spirit who caused it to be written, who spoke through the different writers in so many ways, is so powerful today, as ever, and that power, through the written word, can transform livesâ€¦.the spirit speaking through scripture can make us wise -- can help us think in new patterns, see things we hadnâ€™t seen before, understand ourselves and other people and God and the worldâ€¦ultimately find ourselves rescued, saved, from the downward pull of sin and become part of his new creation.â€3
This is so true in my life. Indeed after my commitment to Jesus Christ as savior, Godâ€™s Word, His breath taught me sorwyxnylov5 reproved meÂ 3antimanylov5 corrected me ,dgylov,Â and trained me in righteousness artarov;yan qradylov hamar1
Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or anotherâ€”showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live Godâ€™s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (MSG)
His Word helped and until today it helps me to continue in praying, meditating, listening to what God is telling me. Godâ€™s breath, His Word is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
My wish is that more people in the church take this very seriously. I donâ€™t know why we have less people wants to study the Bible. I donâ€™t understand how can we ignore such a treasure in our lives.
Last verse of this chapter gives the reason why we need His Word:
â€¦ that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:17 ESV)
Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (MSG)
You cannot function without reading the manual. The best book that helps you to know yourself and worship God.
1. Inspiration: Fiction or Fact by James Buchanan
2. John Piper. All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God, Continue inÂ It. 2012
3. NT Wright, Paul for Everyone p 121
2 Timothy 3:1-9
How wonderful to see kids this morning wearing costumes and masks to celebrate Harvest Day. We smile and enjoy when we see how kids pretend they are someone else. What about us as adults? I wonder we if we hide our real identity from God and from each other.
In my SoulCare retreat, I was reading Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were deceived by the devil. When they sinned, they felt the need to hide their naked bodies. When they were hiding, God came and asked one question: â€œWhere are you?â€
Donâ€™t you think God knows where they are? Of course. It is a rhetorical question. â€œWhere are you? Stop pretending to be someone else.â€
Another way to say it: â€œWhat is real?â€
Rev. Traver Hudson from South Africa who was our teacher that morning said, â€œReality is Godâ€™s home addressâ€. Indeed, we can hide from God and we can hide from each other. But when you come in a genuine way to God, He reveals all and liberates you from the state of hiding.
My sermon title is Genuine or Disguised. Another way of saying, â€œHow are you doing this morning? How are you with God? How are you when you face those sins?â€
Paul mentions a list of sins in Chapter 3 and I put them in three categories.
1. Misplaced Love (love of self, money, pleasure) (vs. 2,3,4)
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, not loving good, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.
Jesus said: â€œYou shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)
We have misplaced love in our lives.
Love of self, love of money, love of the world have become main focus of our life instead of the love of God and the â€œotherâ€. The key misplaced love is to nurture love of God and the â€œotherâ€, the neighborâ€¦
Love of self has become the center of our lives. Even our technology smart phones help us to take selfies. I was reading that selfies are helping people to have a better image about themselves.1 How deceptive it is if a photo is going to help me know myself and improve my self esteem.
The word love and lovers are used five times in the passage. Love is such an important word and concept in the Gospel. One of the reasons I accepted Jesus Christ because of his LOVE towards me and humanity. Godâ€™s love crushed me. His love helped me put Him and His love at the center of my life. When I am weak in my walk with the Lord, I see I am empty of His love. Then love of myself comes back and tries to dominate my life.
By misplacing love we become narcissistic and out-of-focus individuals. We destroyed our relationship with God and with others as well. This is happening not only outside the church, inside the church as well. The question Iâ€™ll ask this morning like God asked to Adam and Eve. â€œWhere are you?â€ â€œAre you hiding in fake love, selfish love?â€ â€œAre you genuine or disguised?â€
2. Pretended or Fake faith (vs. 5)
â€¦having the appearance of godliness,Â butÂ denying its power.
What does it mean to have â€œthe appearance of godliness, but denying Godâ€™s power?â€ How strange is that? In my words, I will say not having a genuine faith. It is like wearing costumes of religion, or being religious, but underneath it there is emptiness, a pretended, fake faith. Not having genuine faith means believing in God but not in Christ. They believe in God but they donâ€™t see the need for salvation. They believe in God but donâ€™t ask Christ to save them from the power of sin. They believe in God but donâ€™t take the Word of God seriously. They believe in God, but are not ready to carry the cross and follow Jesus.
Genuine faith seeks God EVERY DAY. Genuine faith is hungry to be fed by the Holy Spirit. Genuine faith reveals how broken and sinful we are, and we need His GRACE every day. â€œMy soul thirsts for God, for the living Godâ€ (Psalm 42:2); â€œOne thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life...â€ (Psalm 27:4)
3. Know-it-all Pride, Rejecting the Truth (vs. 2, 4, 7, 8)
proud,Â arrogant,Â abusive,Â disobedientÂ to their parents,Â ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutalâ€¦ always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truthâ€¦ so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
I read somewhere that 50% Americans donâ€™t believe that there an absolute truth. I donâ€™t know if that number is right, but I can say that around me in the Bay Area that number is much higher. There is no right and wrong; everything is relative.
Who are the proud people? They know-it-all, rejecting the truth. How strange the phrase is: always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
â€œThey are always hoping that the next new thing they learn will finally sort their lives out; but it never happens, for the good reason that all they really want is the stimulus of novel ideas, not the solid, restful satisfaction of learning the truth and reordering their lives by it.â€2
This is the Bay Area, the capital of knowledge. We have so much education around us, math, physics, history, languages, technology. Those are wonderful tools to learn. But finding the TRUTH is something only God can give to those who humbly come to God searching for Him.
Being in the church will not automatically make you find the truth.
Listen to a testimony of Christian Worship leaders: I grew up living a fake life disguised as a good Christian guy. I was raised in a Christian household and encouraged by my parents to be a worship leader. I was taught all the right things to do and all the right things to say. I believed in God and learned about Jesus as a child but instead of taking the lessons I learned and letting them mold me, I learned how to use them to manipulate and hide what was truly happening in my life.3
Then he continues in the end saying:
â€œCome as you are. No matter how jacked up you are, just come and focus on Jesus and let him do the rest.â€
You can be here at the service, but your pride does not allow you to come to God to find the truth.
Humility is a virtue. If you talk about how humble you, are there something wrong. â€œIf you think that youâ€™re humble, youâ€™re probably not.â€
Blessed are meek. Blessed are hungry and thirsty for righteousness â€¦.
Why does God require humility and hate pride? Pride opposes God. Pride refuses dependence upon God.
Proverbs 25:9, â€œHe guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.â€ Proverbs 26:12, â€œDo you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool.â€
Stop hiding disguised especially in the faÃ§ade of being religious, or spiritual, or Armenian protestant, or Americanâ€¦. Where is the reality in your life? Godâ€™s home address is reality. Why donâ€™t you stop and look inside and see where are you with God? He will lead you. It is never late. God loves you. He wants you to come out from your hiding and face Him with your temptations, your trials, and your weaknesses.
1 Have you ever had a really bad photo taken of you? It can make you feel embarrassed and ashamed. If you arenâ€™t in control of that picture, those feelings can increase.
