“PEACE”… we’ve all used the term, we all want it, but most of us not only do not have it, we don’t even know how to get it. Click link below for a powerful 24 minute message Pastor Dan Borgelt gave last Christmas Sunday morning. I’ve transcribed his delightful opening about a childhood Christmas Sunday morning where he had the opposite of peace.
Just 24 minutes to PEACE… Audio: [24:16]
“I remember as a child one particular Christmas that was extremely un-peaceful in my life. It happen to be on a similar occasion such as this where Christmas fell on a Sunday. My parents got the brilliant idea that it would be more honoring to God if we waited to open our Christmas presents till after church.
I grew up in a family where on Christmas morning, we’d wake up, and my father had taken a mattress and put it in the hallway to barricade our way to the Christmas tree, so that not only could we not get to it, but we couldn’t even see the presents under the tree.
When it was time, my two older sisters and I would plow down the mattress, trip over each other, and run to the tree. And now all the sudden, in one year they say, “Let’s wait till after church” 🙂 .
Now, I really liked the pastor but that morning every word he said just made me so furious… he said, “And now I have another point…” and I’m just thinking the whole time, like, “I_DON’T_CARE” 🙂
That particular Christmas was everything but peaceful for me, and sort of ironic. In the middle of this Christmas story there is this announcement from heaven itself that says…
“With Christmas comes PEACE.”.
And so this morning I want to talk to you about the the peace that is available to us because Christmas happened
I get a little nervous using the word ‘peace’ and making a whole subject of a sermon about it, because peace is sort of an eroding word in our culture today. I mean we don’t really use the word peace anymore.
If someone says the word peace we think of someone saying, “Hey, like peace man”… like a hippy.
Or maybe some of us might walk past someone and after we finish talking to them will say “peace”, or something like that, and really what we mean is sort of “see you later”.
But we don’t have any real rich understanding of what it means to have peace.
This morning I want to talk to you about the idea of “Three-fold Peace” that the Christmas story talks about.
First and most importantly peace with GOD.
Second this idea of peace with OURSELVES, or inner peace,
And then finally peace with OTHERS as well. All of that because Jesus was born.”
LARRY’S NOTE: I’ve not the time to transcribe it all, but here’s a few more juicy slices from this superb sermon. To get the full impact of this message, please listen to it all (link below).
First… “Peace with God”, it’s the most important one. Peace with God is not a given… there is such a thing as NOT being at peace with God.
The Scripture tells us that our previous existence, our default setting from our birth, is NOT to be at peace with him, but instead is says to be alienated from God as his enemy.
So what has changed? What has happened that this army of God is now offering a message of peace. And of course the answer is Jesus’ birth.. He is the key to our peace with God.
However, this Peace with God doesn’t automatically come upon us simply because Jesus has been born. No, the Scripture is clear and says, “Peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
And those “whom on his favor rests” are those who enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ then you have ultimately rejected God’s offer for peace with you… you have no more peace with God than if Christ had never been born in the first place.
If you are interest in having peace with God, the perfect place to start is with a basic prayer that simply says,
“God, I want to have a relationship with your Son Jesus Christ.”
LARRY’S NOTE: Ya gotta hear his “It takes two to tango” illustration and how it’s not always true… how ‘Isis’ in our world tells us that you can have a lock of peace with only one side who’s willing to fight.
A LACK of peace is more natural… In fact, it takes two to have peace, not not the other way around.
There are a lot of people who THINK that they are at peace with God… they don’t have a problem with God, no real issues with him, they’re pretty OK with the life that he’s given them… so they would say,
“Yeah I’m at peace with God, I don’t have any problems with Him, but it takes TWO to have peace with one another, and so you should be asking yourself the question,
“How is my standing with God?” … is God all right with me; and the only way to answer that question in the affirmative, is to say, “I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, my life is hidden in him… God’s offer for peace with him.”
There’s a lot of people out there who think they have peace with God, but who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and therefore they’ve rejected God’s peace offering, and even though they’re OK with God he’s not OK with them–there’s no peace between them and God.