Photos can affect your confidence and self-image in powerful ways, positive or negative. They can change how you see -or love- yourself. Read More:Â Can Taking a Selfie Improve Your Self Confidence?Â | http://easy1001.com/selfies-self-love-confidence-can-taking-a-selfie-improve-your-self-confidence/?trackback=tsmclip
2 N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone the Pastoral Letters p 117
Testimony by JASON RANSOM
â€¦When I was a teenager, I walked away from God and church. By the time I turned 19, I realized that the life that I was living was not reflective of the lessons my parents had taught me. I knew I wasnâ€™t who God wanted me to be either, so I went back to church.
I attended a church with one of my friends and I was quickly encouraged to get plugged in, so I started playing music there. Soon enough, I was leading worship for a sizable college group on Friday nights, at the satellite campus on Sunday mornings and again for the Sunday night worship service. I was easily leading about 2,000 people a week. This was huge to me! Though I was at church 3 or 4 days a week and my ministry was growing, my personal relationship with God was shrinking. But I was still very good at hiding my struggles, so my disguise remained intact.
Eventually, I began working for this church and soon after I started a relationship with a really great girl there. Everyone around me, even this girl, thought that I was the perfect Christian and I was doing a pretty good job at playing that role, until four months into our relationship, my girlfriend got pregnant.
In order to be in the churchâ€™s good graces, I stopped leading worship while my girlfriend and I attended counseling and got a checklist of things to do. Sadly, I already knew exactly how to put on that good Christian disguise, jump through every hoop and over every hurdle in order to make this process go faster. Once again, I said all right things and did all the right things. I spent my entire life talking the talk and this time was no different. Though I seemingly changed on the outside, nothing was changing inside my heart.
My life went on like this for a while. After finishing our counseling and having the baby, my girlfriend and I got married. I no longer had my job at the church so I got a â€œregular jobâ€ and returned to leading worship as a volunteer. The new job brought on a lot of stress. My co-workers became my new community so I dealt with my stress the way they did; I started drinking. And while I started drinking to bury my stress, I had really turned to drinking to bury my lies. It was easier to drink than to deal with the faÃ§ade I was living.Â
I was able to keep up the disguise and balance my drinking and my church life for a while. I thought I could handle it until one night I was driving drunk and completely wrecked my car. Yet another massive hole was torn in my good Christian guy disguise.
There I was, a popular worship leader at a mega church who got his girlfriend pregnant and had a DUI that could have killed someone. I thought that I had hit rock bottom but it only got worse.
I spent the night in jail. The next morning I called my wife to pick me up and realized I had no idea where I was. When I finally got home, I emailed the leadership at my church and told them that I was sorry, I messed up and I was done. I spent the next 11 months in court for my DUI and worried more about the financial burden of my actions than any of the spiritual ramifications. My disguise was ruined and my family and I went from being at church several times a week to every other Sunday. Eventually I stopped going altogether and my wife started taking our daughters without me.
One day my wife came home and told me that she wanted our daughters to feel safe and that she no longer felt safe with me. That was the moment that I realized that I didnâ€™t just have a few lapses of judgment but I was living an entire lifestyle of stupidity.
I did not want to lose my family. The thought of going from seeing my wife and children every day to possibly once a week was devastating. That reality changed everything. I could not run or disguise myself anymore.
We needed a change, so my family and I started attending Sandals Church because we were told it was a place where we could be ourselves. Someone told me, â€œCome as you are. No matter how jacked up you are, just come and focus on Jesus and let him do the rest.â€ I found that to be totally true.Â
My wife and I got involved in a small group that truly cared about us. The other people and couples in our group werenâ€™t perfect, but they really wanted to see us succeed and wanted to be a part of our journey. This was new. These were people who wanted to take our hands, get deeply involved in our lives and walk with us down a road that many of them had traveled before. There was no way for me to wear a disguise with these people. When people are that up close and personal, you have to be real.
I thought the scariest thing was people finding out who I truly am, when it was actually almost losing my family because they had no idea who I really was. This is what saved my marriage. My wife and I no longer had to walk alone but we had a family who wanted to help us figure out life. We survived by being real with others because thatâ€™s where God works.
My wife and I now host our own small group. This group of people who were once strangers are now becoming our friends and we donâ€™t just love each other at armâ€™s length but are right there together every step of the way.
I would love to say that I no longer make stupid choices (because I totally do), but the difference is that when I make them now Iâ€™m quickly reminded by those around me of the road that I should take instead. It turns out I donâ€™t need to lie to be loved and that makes that good Christian guy disguise completely pointless now.
2 Timothy 3:1-9
Someone has described the evening news as the program where the announcer says, â€œGood evening,â€ and then proceeds to tell you why it isnâ€™t! Can you imagine an evening news program that only ran theÂ goodÂ news? â€œThree thousand planes took off and landed as scheduled today, without any incidents. The economy seems to be doing fine. No politicians were indicted for corruption today. Crime is down, and families gathered for a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Thanks for joining us on the evening news!â€1
I assume no one will watch the news if it only covers positive things. How strange we are! In fact, how strange we have become. The priorities of life have shifted. Life has become complex. We have made life complex. We humans are experts in making life complex and dangerous.
Paul is warning Timothy that the â€œlast daysâ€ are not going to be easy. ESV translates it as â€œdifficult days.â€ The word in Greek appears twice in the New Testament and means, â€œharsh, fierce, savage.â€ (Matthew 8:28). What do we understand when we see the phrase â€œLast daysâ€? My understanding of last days is the time after Jesus ascension until his Second Coming. We live in the End Times.
Paul says to Timothy that he will face self-centered humans in the church and outside. In the nine verses of our passage today, there are 23 sins that can corrupt any person and his/her relationships with God and each other:
â€œFor people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth, oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.â€ (2 Timothy 3:2-8 ESV)
As one reads this long list of evil things, one wonders, â€œWho are those people?â€ I received an email last night from my Lebanese friends in Beirut who serve and minister to Syrian refugees. Syrian Islamic rebel forces (who are supported by the US) captured a Christian family and abducted their young daughters.2 The father of the daughters disguised himself to buy back his daughters from those who would sell them for sex. To make the long story short, he eventually did buy them. I have a daughter, and I was thinking about this father. My eyes fill with tears of sadness and joy as the story ends with the family coming together. This is only one of the stories I read. How about sex trafficking in Bay Area? Do you know how much pain and suffering exists around us?
But Paul is also referring to people from the church as we read verse 5. â€œâ€¦having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.â€ (2 Timothy 3:5 ESV) People who pretend to be religious, yet it is only a facade, a mask, fake and not genuine. This worries me as well.
Let me summarize those 23 sins in three categories:
1. Misplaced Love (love of self, money, pleasure) (2,3,4)
2. Pretended or Fake faith (5)
3. Know-it-all Pride (2, 4, 7, 8)
We will continue in English.
1. Bible.org. Steven J Cole
2 Timothy 2:14-21
Every house has many containers. Every kitchen has containers or vessels and each is dedicated for a job: cups for water, bowls for soup, flat dishes for everyday use, metal pans for scrambled eggsâ€¦ you name it.
Paul will continue his teaching to young Timothy. We are called to live a holy life. In the first chapter, Paul stressed this point:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, â€¦ who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began. (2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV)
Paul invites Timothy to live a holy life, which means to be set apart for a Christ-centered life. In todayâ€™s passage we see Paul explains further what it means to be set apart.
1. Vessels and Their Use
Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. (2 Timothy 2:20 ESV)
Two kinds of vessels we have here: gold and silver representing honorable vessels, wood and clay representing dishonorable ones.
Let me introduce to you this morning two vessels (show the vessels). This is a vessel we use for garbage. We use it every day. We throw in it the waste, the filth. And let me introduce you a vessel we use for the Lordâ€™s Supper, the Communion. This is Communion cup, a vessel dedicated to contain symbolically the blood of Jesus. Two vessels, each dedicated for something: one for noble purposes and one for not so noble ones.
We should be careful with this picture. A vessel is made for a specific purpose. No one will use a garbage vessel for Communion and no one will use the Communion vessel for garbage.
Each of us is a vessel. Each of us is made like a clay vessel. God is the Potter and we are the clay. But the beauty of it is that the clay vessel He created can be set apart for a specific purpose. We are called to a HOLY life. Holy means set apart for a new task; it means to be separated from the old life and dedicated to a new life. Our vessel turns to become a gold and silver vessel. How does that happen?
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV)
There is an invitation for us to cleanse ourselves from the dishonorable, to get rid of whatever makes us unclean. Paul says:
â€œTherefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, andÂ sin which clings so closely, andÂ let us runÂ with endurance the race that isÂ set before usâ€¦â€ (Hebrews 12:1)
What are the qualities of a clean vessel?
To be continued in English.
2 Timothy 2:14-21
In the Armenian sermon, I mentioned that Paul is urging Timothy to live a holy life. We talked about the vessel, the body. Our bodies are created for a purpose.
1. Vessels and Their Use*
2. Qualities of a Clean Vessel
In this short passage Paul explains two areas where a vessel should demonstrate cleanliness.
A. Speech, Words
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14 ESV)
But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. â€¦. (2 Timothy 2:16-18 ESV)
Do not quarrel about words (not to strive about words, KJV), (not to fight about words, HCSB)â€¦. Avoid irreverent babble; (shun profaneÂ andÂ vain babblings, KJV), (avoid godless chatter, NIV)
Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. (14 MSG)
Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If theyâ€™re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul. (16-17 MSG)
This is not written in the context of gossip. James, on the other hand, teaches about gossip and taming the tongue (James 3) because an untamed tongue is like fire that destroys. Gossip is like fire; it kills relationship. If you ask me, it is a killer me.
The context here is words and discussions that do not make any good for the body: fancy words or just words that are neither constructive nor edifying. It seems there were people in this church who did a lot of babbling and quarreling about words and ended up in false teaching. Hymenaeus and Philetus were claiming that resurrection had already happened. Therefore, first, we should stay away from those kinds of unproductive discussions and, second, we should correct them with patience and gentleness.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 2:24-25 ESV)
A friend of mine, Rev Muncherian, told me on the phone. â€œNerses, we are in restoration business.â€ Paul is saying your words may lead the person to find the truth in Jesus and repent.
B. Character, Heart Matters
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)
When we speak about character, we speak about the heart. Where is your heart? Flee from temptations that lead you or actions that you donâ€™t want to do. Flee. So many times we read in the Bible to flee. Make the right choices when it comes to the pursuit of faith, love and peace.
Ungodly behavior in the church, whether in words or actions, poisons our relationships in the church. These are not good testimonies for Christ. They poison my heart as well. I become bitter and ungodly in my behavior. I go to God for cleansing. I ask God to clean my vessel and clean the garbage. It is important that people see you are living a life that pleases God and brings honor to His name.
Before you speak ask these questions:
Is it kind?
Is it necessaryâ€
Is it true?
If the answer is no, don't say itâ€¦
If the answer is maybe, think it overâ€¦
If the answer is yes, say itâ€¦.
3. Dedicate Your Vessel to God
So what is your choice when it comes to the vessel? Do you want to remain in wood and clay for dishonorable use or you want to be gold and silver for honorable use?
Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV)
We cannot do this alone. Only through Christ we can be cleansed. Only through His blood our sins are forgiven. Only when we admit that we are sinners, who need to new life, we can enter the new life of salvation and the process of sanctification.
When we accept Christ as our Savior we are born from ABOVE. NEW REBIRTH
It does not stop there. We are called to dedicate our vessels daily to God. Yes daily.
Illustration: Let me also show you another vessel. The grocery bag is another vessel. You can put in it your groceries. The next day you can use it for a garbage bag.
Some of us are like this bag; we donâ€™t care, one day â€œgroceriesâ€ and the next day â€œgarbageâ€.
We are vessels, containers. We are box of treasure. What do you feed in that vessel?
My sermon title is very simple: Set yourself apart; dedicate yourself for noble things.
Garbage container is important in our houses. Here when I use â€œgarbageâ€, it is used in negative sense, filthy stuff that keeps the vessel dirty. The vessel picture is used metaphorically, so let us not interpret beyond what the author is trying to say.
-Come to Jesus for salvation.
-Consecrate your life to HIM.
-Allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify you. Work out on your salvation.
-Dedicate you vessel to God this morning. See what areas of your life are not dedicated to God? You hands, your mind, your feet, you checkbook?
I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the powâ€™r of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine. (Frances J. Crosby
*The main idea of this se is taken from pastor Brian La Croix â€œA Vessel for Noble Purposes.â€
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Memory is a great gift given to us. What would be our lives without remembering things?
A patient who is having memory issues visits the doctor. He says: â€œDoc, I am forgetting things. I forget where I parked my car; I forget where I placed my keys; I forget names and datesâ€¦ I am forgetting things all the timeâ€¦ Can you help me?â€
The doctor thinks for a moment and says: â€œYes, I can help you. Pay me in advance before you forget, then we can start the treatment.â€
Today we see Paul giving Timothy basic Christian facts as good reminders of who he is, and in whom he believe and trust.
Fact One: Remember Jesus Christ, the offspring of David, is Risen.
Fact Two: Remember that the Word of God is not tied up.
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! (2 Timothy 2:9 ESV)
Here is my interpretation: â€œListen TIMOTHY, maybe I am chained to a wall in prison; maybe I am accused as a bad person, a criminal. But let me encourage you by saying His Word is not tied up. His Word cannot be in chains. The enemies of the gospel can imprison the preachers of the gospel. But they cannot imprison the gospel.â€
Illustration: A thief robs a house. While he is taking all the gold and precious things, he accidently takes with him a personal Bible. He thinks he can use those nice pages for his cigarettes. After a few months, the robber comes back to the house of this person who was robbed with some of the stolen goods saying: â€œI smoked the gospel of Matthew, then Mark and Luke. But when I arrived to John, Godâ€™s Spirit touched me. I am sorry; here are some of your stolen goods. Go ahead, you can call the police right now.â€
His Word is a letter from God to you and you and youâ€¦ It can be a personal letter to each of you. His Word is not a book of advice. Advice means you hear something, you take it or you leave it. Godâ€™s Word is a Good News. Good News which transforms lives. His Word is alive and brings forth NEW LIFE to our lives. It is the book that I read and read again, meditate, pray, write a journal and incorporate into my life. His Word is a light unto my path.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, (Psalm 119:1-2 ESV)
Illustration: Last Sunday we had a visitor Christy who is a student from China. She found our church on the Internet. She has been Christian for five years. Her grandmother led her to Christ. After the service she was talking with our congregation. Susan came and said Christy needed a Bible. And I had one for her in my office. I wrote her name and gave it to her. You should see her face shining. Her eyes were full of joy by receiving THE WORD of GOD.