And to a degree, that works in the reverse as well… there are some who have a relationship with Jesus Christ… who God has declared you righteous… as his children, he has adopted you into his family; you are a Child of God, He is at complete peace with you, but maybe you grew up in a church environment where you heard: THE LAW and GUILT and SHAME, far more than GRACE and FORGIVENESS… and so you cannot accept the peace that he’s offering you to its fullest degree.
PEACE WITH OURSELVES and OTHERS
Peace with God is not the only type of piece that the Christmas story alludes to the Kingdom of God coming to earth and he’s going make life the way it was meant to be in the first place–that someday we will experience life the way God intended it to be… that someday we will be able to have complete peace with ourselves and peace with others.
The lack of peace that we feel inside and the lack of peace that we have with others is not the way that God designed life.
It’s important to realize that these 3 “peaces” are in this order for a reason: Peace with GOD; then
Peace with OURSELVES; and then
Peace with OTHERS.
They’re in that order because that’s the order in which they need to happen in our lives. It’s not possible to have true inner peace with yourself without having peace with God. It’s not possible to have peace with others unless you have peace with yourself, and peace with God.
There’s an order in which these things have to happen.
The first and most important relationship to get right is our relationship with God; and once we have peace with God then we can consider the idea of having peace with ourself as well.
If we’re still walking around, and we feel guilty about something we’ve done in the past, if we’re still carrying the burden and the shame, and is still causing a hindrance in our relationship with God… then there’s no way we’re going to ever move on to having peace with ourselves.
But once we reconcile with God and we trust in Christ, and we trust in our standing with God, we can start talking about having peace with ourselves as well.
“INNER PEACE” is a term that gets misconstrued by other religions. and and society, but it has a Biblical definition as well.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
LARRY’S NOTE: THE FOLLOWING IS REALLY IMPORTANT !!!
The Scripture is telling us that when we get our relationship with God right, all the things that come our way, that normally would have robbed us of our peace–an economic situation, a relational problem, a health situation… whatever it might be… all the things that would’ve robbed us of our peace we can take all of that and give it to God, once you make peace with Him.
And that will allow you, it says, for the peace of God then to come and to “GUARD YOUR HEART” <3. What a beautiful expression.
So some of us don’t have peace with ourself because we don’t have peace with God.
And if you don’t have peace WITH God, then you’re not going to receive peace FROM God.
The Scripture tells us that we can receive an immense amount of peace from God once our relationship with him is right, and we start taking our daily situations and circumstances to Him in PRAYER.
For those who don’t have peace with yourself even though you have peace with God, it’s because you haven’t heeded the wisdom of Philippians 4:6,7… you do not have peace with yourself, you do not have inner peace but you already have access to the relationship of the One who can give you that.. and the Scripture saying, “Go to him”.
You have a problem in your life and your default option is to try to fix it yourself. And the Scripture saying, ‘no take all of those things that would threaten your peace, and bring them to the one whom you have a relationship with in Jesus Christ’… and you will have peace with yourself–He will give it to you.
PEACE WITH OTHERS
Again, the order of these “peaces” is key, because we cannot have peace with others unless we have peace with ourself, and we can’t have peace with ourself unless we have peace with God.
When Jesus shows up, He begins moving his followers in the direction of restoring the Kingdom of God. And our broken relationships with one another are part of the things that’s going to be restored. And so he starts asking his followers to live in such a way that we begin to restore in the Kingdom of God, and one of the way we do that is to be committed to living at PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER.
Scripture tells us then ultimately, in Revelation 21:4, that one day God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain…”
Just think about all the ways that those things have come through broken relationships… He says, “But that’s all going to be over with… “for the old order of things has passed away.”
God will ultimately some day, usher in the full Kingdom of God, which will not only give us a full measure of peace with HIM, a full measure of peace with OURSELVES, but also a full measure of peace with OTHERS as well.”
Just 24 more minutes to PEACE… Complete Audio: [24:16]
Pastor Dan and Amanda with their 3 biological children and recently adopted son Noah
Pastor Dan Borgelt:
“I will admit, that I was looking for the opportunity to plan a series where I might be able organically, naturally share with you,some of our experiences in China over the last few weeks… and I would say above all the things that we experienced, one of the things that stood out to me the most, certainly the funniest, was seeing all the English translations of various things.
TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: This 3 minute introduction to the sermon is best heard… well, actually heard LIVE with projected pictures, but since there is no video, listening to the audio and his word picture description does the justice that my transcription here alone would not. To hear this omitted part of the transcript, please go to audio [00:00:27 to 00:03:56] – IT IS VERY FUNNY 🙂
CONTINUED from recording @ [00:03:56]
“My wife Amanda was in a store doing some souvenir shopping, and I was sitting out with our guide, and I had our adopted son Noah… and this Chinese girl came walking down with a T-shirt that really caught my attention, because I had only one word across the front of it and it said,
It got my attention, and Istarted to kind of fumble towards her when I realized I needed a translator… so I started to look for the translator, and I wanted to tell the translator like, “Get her attention, stop her, I want to talk to her about her T-shirt, and the Chinese girl stopped, seeing all that I was doing, and she said to me in perfect English, “Can I help you?” (LAUGHTER)
And I said, “Oh, you speak English?” She said, “Yes,” and I said “Ijust noticed your shirt…” and she said “Yes, I was adopted.”
And so I showed her Noah, and told her we were there forthe adoption purpose… and then I realized she was there with her Caucasian, American sister who was walking with her. They were there with their parents, and they were adopting two more younger childrenfrom China.
And so we talked about that for a brief, pleasant conversation… but as she was walking away, I noticed the back of her T-shirt which had these words on it,
“Inlove he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
And I thought, what a beautiful example of how there is PHYSICAL adoption and then there is SPIRITUAL adoption, and how there are so many parallels between the two of them… and from that point on I knew I definitely wanted to preach about this topic for the next couple weeks.
See… indeed, I want to talk to you about spiritual adoption, and draw many parallels between that and physical adoption.
And I love the fact that the T-shirt quote I read you is from the Bible; it’s from the Book of Ephesians 1:5.
And I just love when God… don’t you lovewhen God takes a concept that we’re familiar with… that’s sort of tangible to us… and he uses that concept to describe a far more profound spiritual reality in our lives.
And that’s what he does with the word adoption. He takes this idea that many of us can kind of grasp, whether we’ve done it or not, we can kind of relate to it, and understand some of it’s concepts… and he uses it to describe our relationship with HIM in this passage of Scripture.
So what I want to do is talk to you about the Adoption Process this week. How do we go about getting adopted spiritually? And then next week, I want to talk to you about the Adopted Life— how does that change the way we live our life with each other, and with God, if we have indeed been adopted into his family.
But for this week we want to talk about the adoption process, and looking at four points from this passage of Scripture:
The adoption Need
The adoption Work
The adoption Cost and
The adoption Faith
…all subcategories of the adoption process.
How do we go about getting adopted into the family of God?
First, the Adoption Need
I want to read the above passage of Scripture in its context and walk through it a little bit with you… but we don’t even really need to do that to talk about the adoption need. Because we’ve already read that in Ephesians 1:5 the word adoption occurs.
The word adoption implies so much… it implies that there was a previous reality in someone’s life.
We could talk about Noah’s adoption, we could say, “Oh, he’s now part of our family and he has a mom and dad and siblings, and a nice house, and a big yard, and church family…” and we could all focus on that side of the adoption…
But the fact that he had to be adopted implies that there was a previous life for him too… doesn’t it?
The doctor told us this past week at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, that he was probably prematurely born. That he probably experienced a period of time where he was severely malnourished. We know that he was abandoned. We saw where he was abandoned by his biological mother… we saw that place, it was not a place you’d want to walk around at night, let alone have a baby there by themselves.
We know he went from there to living in an orphanage where he was one of like three hundred kids, and then eventually got a foster mom… and I would think by the time he had a foster mom in this sort of foster home, it was about as good a situation as an orphan could have, but we still would have looked at it and thought, “Wow, this is really bleak.”
He’s adopted and it’s a thing to celebrate
… but the reality is that because he was adopted, he_had_a_previous_reality_as_well… a previous life.