Do you have the same joy in reading His Word? Donâ€™t you want to have that joy? Never late. Ask God and He can give you that joy. Find a mentor to help you love His word.
Remember: I endure everything for Godâ€™s elect
Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10 ESV)
Who is the elect? Godâ€™s Word is shared with everyone. It is not exclusive for some elected people. We preach to all nations and to all races. Yet we hear Paul says he is going to all this trouble for the sake of the elect. You know who are the elect? The elect are those who receive and accept His Word. The elect are those are receptive to faith in Jesus Christ. The elect are those who recognize that their sin is forgiven only through Jesus Christ. The elect are those who believe in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. The grace of God is a gift offered to everyone. Too bad that some reject it.
Paul is saying, â€œYour obedience to the cause of the gospel will not be in vain; it will encourage you to keep serving. If you know that your suffering is not in vain, your pain is minimized.â€ (By the way we are talking suffering for Christâ€™s sake. Sometimes we do crazy things and we bring suffering to our head by our hands. This is not the case here).
Paul says to Timothy in his first letter:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (1 Timothy 2:1-5 ESV)
My friend Pastor George Dabbo has been invited to Pakistan. He will be speaking to 2500 Christian pastors, delegates, and workers who serve in Pakistan. God has called George to be his faithful servant not just for Canadian Armenians, not just for immigrant Syrian Armenians, but now He has opened doors for him to serve the Pakistani Christians.
Remember God remains Faithful; He will not deny Himself
This section ends with a poem:
If we have died with him, we will alsoÂ live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless,Â he remains faithfulâ€”
forÂ he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)
Amazing poetry from the First Century. I wonder if they used to sing this.
Important facts Paul brings forth:
-If Jesus died, then we are called to die with him (old life). Jesus is alive, so we also live with Him. Christ gave us a new life.
-We will suffer now. But if endure it, we will reign with Christ Jesus. â€œThe one who endures to the end will be savedâ€. (Mark 13:13)
-If we deny him, Jesus will deny us too. This is a quote from Jesusâ€™ words: â€œWhoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.â€ Matthew 10:33)
-If we are faithless, Jesus remains faithful to us.
If you leave God, and if you deny God, God will not force Himself on you. This broken relationship will hurt Godâ€™s heart. His faithfulness and love towards us are not based on our response. God is constant. He is reliable and faithful. It is like the prodigal son who left home. He gave up from his father. His father waited and waited and loved him faithfully. The son came back, and the father received him. If the prodigal son decided not to come back, that meant he denied his fatherâ€™s love. One day in heaven, his father will not recognize him. How sad is this.
Paul says in Romans: â€œWhat if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! â€¦â€ (Romans 3:3-4 ESV)
Four facts to remember:
Fact One: Remember Jesus Christ, offspring of David, is Risen.
Fact Two: Remember that the Word of God is not tied up
Fact Three: Remember: I endure everything for Godâ€™s elect
Fact Four: Remember God reminds Faithful; He will not deny Himself
2 Timothy 2:8-13
Lately I have become forgetful. I guess I am maturing in age. I heard the following story about a couple that had a similar problem. The wife asked her husband to bring her ice cream with a cherry on top. She insisted that her husband write down, because he had become forgetful. The husband did not write anything and said his memory was very good. He went to the kitchen and came back with scrambled eggs instead of ice cream. His wife looked at the eggs and said, â€œI told you to write down. You forgot the toast.â€
Remembering things is very important. One of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to remind us. Jesus said: â€œBut the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.â€ (John 14:26 ESV)
Paul is encouraging young preacher Timothy. He is reminding him of what he was entrusted. Last Sunday we studied the first seven verses of this chapter. Paul emphasized the importance of the role of being a teacher of the gospel, passing it from one generation to another.
Today we see Paul reminding Timothy the basic Christian truths, the foundations of our faith. These truths will remind us who we are, whom we serve, and how we can be armed to face the world.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, (2 Timothy 2:8 ESV)
Remember Jesus Christ, the offspring of David, is Risen. This is the foundation of our preaching and teaching. Our Lord and Savior was crucified, yet he was raised and he is alive. Our Lord lives. Our lives are living testimonies of that risen Lord.
â€œMy son young Timothy, never let the risen Jesus Christ be far from your mind.â€ Because Jesus was raised and overcame death we also can be risen and overcome death. Death is swallowed by Christ. We know this truth, and we need to remind this truth to each other always. â€œIf the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.â€ (Romans 8:11 ESV)
Lately the CACC family faced many deaths. As I prepared for each funeral or memorial service, I was reminded of the importance of the fact that we believe in a risen Lord. That gives us hope, not a false hope but a real hope.
â€œThe Offspring of Davidâ€ is another reminder that Christ is the Messiah. Paul is reminding Timothy and us today that this is not any resurrection. This is the offspring of King David, from which the Messiah was expected. Jesus Christ is the expected Messiah.
In other words, â€œTimothy, I know you are suffering right now, but do not worry about that.â€ â€œAnd do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.â€ (Matthew 10:28 ESV)
We need to remember this often in our daily life. We need to remember we serve the risen Lord; he is alive; he is the king and the Messiah, and he will return. When we give communion we say Jesusâ€™ words: do this in remembrance of me. â€œEvery morning is Easter morning from now on. Every day is resurrection day. The past is gone and is over.â€
We will continue in English.
Imagine you inherited a will that said: â€œEvery day you will be given $86400. The requirement is that you will need to spend all the money that day. The money cannot be transferred to the next day.â€
You probably know what that given $ number is. Every day we receive 86,400 seconds as the gift of life from God. You cannot transfer the balance to the next day because you will receive new minutes. You cannot keep them in the bank; you should use them. If you haven't used them, that day is forever lost; yesterday is forever gone. Each morning the account is refilled but the â€œbankâ€ can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT WARNING...Â SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?
Our main theme of the year is: â€œInheritedâ€¦the Treasure of our Spiritual Legacy.â€ What do we do when we inherit something? You can keep it safe; you can waste it; you can invest it. I believe every moment is a valuable moment in our lives. No time to waste.
Timothy was Paulâ€™s son in faith who became the leader of the church of Ephesus. Paul founded this church (Acts 17). There were problems in this church. The first letter was instructions to Timothy on how to set the Ephesian church in order. The Second letter was written to encourage our young man Timothy. You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1 ESV)
2 Timothy 2:2 became an important verse in my life 35 years ago in Aleppo when I was discipled by the Navigators. This is an interdenominational Christian ministry that has started based on that verse and believes in creating disciples who will go on to teach others.
and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV)
Paul passing it to Timothy; Timothy passing it to faithful men; faithful men passing it to othersâ€¦Four generation of passing on the entrusted treasure that was given from God. This kind of ministry focuses on one-to-one teaching of the truth.
Paul loved Timothy; he called him his son. By the way, this was Paulâ€™s last letter. Paul, a leader, wanted to pass the torch of the spiritual leadership to a young leader Timothy. Paul was under persecution. The church was under persecution. Paul wrote this letter from the prison in Rome. He knew that Timothy was facing tough conditions. Many wouldn't accept the instructions Timothy had received from Paul, and Timothy was confronted by sophisticated philosophical opposition. He needed encouragement, strength, and instructions about how to lead, how to live a holy life, a Christ-centered life under these persecutions.