Noah was not born into our family, and the word adopted implies that reality.
So what does that mean when God says we’ve been adopted into his family?
It implies the same thing… that we are not naturally born into the family of God.
If you’re counting on the idea that you are a child of God because you heard that all the children in the world are God’s children and that they’re all just naturally God’s children, and you’re a child of God because of it… you haven’t done anything really wrong to mess it up...that_is_not_what_the_Scripture_teaches.
The Scripture, by saying we must be adopted into the family, is implying that that is not the natural family that we are born into… that is not the natural state that we are born into.
Noah wasn’t born into our family, he had to be adopted, and the Bible is saying the same thing: “We are not born into the family of God, we must be adopted into the family of God”.
So what is our previous life?
If that was Noah’s previous life, what is ours?
There are so many passages of Scripture that we could look at that describe our previous life as being a bleak state before our adoption, but the most clear one is right here in Ephesians… just one chapter over in Chapter two starting in verse one the Scripture tells us this:
Made Alive in Christ “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of God’s wrath” (not Children of God).
You see the Scripture teaches us, “We’re not born into the family of God”… that whole idea that exists out there is a lie… and it’s a lie of Satan, because one of the greatest lies of Satan is to convince you that you are better off than you really are before you are adopted.
One of the other greatest lies a Satan is to convince you that you’re worse off than you really are after you’re adopted, but we’ll talk about that next week.
But for this week one of the greatest lies of Satan is to convince you that you’re better off than you really are before you’ve been adopted. Satan is telling you, “You’re OK, you’re just fine… you were born into the family of God… you’ve been a good person, you’re all right… so many people have been way worse than you, surely you’re part of the family of God.”
He wants to elevate your confidence and your standing in him, and it hasn’t happened yet… you haven’t actually been adopted… he wants to remove the need for adoption.
But the first point I want to make from this passage, the Biblical point is, there is an adoption need as a part of this adoption process, and that’s what I think the Scripture is teaching us here.
The Adoption Work
Not only is there an adoption need, but there is also the adoption work as well. And to uncover the adoption work, I want to just go back and re-read that passage of Scripture in Ephesians 5, and I want to read it in its context, and I want to ask you a simple question as we’re about to read this passage.
There’s a lot of stuff in this passage; we could preach on it for weeks. There’s a lot of rabbit trails that we could go down with this passage… it has some controversial words like predestination, and some other stuff in there that we might disagree on… but I’m hoping that with this one question, we will be able to agree, by the time we finish reading it.
And that is…
When it comes to the adoption process, who is doing the majority of the work?
Is God? … does God do the majority of the work? … do we need to do the majority of the work? …or do we somehow meet halfway?
What are you counting on in your life?
Let’s hear this passage of Scripture and I want you just to ask yourself who does the majority of the work… who’s the active agent in this adoption process?
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,”
I think we can pause there. So let me just ask you the question… when it comes to this passage of Scripture,
Who is the more active agent in the adoption process… God or us?
Yeah. If you read this passage of Scripture with any level of open mindedness. You’d have to say Godis the active agent in it. Don’t get all caught up in some of the other words that we might disagree about or argue about… I think we can be united in the reality that if we’re going to understand the adoption process we’re going to have to embrace the idea that the adoption process is primarily done_by_God.
Which means… if we’re going to be adopted by God, if we’re going to understand our adoption, we’re going to have to stop trusting in our character and start trusting in God’s character.
We’re going to have to stop trusting in what we’ve done, what we’re doing, and what we’re going to do… and we have to start trusting in what God has done what he’s doing and what he’s going to do.
We have to shift from ourselves over to God and embrace the reality. That the Scripture says we need to be adopted, but that God is the one doing the work.
– – – – – – –
We’ve all heard stories about children who are trying to be adopted, and we hear about the work that they do to try to be adopted. They know prospective parents are coming by, and they clean themselves up, and pretty themselves up, and try to be on the best of their behavior, because they’ve seen their friends be adopted, and they just want to join that fold.
And we think about it in those terms. Then we think, “Oh, the person being adopted does the work.” But we have to realize that that’s actually not the big picture.
In the majority of cases, and certainly with international adoption, parents choose their child without ever having met them before. We see a few pictures and a little bio, but for the most part it has nothing to do with the child at all.
Instead the parents are left with the responsibility to pay for the adoption, to do all the paperwork, to do the travel. They’re the ones that go and pick up the child… the one doing the adopting does the work, not the person being adopted.
And it’s true Spiritually as well. God is the one doing the adopting and he does the work not us.
And I want you to just rest in that… to find peace in that reality… to let that wash over you.. and say, “You know what… maybe I can take a deep breath… and stop acting like this poor orphan child trying to get God’s attention, trying to become pleasing enough to be brought into his family,” … because it’s not about your character… it’s not about what you’ve done and what you haven’t done. It’s about God’s character, He’s the one doing the adoption work… rest in his character. Rest in that reality.
So not only is there a NEED for adoption, but there’s also the adoption WORK, and thirdly, there’s the adoption COST.
The Adoption Cost
In natural adoption there’s obviously a significant cost involved. It varies depending on what country, whether you’re adopting domestically or internationally, etc.
When we were in China, I got sort of the nerve to ask one of the other American families who were with us, adopting as well, how much their adoption had cost. They were with a different agency and I was just kind of wondering, had we kind of gone rogue, or were we experiencing the norm?
He said, “Well… we’re probably at about the forty five thousand dollars mark”, and I said, “Yeah I think that’s right about where we are.”
And I just want to pause there and say, we could not have made that happen without you, and some of our other family. So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts; this child here is made possible because of our church family. So thank you.
But when I compare that cost, as outrageous as it sounds, I have to remind myself that we left with three kids and came back with four–we gained a child. But the Gospel tells us that God gave his one and only Son… that He lost a child in the adoption process that it cost him not forty five thousand dollars, but it cost him everything.
In Ephesians 1:7 the Scripture tells us this,
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,”
That’s what it cost God to adopt us into this family.. His one and only Son’s blood… and he paid the price.
And it didn’t begin just with the Cross… the Cross was the culmination of it. It began really with the Incarnation.
When Christ left Heaven and became fully human and fully divine he began paying the price for our redemption.
And by the way, as sort of a side bar, as he was about to be born, GodtoldJoseph, what? Basically, he told him to adopt his son… in essence saying, “I know this isn’t your child, but bring him into your home and treat him like he’s one of your children.”
– – – – – – –
So it began with the Incarnation.
It cost him… every time he stood up to the face of temptation… the type of temptation that we have given in to repeatedly in our lives, that he said “no” to. The cost continued, and then finally he willingly offered his body and his blood as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
It cost him everything.
The adoption NEED… the adoption WORK… the adoption COST…and then finally,
The Adoption FAITH.
Now as I talk to you about the adoption faith, I’m bringing up this subject because I didn’t want to leave you thinking that there’s no expectation from God in you in this adoption process.
So here’s what the Scripture says in In Ephesians 2:8-9
“by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
So the Scripture says it’s been by grace that we’ve been saved through faith.
Repeatedly in the Bible, there’s a relationship between our having faith and God’s grace.
Now God’s grace is this idea that it’s unmerited favor… it’s the idea that he will treat us better than we deserve.
So when God puts grace and faith together in the same passage like this, what he’s essentially saying to you and I is, “We ought to have faith in God’s character, in God’s grace.“
Our being adopted relies on us trusting that God will treat us better than we deserve. Not counting on the fact that he will treat us how we deserve…the last thing we want is God to treat us justly.
What we desperately need is for God to treat us, mercifully with graciousness.
So we have faith in the gracious character of God that he will treat us better than we deserve.
Now that’s a reality… we have to have that faith; we have to place that faith in Jesus Christ.
But notice what the passage of Scripture says.
In keeping with our theme that God is the active person in all this… in keeping with our theme that this is about God’s character and not our character the Scripture says this,
“by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
… there’s nothing to boast about at all in this whole process. It’s all about the character of God.
You know… about week two into our time in China, we were in this last city that we were in for the last week… and one of our kids’ favorite pastimes was that when we didn’t have something that we had to be going and doing… in the afternoon, while Amanda was putting Noah down, I would take the kids to the pool.