2 Timothy 2:1-7
There is a process of learning that is happening from a teacher to you, from you to other faithful (trustworthy) persons and from other faithful persons to others. In other words, passing the message from generation to generations. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:3-4 ESV)
Timothy had Paul; Mark had Barnabas; Joshua had Moses; Elisha had Elijah.Â Did anyone in your Christian life mentor you? Now that you inherited, are you passing it on?
I heard this interesting metaphor from a preacher. â€œThe Church is not a cruise-ship; the church is a battleship.â€
In the cruise ship, people come to relax and be entertained. In the cruise ship, others serve them.
In the battleship, everyone has an assignment. No one in a battleship complains about the chairs, the room temperature, or the foodâ€¦etc. They are in battle. They have learned to listen and obey the commander-in-chief.
Paul gives three examples concerning the following principles: obedience to the commander (soldier), conducting things in rules and order (athlete), and working hard to achieve crops (farmer).
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:3-6 ESV)
a. Soldier: A good soldier pleases his commander-in-chief when he focuses on his duty. He/she will not be distracted by civilian pursuits; he will concentrate on military tasks. There is a life of discipline and obedience, focused without distractions. â€œIn the same way, Christians called to cheerful confrontation with the world that resists the gospel, must not look for easier activities on the side which would keep them busy but not embody the cutting edge and challenge of the gospel.â€1
b. Athlete: A good athlete lives in a discipline of rules and regulations. How sad was to see in Rio, the Olympic committee had to ban the athletes who were cheating by taking steroids. Paul is encouraging Christians to not take the easy way out. â€œDonâ€™t look for a loophole, a short-cut, a way of seeming to win the event while in fact cheatingâ€¦.it is all too easy for some people to imagine that because they are now Christians they can take whatever easy way through they choose; theyâ€™re going to be saved anyway, so why bother?â€2 This is very dangerous way of thinking. Our salvation is free, but in the process of sanctification there is no short-cut.
c. The Farmer: The image is that the landlord owns the land and the crop. The real workers are the farmers who work hard. They are the ones deserve the first share of the produce. Same idea: if you want a reward, get out and work out.
Thus, this is a serious process, like a soldier, athlete, farmerâ€¦it is not a game we enter when we want to and leave whenever we want. This is serious. Someone taught you, you received it and you passed it.
There are requirements in this process:
1. Be Ready to learn (Teach the Teachable)
It is so difficult to teach anyone who is not ready to learn. I see this happening in the churches. I wonder if our ears have become dull in hearing when we have heard so much and have done nothing afterwards. Timothy was a good student.
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. (Hebrews 5:11 ESV)
To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold,Â the word of theÂ LordÂ is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. (Jeremiah 6:10 ESV)
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15 ESV)
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. (Proverbs 9:9 ESV)
2. Pass it to faithful Individuals
Paul says to Timothy: entrust toÂ faithful men. (2 Tim 2:2)
The success of our next generation, be it the church, our family or our nation, depends on how faithful we obey our God by training others who are faithful as well to pass the gospel of Jesus Christ with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
This means responsibility. If God entrusted you His truth from His Word to you. You cannot keep it under the soil, like the man who received one talent and kept it under the soil. The Lord commanded the ones who were faithful in investing their talent (teaching, serving, preachingâ€¦.use any spiritual gift) The stress is being faithful and not successful.
3. Model with your own life.
Every pastor is to be a model in teaching. I do my teaching in different ways, in my sermons, Bible studies, one-on-one meetings, counseling, serving, music, my lifestyle, my financial choicesâ€¦ Every Christian (who is teachable) must be part of this process; each one has different gifts, but all should have same goal: receive the gift of God, guard it, invest it, use it and pass it on.
We all are in restoration business. We live in a fallen and confused world. Values are upside down. Christian values are almost forgotten.
Through Godâ€™s grace we are saved, and through Him we became His children, and through Him we pass it to others. Our lives should be an evidence of HIS GRACE.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15 ESV)
I should be ready to represent Christ always, in my driving, in my teaching, in my spending, in my conductsâ€¦. Do it with power, love and self-discipline (2Tim 1). We should teach in courage, without fear and shame. (See last weekâ€™s sermon)
This is not only for pastors. Parents, you have a role teaching your children. Children who are learning can pass it to their friends, classmates. You can share your beliefs about Christ in your work, friends, neighbors. Also, we should share together in the church. We can tell our stories; that is why you need smaller groups. Otherwise where you can share?
A study attributed to Harvard University found that when a person gets a job, 85% of the time it is because of their attitude, and only 15% of the time because of how smart they are and how many facts and figures they know.
Knowledge is good, but the knowledge of God should shape our character. Christ â€“centered individuals will have a good attitude. I get tried being with people who have always critical attitude, our people who are not pleases at all; or they think they are the best, othersâ€¦? What kind of attitude we have towards people?
Paul says to young Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
Remember, you are in battleship. Obedience to the chief commander. Remember who you are on the battleship. You need to be trained, that means be ready to be teachable. That means you allow Christ to be the center in your life.
God is seeking faithful soldiers who are focused, goal-oriented, trained like athletes who do not seek the easy way and like the farmer who works hard.
1N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone. P 97
2 Ibid p 98
Let me show you the picture a stove. In Lebanon, particularly in the villages such as Ainjar, we did not have central heating. We used this stove that ran on diesel fuel. It worked slowly. First, you needed to ignite a piece of paper and start a small fire in the stove with a few drops of diesel. Then you needed to look over the stove window to check if it was burning slowly and gradually getting better. Sometimes the drops of fuel would slow down. Then we needed to adjust the speed of the drops so the fire would be ignited to the required degree.
It seems Timothy our young preacher needed to be reminded of what had been entrusted to him, especially because there was persecution, imprisonment, and suffering. Some believers even did not want to affiliate with Paul who was in prison.
Last week we spoke about two points, namely:
1. You Inherited a Spiritual legacy from your parents
2. Guard the spiritual legacy
Today we will take the next point:
3. Fan the Flame of Godâ€™s Gift that You Have Received (inherited)
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV)
The Greek word is anaz?pyre?: to kindle up, inflame one's mind, strength, zeal.1 â€œfan into flameâ€ (Most translations)
â€œStir upâ€ (KJV)
â€œFeed the flame of Godâ€™s gift.â€ (John Piper)
â€œYou must bring it back into blazing fire.â€ (N.T. Wright)
Ar/ar/e\ Asdov/o3 barcyvu1
Pray that God will lead me this year to help you know the spiritual gift that was entrusted to you. Thus you will guard it and you will use it for His glory.
Verse 6 speaks about fanning the fire; it does not end there:
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
The Holy Spirit, which will reignite our gift in us, will also help us not to live in fear, but in power, love and self- control.
What was the gift that was entrusted to Timothy? This gift was from God and Timothy needed to fan the gift; otherwise the Spirit will be quenched. (1 Thessalonians 5:19). John Piperâ€™s interpretation of these verses is like this: Timothy, keep feeding the white-hot flame of Godâ€™s gift â€” of unashamed courage to speak openly of Christ and to suffer for the gospel.