And one of the days while we were there at the pool, I sort of got this illustration in my mind… it was an illustration about how God adopts us through His grace… and us just trusting in him, placing our faith in His grace…
…and it was this idea of someone who was drowning in a pool, struggling in a pool, and someone diving in and rescuing them.
And I had that thought… and I had it three days in a row… I had this sort of illustration come to my mind. And each time it came to my mind I kind of pushed it back away… like, “Actually that’s not good enough God… that’s just not going to work, because it’s just an illustration… it’s not a real story.”
And real life events and stories work so much better than me just telling you about… “imagine if somebody was drowning…”
So… (light laughter)… the last day we were at the pool… I was there with my kids, and there was only a couple other people at the pool… it was an outdoor pool… a big nice outdoor pool.
There’s a shallow end, and a deep end… and our kids were in the shallow end, and I was just sitting in a chair along the side of the pool because I need to keep an eye on Levi still when he swims…
…and so anyways I was there watching our kids… and I saw this six year old Chinese girl who was swimming in the middle of the deep end… and as she was swimming, she stopped… her forward momentum stopped.
… and if you’re not a good swimmer, you know that could be a bad thing. And she started kind of standing up vertically… and she started sort of bobbing… and she starting to kind of kick and splash.
…and she made a noise as she was doing that.. I don’t know what she said, or what kind of noise… but it caused me to stand up on the edge of the pool, like this girl’s in trouble.
And then she went under the water and came back up and she yelled out for help. I thought she was yelling out for her father… he was in the deep end, on the opposite side of the deep though… already in the water, and he saw her and he started to swim towards her… but I mean.. he clearly hasn’t watched Michael Phelps swim at all (LAUGHTER)…
I mean he was kind of dog paddling himself… he wasn’t making real good time, ya know… and I was confident that he was going to save her life, but to what.. trauma.
I mean because she’s already starting to go under, and he’s getting there kind of slow, and I’m a dive into the pool away.
And so I’ve got my shoes and khaki shorts and shirt on, and I just dove into the pool, and I came up and grabbed her in one arm, and started to swim with the other arm, and he was still just a few feet away… and he started immediately saying, “Thank you.”
And I asked the girl, “Are you OK?” And she said, “Thank you.” And then the mom came over and said, “Thank you”… and the lifeguard, who knows where he was, but he said, “Thank you”.
I was kind of expecting like a bottle of wine in our hotel room… (LAUGHTER) or something like that… but nothing like that happened.
Anyway so we get her to shore, and all the “Thank yous”, and it kind of moved on.. and I first remember thinking, “Next time you tell God, that’s not a good enough illustration… you better be careful” (LAUGHTER).
But… I remember thinking just how neat it was that when I took a hold of her she stopped… she didn’t kick or scream, or anything else anymore.. she just stood still and let me rescue her.
…and apparently, she felt completely at ease in that situation.
– – – – – – –
And that’s what the Bible is saying… we have to have… if we’re going to be adopted into the family of God… we have to have faith in God’s character and his ability to rescue us.
And see here’s the thing… there are some people who are here this morning who are in the deep end… and you’re drowning… and you’re still believing the lie of satan that you’re OK… and you’re not OK.
You haven’t been adopted into the family of God… you weren’t born into the family of God… and you_need_Christ to rescue you…
– – – – – –
Some of you… you’re in the deep end, and you know you’re struggling… you know you’re struggling… but you don’t know who to cry out to.
This passage of Scripture is saying, “Cry out to God’s one and only Son Jesus and be redeemed by His blood”.
– – – – – –
Some of you though… you have cried out to Christ, and you have had him dive in, and he has a hold of you, and he is swimming you to solid ground, and you are still kicking and screaming as if you have to save yourself.
– – – – – – –
And some of you… this is just really bad… He has rescued you years ago, and put you on solid ground, and you’re still over there on the side of the pool… kicking and wailing and screaming as if you are a drowning child … and you are not anymore.
You_are_adopted_into_the_family_of_God. You are a child of God, trust in His character, and his ability to rescue you.
– – – — – –
I’m going to invite our Praise Team to come forward.
We’re going to go ahead and pray and then sing our closing song together.
Father… as our church bows before you, we do so humbly… recognizing that you are God and that we are not… and we thank you for that reality. We confess to you the times that we mix that up… especially when it comes to us being just received by you, both now and for all of eternity.
Will you grant us, as this passage of Scripture says, “The faith to trust in your grace.”
… just to trust in your character… to trust in your adoption process and have the confidence of being your children.
And as we look forward to next week… we invite you to begin working on our heart, and show us what it means to live amongst each other and in relationship to you as your children.
And for those who might be here this morning who feel like they really are drowning in the deep end… and who have never cried out to Jesus Christ–our church prays for them. We’re glad they’re here. But we’re not glad that that’s what’s on their mind and on their heart… we want it to change.
We want them to become part of the family of God, and we pray that you would work on their heart to help them to see their desperate need to be adopted. And their ability to place their faith in your Son, Jesus Christ. We ask these things in his name. Amen.
Part 2: The Adopted Life audio
(no transcription yet)
NOTE: If you listen to audio only, be sure to scroll down for closing music video at bottom of this page.
“Let me ask you as we get started in our time together this morning,
When was the last time that you had a meaningful, faith-based conversation with someone who didn’t exactly share your convictions about faith?
When was the last time that you had it a meaningful faith-based conversation… you know, a conversation about real things, and real life; about faith and religion, and those types of things, with someone who wasn’t exactly on the same page as you?
You know, if you’re like me, the very thought of having such a conversation just absolutely makes you incredibly nervous.
The thought of having a conversation like that makes your heart race perhaps, or your palms begin to sweat a little bit, maybe even your voice begins to crack — the idea of… having a faith based conversation with someone who has a different belief system than you?
The reason, of course, that we start to feel that way, is because we tend to imagine the worst case scenario. We imagine, “Surely if we talk to someone about our faith we’re going to just be completely rejected by them… they’re going to “unfriend us”, if you will.
They’re going to mock us; they’re going to outwit us, and they will leave the conversation perhaps even more convinced as to why they don’t believe in our faith, because of our conversation with them.
But this video reminds us that God is that work… that he is at work working in people’s lives drawing them to himself. And that there are people out there from all different ages, from all different backgrounds, and all different situations in life, whose lives are broken, and who are ready to have someone come alongside them, and talk to them about matters of faith.
And I want to ask you this morning… I know that when it comes to the topic of sharing our faith, and when it comes to the topic of evangelism, as some of you want to label it… when it comes to this whole topic we tend to imagine the worst case scenario.
But I want to ask you this morning,
Does the best case scenario, outweigh the worst case scenario?
Here we are in the book of Acts, and we’ve been looking through the book of Acts, and seeing people repeatedly sharing their faith, having faith based conversations with people who don’t already believe in what it is that they believe in.
And my guess is that many of those people were really excited, enthusiastic about the opportunity, and there was probably also many of them who were extremely nervous and cautious about that opportunity as well.
Some of them had incredible success in their efforts. Others of them had incredible failures in their efforts, and we’re going to look at that and see that together in our Scripture this morning.
I want to talk to you about three basic points when it comes to the topic of sharing our faith. The first one is that, 1. God calls all of us to a ministry. The second is that,
2. Sometimes that ministry that God calls us to seems like a failure. And then finally,
3. Sometimes that ministry that God calls us to seems like a success.
So God calls all of us to a ministry; sometimes it seems like a failure; and sometimes it seems like a success.
And maybe you’re here this morning, and you’re sort of new to the whole idea of church. You’re here this morning you don’t even claim necessarily to have a relationship with Jesus Christ yourself, let alone tell other people about Him.
But I want you know that we’re glad that you’re here. And perhaps you’re here because someone has had their life story changed by Jesus Christ… and they want to present that same opportunity to you by inviting you to come to where they go to church.
All right let’s look at our passage of Scripture this morning.
If you’re new with us, we are going through the book of Acts, which is the fifth book in the New Testament. We are now in Acts chapter thirteen. We would love to have you grab a Bible that’s offered to you there in the pews, or your own from home, and open it up to Acts chapter thirteen. If not we will have the Scripture on the screen behind me.