In Romans 12:11 Paul says, â€œDo not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11 ESV). Hociow porpokyxe\k1 This was the most quoted verse in my church in Aleppo during my youth. This verse was a reminder of how to be alert in Christian Endeavor, not slothful in zeal but full of Godâ€™s fire.
What was Timothyâ€™s gift? It was preaching, teaching, serving, and leading the congregation. Timothy was young and some did not give attention to his leadership (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul urges the Corinthians not to regard Timothy as a junior and inferior (1 Corinthians 16:10-11). I donâ€™t know which gift Paul is referring to, but Timothyâ€™s gift needs fire that has to be constantly fanned, otherwise it would die. â€œGod makes the flame of his gifts dependent on our feeding, and then makes our feeding dependent on his grace.â€(Piper)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
God gave Timothy the spirit of courage and not fear. This courage is not worldly courage that usually is presented by â€œmighty musclesâ€ and destructive power. God gave Timothy the gift of preaching, teaching, leading, and serving. For God gave him not the spirit of fear, but of constructive power which is courage, the constructive power of love and self-control. God gave Timothy the power to be bold in presenting the gospel even though he could endanger his life. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:8 ESV)
Verse 6 and 7 is the heart of my message.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV)
I want to emphasize this three words Paul uses concerning serving, preaching (using your gift) in power, love and self-control.
This is a dangerous word when it is not controlled. People say â€œpower tends to be corrupt.â€ Just look around and see how much misuse of power has destroyed lives and societies. I am thinking lately the conflict in Syria. (I am sure many of you can name many incidents.) Not only heads of nations can be corrupt, misuse of power in families, churches, work places, marriages can destroy everything.
Yet, we need power to function. It is inevitable and necessary within human relationships. This morning the FAPC congregation from Fresno has arrived. Someone made a decision to organize this trip. Many of you came this morning to worship. You had to have a sense of direction to move, drive, come, involveâ€¦.
â€œAnarchy doesnâ€™t enable people to flourish either as humans or as Christians. The New Testament insists that God intends human authorities to bring order and harmony to the world.â€1
It is a God given gift to know how to lead a congregation. It involves power. CACC, I am your pastor; pastor Greg is your pastor at FAPC. God gave us the power of leadership. But you see I have to come on my knees everyday to remind myself what it means to have power in the church. In the context of todayâ€™s passage, this is the power of courage and not fear. Courage to be bold in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ. This power only God can give us (verse 8). To be sure, it is a powerful courage and a loving courage and a self-controlled courage.
Power without love is dangerous, even demonic. Love without power is a wishy-washy, sentimental love. Courage with Godâ€™s love teaches us to be servant-leaders. Just observe Christ and learn. He washed the feet of his disciples and he was bold and courageous not to give up from death on the cross. He loved his disciples, and he was courageous to teach them the truth. If needed, he rebuked them; other times he encouraged them; other times he ate with them; other times he walked with them in the fields and taught them. He had a self-giving love. People will follow leaders who have a self-giving love.
If you take a gallon of gas and ignite it, it will blow up and be consumed in the fire within seconds. If you take gallon of gas and put it in a car and inject the gas slowly, steadily, and burn it in a controlled way, the care will run for miles. Controlled power is constructive.
Power with love and self-control. Courageous people need to learn self-discipline. Courageous people need to know how to say things, not to say things, restrain their tongue, and be bold when it is needed to be said. Courageous people need to not lie, say the truth, even if it is costly. Christian leadership should not play political games, self- promotion. Those kinds of attitudes tell me that power has been misused for self-gratification and not for Godâ€™s glorification.
In his sermon on beatitudes, Jesus said: â€œBlessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.â€ (Matt 5:5) William Barclay translates meekness as someone who is God-controlled, saying:
â€œO the bliss of the man who is always angry at the right time and never angry at the wrong time, who has every instinct, and impulse, and passion under control because he himself is God-controlled, who has the humility to realize his own ignorance and his own weakness, for such a man is a king among men.â€2
Power, love and self-control are not put in order. All three of them are together. They should not be separated.
4. It is all About His Grace
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV)
How to fan the fire in us?
It is all about His grace.
â€œGod makes the flame of his gifts dependent on our feeding, and then makes our feeding dependent on his grace.â€(Piper)
Not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus. I need His grace everyday to remind me who I am, what am I doing here, and what my purpose in this life is. His grace ignites the fire in me. This is the job of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us His word and promises.
I have to remind this to myself every day. Whenever I learn to give the control to God, I see that His Grace working in me. Whenever I endeavor so people realize that IT IS ME doing His work, I fall in the trap of losing my focus and my purpose. Constantly I should remind myself that I am serving God. I am who I am because of Him.
Paul and the elders laid hands on Timothy (1 Tim 4:14). â€œTimothy, you are an answer of our prayers. You keep fanning the fire in your, you keep focusing on Christ, have courage, the courage of power, love and self-discipline; be alert, God is going to give you a flaming unashamed courage for Christ beyond anything youâ€™ve known.â€
Last Sunday we spoke about your inheritance. I hope you take this very seriously. I pray that you do ask yourself, what has been entrusted to me. Am I keeping it. Am I guarding it? Am I using it?
This Sunday, I am challenging you by fanning the flame of Godâ€™s gift. Do I have a gift from God? Do I fan it? Do I trust that God will give me HIS Grace and will empower me daily to know him and make Him known.
Here is my prayer:
And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32 ESV)
â€œAnd now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself. (NLT)
1 N.T. Wright, Paul for Everyone, the pastoral letters. P84
2 William Barkley, The Daily Study Bible (Matthew) p98
The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.
Imagine a lawyer calls you one day and says: â€œMr. Balabanian, you have inherited an enormous fortune from a man who loves you very much. Please come to sign the papers to receive your inheritanceâ€¦â€
Welcome to Calvary Armenian Church. I have good news for you. Each of you has an inheritance from God. Please make sure you know your inheritance and you claim it. It is yours; it is a â€œgood deposit entrusted to you,â€ given to you; you should guard it and invest it by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Since 2005, the leadership of the Calvary Armenian Congregational Church has been presenting you the following biblical themes. Plug In; Know Christ and Make Him Known; A Renewing Mind; Reach out and Love Someone; Restore the Joy; Abide in Meâ€¦Bear Fruit; Be Transformedâ€¦Into His Image; Grow Downward, Upward, Inward, and Outward. Priorities: First Things First; You are Called, Lord use me.
Three verses inspired me to present to you our main theme for this year:
But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. (2 Timothy 1:12 ESV)
By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:14 ESV)
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)
Our fragile bodies, the jars of clay that can shatter anytime, contain a treasure. We are entrusted with a precious treasure. We should guard the good deposit that is entrusted to us.
What is that Treasure?
Paul clarifies in 2 Corinthians that Jesus Christ is the treasure in us. Our treasure is Jesus Christ himself. He gives us spiritual treasures:Â salvation, love, hope, purpose, grace, a holy life, a holy calling, the gospel, preaching, teaching, serving... the list can go on...
During the year, I would love to go over important topics that can describe our spiritual legacy, exactly what we have inherited. Today, I would like to take 2nd Timothy first chapter and find out what Paul is teaching to young Timothy.
Paul is encouraging this young man to stay firm in his walk with the Lord. Paul also wants Timothyâ€™s gift to be reignited.
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christâ€¦ (typical of his greetings)â€¦grace and mercy and peace from God the father and Jesus Christ our Lord (2 Tim 1:1)
First things First.
Grace is what God gives us that we do not deserve, and mercy withholds what we do deserve.
His Grace and Mercy allow us to be who we are. His Grace and Mercy give us the opportunity to start a new church year. His Grace and Mercy allow us to inherit the spiritual legacy.
Illustration: A treasure box: includes my motherâ€™s prayer, Dadâ€™s piano music. Dadâ€™s real to real tape for recording, my churchâ€™s youth groupâ€™s bible,
Let me show you this stove picture. In Lebanon, particularly in Ainjar, we did not have central heating. We had this stove that used diesel fuel.
It worked slowly. First you needed to ignite a small paper and with drops of diesel a small fire started in the stove; you needed to look over the stove to see it was burning slowly and gradually getting better and higher. Sometimes the drops of the fuel would slow down. Then we needed to adjust the speed of the drops so the fire would be ignited longer and better. (next week)
It seems Timothy our young preacher needed to be reminded of what has been entrusted to him; especially there was persecution, imprisonment, and suffering. Some even did not want to affiliate with Paul who is in prison.
1. You Inherited a Spiritual legacy from your parents
We all have a heritage and legacy. Your last name and even first name tells something. We received a legacy from our family. If you were born Armenian or any other ethnicity you received and pass on your national legacy. Sometimes we are proud of some those values, and sometimes we are not so proud.
Likewise we inherit a spiritual legacy. That means, either from your household, or someone in your community introduced you to your spiritual legacy, I mean of course Christian legacy. We all had in our lives people who helped us mature in our Christian walk: parents, a grandmother or grandfather, a minister, a teacher, a friendâ€¦
Timothy too had a family who had a great influence in his faith:
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:3-5 ESV)
It looks like Lois the grandmother and Eunice the mother both accepted Christ and they passed to their grandson and son a sincere faith.
Who helped you to understand what your spiritual legacy is? Do you have a spiritual legacy? Do you know what your spiritual legacy is? Do you want to know what you inherited?
We as CACC leadership will do everything possible to pass the Christian legacy to you and your family. Best education starts at home. The pastor and the Sunday school teachers will try their best; but if you are not feeding your child at home, I am not sure church programs are enough to pass the spiritual legacy to your children.
My motherâ€™s faith and prayer life have had a major effect on my walk with the Lord. He disciplined prayer life was example to me to trust God. I am the answer of her prayer life.
2. Guard the spiritual legacy
What is the spiritual legacy?
God has given us spiritual treasures:Â salvation, love, hope, purpose, grace, a holy life, a holy calling, the gospel, preaching, teaching, serving... the list can go on...
The Lord has deposited the gospel within us. In other words, He has entrusted it to us. This is an important responsibility.
How can you guard such a valuable thing?
You cannot do it alone. God has his part in guarding it in us; you have your part in knowing your spiritual legacy and using it, sharing it, learning more about it, praying about itâ€¦ God will empower you every day with His Spirit to continue growing in your faith and character. We can only fulfill our duty towards the gospel inasmuch as He empowers us to do so.
For 11 years and now I started with you the 12th year, I keep insisting that you become part of a small group at the church. Why?
Some of you believe in Sunday worship service. That is great. On Sundays we worship together. God wants us to stop working on the seventh day and dedicate a day to worship Him and rest.
On Sundays we worship in a large group.
During the week we have fellowship and growth in small groups.
You need a large group to worship and a small group to fellowship and grow. (Rick Warren)
If you donâ€™t grow, you will remain a baby. It is not good to have grown up babies.
You will not grow alone. No baby can grow alone. All of us were once babies; someone helped us grow. In the same way, the church has small groups, who are your spiritual families. You cannot have fellowship alone.
â€œChristâ€™s Body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole Body is healthy and growing and full of love.â€ Eph 4:16 (NLT)
Let me give you some statistics from the CA Department of Mental Health:
The California Department of Mental Health did a study and discovered that if you isolate yourself from others and you donâ€™t develop close friendships like in a small group, you are three times more likely to die an early death. Youâ€™re four times more likely to suffer emotional burnout. Youâ€™re five times more likely to be clinically depressed. And youâ€™re 10 times more likely to be hospitalized for an emotional or mental disorder. (Rick Warren)
What are you waiting for? When you go to Halajian Hall, you will see that our leadership group has prepared a creative way to help you be connected, be part of a small group so you can study the Bible, learn, talk, share, have fellowship, pray togetherâ€¦be accountable to each other.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement (guard) your faith with virtue, (So donâ€™t lose a minute in building on what youâ€™ve been given,) (Message translation) and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)
I am afraid some of you donâ€™t know your spiritual legacy. Some of you know it but kept it â€œunder the dustâ€. Some of you are still searching. Whatever your condition is, we want you to come closer to God and learn to guard your spiritual legacy.
3. Ignite the gift you have received (inherited)
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, (2 Timothy 1:6 ESV)
The Greek word is anaz?pyre?: to kindle up, inflame one's mind, strength, zeal. â€œfan into flameâ€ (Most translations)
â€œStir upâ€ (KJV)
â€œFeed the flame of Godâ€™s gift.â€ (John Piper)
â€œYou must bring it back into blazing fire.â€ (N.T. Wright)
Pray that God will lead me this year to help you to make sure you now your spiritual legacy, you guard it, and you use it for his glory
Let us approach the table with this spirit. Guard the deposit, fan the flame.
I arrive to the final two characters from the lesser-known personalities of the Bible. Let me start with Joanna who appears twice in the Gospel of Luke (chapters 8 and 24).
Joanna means, â€œJehovah hath shown favorâ€ or â€œThe Lord is graceâ€. She was married to king Herodâ€™s household manager called Chuza. There were many Herods. This was Herod Antipas the king of the Jews from 4 BC to 39 BC.
It seems Jesus had healed Joanna. We read that Mary Magdalene had been healed from evil spirits. I am not sure if Joanna had the same problem, but she was listed as one of the ladies who were healed by Jesus. One thing is clear that she became a dedicated follower of Jesus at all costs.
Please notice the background. She is the wife of an important man from the court of Herod Antipas. Joanna knew very well how Herod felt about Jesus. Herodâ€™s father was Herod the Great who tried to kill Jesus at birth. In fact, he killed all the male babies under two years old, so that no new king would be born. Herod was living in extreme paranoia. He even killed his own wife and his two oldest sons, so that no one would take his throne. His son Herod Antipas was no better than his father. He was the one who beheaded John the Baptist. Herod was in panic regarding Jesus. In Matthew 14, we read that Herod thought Jesus was the incarnation of John the Baptist. At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, â€œThis is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in himâ€ (Matthew 14:1-2 ESV). It is very probable that Joanna and her husband were among those servants mentioned in this chapter.
Both Chuza and Joanna had witnessed all this in the court. Yet nothing stopped Joanna from becoming one of Jesusâ€™ disciples.
1. She provided for the ministry of Jesus. It was risky.
â€¦ and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means (Luke 8:3 ESV).
How could Joanna, a woman, support Jesus? I wonder if Chuza knew about his wifeâ€™s faith. I wonder if he was believer as well, but worked silently by backing his wifeâ€™s ministry to Jesus. It had to be that way, or he would have divorced his wife and Joanna would have been free from married life. I donâ€™t think so. Why does Luke mention Joannaâ€™s husbandâ€™s name, and Chuzaâ€™s position in the court? It looks like both Joanna and Chuza took the risk by supporting Jesus financially.
2. She was one of the women who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus.
and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles (Luke 24:9-10 ESV).
Joanna was among the last at the cross, was among the first to witness the empty tomb, and was among the first to proclaim that the Lord whom she loved dearly was raised indeed. She saw the empty tomb with the other women. She also witnessed to others of what she saw. The women were the ones who told the story of the empty tomb. She loved Jesus so much that she wanted to go to the tomb first. When the other disciples were afraid, she took the initiative to go in the morning. She went mourning; she came back rejoicing.
To be continued in English
1 John 3:1-8
3. She witnessed for Jesus Anywhere.
We read in Acts 13 names of people who believed in Jesus. â€œNow there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.â€ (Acts 13:1 ESV). I wonder if Joanna and Chuza who were in Herodâ€™s court had anything to do with Manaenâ€™s conversion, a good friend of Herodâ€™s.
4. She was one of the â€œOtherâ€ women
Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles (Luke 24:9-10 ESV).
Who were those other women Joanna was associating with? Joanna was from the court, a wife of an important man. She was with Mary Magdalene, a woman possessed by evil spirits, Mary the mother of Jesus, a poor woman usually accused of pregnancy without marriage. She was supporting the disciples of Jesus who were fishermen Andrew, Peter, James & John, and tax collectors like Matthew. She had the financial means and she used it with others who were not like her. How wonderful is that when we meet Jesus social classes are broken! Through Jesus we all are the beloved children of God.
(Application will be at end of the sermon)
Let me move to our final character in this series:
One of the existing futures of Google maps is you can zoom in to a particular address. You can see the general map of the continent, country, city, street, and finally the house at the address you are looking for.
The letters of John have a similar order. The first letter is addressed to any church, most likely to the western part of ancient Asia Minor, todayâ€™s Turkey. In the second letter, it is clear that John is writing to a particular church. Though he does not mention the name of the church yet it seems he has met them. He is writing to the leadership of the church and congratulating them for walking in the truth (2 John 4). John zooms in by writing third letter to a particular person, namely Gaius.1 We donâ€™t know much about this man. We donâ€™t know which church he comes from. We read about his life only in the first eight verses of this third letter. One thing we know- Gaius walks in the truth.
Let me tell you the name Gaius appears else in the Bible, three times.2 Gaius is a common name; there is no reason to identify with any of those names.
What can we learn from this man?
1. Gaius walks in the truth
The author John writes this letter and uses the word â€œtruthâ€ five times in this short passage. â€œâ€¦whomÂ I love inÂ truthâ€¦.testified to yourÂ truthâ€¦ as indeed you are walking in the truthâ€¦my children are walking in theÂ truthâ€¦that we may be fellow workers for theÂ truth.â€
John explains in the second letter that the church was walking in the truth. Now this man Gaius was walking in the truth. Why all this emphasis on the truth? What is the truth?
Truth al?thea according to lexicon (definition):
A. what is true in any matter under consideration: truth, fact, realityâ€¦
B. what is true in things appertaining to God and the duties of man, moral and religious truth.
C. the truth as taught in the Christian religion, respecting God and the execution of his purposes through Christ, and respecting the duties of man, opposing alike to the superstitions of the Gentiles and the inventions of the Jews, and the corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers even among Christians.3
Truth in my words are something is not changing, it always true, certain, reliable, and trustworthy.
Gravity is a reality. It can change in another atmosphere, of course.
Death is a reality. It is true.
Christ is the truth. He said: â€œI am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.â€ (John 14:6)
We find John is delighted that Gaius is walking in the truth. Brothers came to him and testified that this man was walking in the truth. This man has integrity. What kind of truth? This is not just any truth; Gaius is walking in Christ. Gaius is acting in integrity which â€œembodies the truth of the gospel itself. We can take it that this involves not just correct doctrine and proper outward behavior, but that love for God and for oneâ€™s fellow believers which, for John, is the sign that the truth of the gospel has really been grasped, not as an abstract idea but as what it is, the very life of God himself at work in his people.â€4
When Christ is oneâ€™s truth, it will reflect in that personâ€™s behavior and personality.
2. As result of the truth, Gaius loved hospitality.
Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. (3 John 1:5-6 ESV)
Traveling missionaries did not stay in inns. Christians opened their homes for people. I was raised that way, and I keep that lifestyle in my household.
How far we are today from this lifestyle? Our individualism and comfort became very important. We do not bother each other.
Illustration: Sevan and I have witnessed peopleâ€™s hospitality. People have always opened their homes to us. People have given us their beds. People have shared their meal with us. People have driven us around when I needed a ride. People have opened their hearts to us and we have become part of their families.
Last month I was invited to Kansas to share about Syria. The hosts could easily put us in a hotel. They opened their home to us. We had a great time in listening to each other. We had time to pray for each other. We witnessed a problem where they needed our support to help them.
Walking in the truth was not just an abstract concept. Gaius demonstrated that in his life. Because he loved Jesus and because he walked in the truth, he was hospitable.
I will stress this. Hospitality can become a dangerous idol if we do not know why we are doing it. Truth should be our motivation. Christ is our motivation. Without Christ, your hospitality can turn to a source of bitterness. You become tired, bitter and angry, blaming no one else does it.
Application from Joanna and Gaius:
1. What does it mean to support a ministry? Some do financially, others by offering their time or talents. What is your contribution literally to the work of God in the church and outside the church?
2. Joanna who was from the upper class joined the lower class of the society. Christ bonds them. Besides having friends from your community and background, can you also be open to associate with others who are not like you. Can you see how Christ can bond us.
3. Am I walking in the truth? Am I really walking in Christ which reflects my moral behavior? Sometimes the best place people hide their sins is the church itself.
The late C. S. Lewis was a most perceptive writer. In his book "The Screwtape Letters", he imagines he is listening to a speech given by a senior devil in Hell itself. The subject is "Religion on Earth". The devil goes on to say "It can still send us the truly delicious sins, the fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the holy. Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar."
Let me finish with NT Wright
Truth, as always in John, is not simply a fact or a quality. It is an energy, a power, the living and dynamic quality that transforms people, communities and ultimately the world. We are privileged to be caught up in the work of Truth, turning our misguided and often wicked world into a place where once again the creator God is honored and glorified. And this collaboration in the work of the Truth comes right down to the practical details of a meal, a bed for the night, and a good start in the morning.5
1. N.T. Wright, The Early Christian Letters. p 184
2. There was Gaius the Macedonian who along with Paul at the riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:29); there was Gaius of Debre, who was the delegate of his church to convey the collection for the poor of Jerusalem (Acts 20:4); there was Gaius of Corinth who had been Paulâ€™s host. He was such a hospitable soul that he could be called the host of the whole church (Romans 16:23); Paul personally baptized him (1 Corinthians 1;14). William Barkley The Daily Study Bible (John and Jude) p148
4. N.T. Wright p184
5. ibid p 185