Here’s what the Scripture tells us. First let’s look at this whole idea that,
1. God calls all of us to a specific ministry.
In verses one through three, here’s what the Scripture says. This is the part that Charlie read earlier to our children.
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers:
Now as Charlie said there were a couple of Antiochs. When we think of the early Church, we tend to think of the city of Jerusalem as sort of being the hub of the early Church.
Jerusalem, in general, is located in the Southeast corner of the Mediterranean sea. Antioch is north, up the Eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, on the Northeast corner of the Mediterranean sea.
And this is where this group of people were… they were prophets and teachers, the Bible says. Here were their names:
Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul.
Now, most of those names probably don’t sound very familiar to you, and that’s okay. For time sake we’re going to leave them in the unfamiliar world.
But there is a name that might sound familiar to some of you who have been hanging around with us through our Acts series, and that is the name Saul. Saul was someone who used to persecute the Church. His whole goal was to make sure that the followers of Christ were put out… and had an end.
But, the Scripture told us a back in Acts chapters eight and nine, that Saul had this miraculous conversion experience. He is now a follower of Christ himself. And slowly, quickly I guess, really becoming a leader–THE leader, a significant leader, in_the_early_Church.
So, this is the group of people who are gathered together… take note of their context,
2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
God calls all of us to a specific ministry.
I want to put you at ease, because the nature and the type of ministry in which Saul and Barnabas are called to here in this passage, is incredibly extreme and miraculous.
So I want to let you know from the very beginning, I don’t mean to say that all of us are called to a ministry in the same manner, or to the same type of ministry that Saul and Barnabas are called to.
But nonetheless, I want to argue, that we are all called to a specific ministry.
And I want you to notice the context in which they are called to this ministry.
The Scripture says that Saul and Barnabas were not hanging out by themselves, doing ordinary things, if you will, but these men were gathered together with other brothers in Christ, and
they were Worshiping and fasting.
And this is when God gives them this specific ministry for their lives.
And I think this is an important component for us to understand, because I believe this is when God tends to speak to most people in their lives. So it’s when they’re doing some form of a spiritual discipline, that they begin to receive what God wants them to do with their lives.
It’s the reason why it’s important that we create an atmosphere here on Sunday morning when we’re Worshiping through song — that God can speak to you.
Or when we’re opening up the Scripture, that God might speak to you through it, because this is the type of gathering where God might call someone, and place upon their heart, a specific type of ministry for their lives.
It doesn’t have to be a Worship setting… it could be a Sunday School class; it could be a Small Group; it could be just an informal gathering of Brothers and Sisters in Christ… or it may have absolutely nothing to do with any spiritual discipline at all.
God owns all of our circumstances, He could speak to us at any time. He could speak to us and place a call or ministry upon our life, doing the most mundane thing.
You might go out one day for a jog. And there you are jogging around you look up and you see a billboard… and the billboard informs you about the number of people in your community who struggle from hunger, and aren’t well fed, and God uses that billboard to speak to you, and place that ministry upon your heart.
Or perhaps he doesn’t.
And the only thing that billboard causes you to do is to think about how hungry you are. So when you get home from your jog, you get your car, you drive off to the Chinese buffet. And while you’re at the Chinese buffet, sitting there stuffing yourself, all of the sudden God reminds you that there are millions of orphans in China, and you should do something about it… right?
Or maybe He doesn’t.
Maybe you eat your Chinese buffet with absolutely no conviction at all, you get in your car and you’re driving home, you turn on the radio. And it’s not until you turn on the radio and you hit the ‘Seek’ button that the local R&B Hip Hop station comes on… your liking the rap song, but somehow in the midst of the rap song. God speaks to you and says, “You know what? There’s a lot of people in inner city Dayton who need your help. “
God can speak through all of those circumstances.
But what I’m trying to say, is that I don’t think we should ignore the reality that he called Saul and Barnabas in the midst of a spiritual discipline of worshiping God and fasting, because statistically, my observation is that, that seems to be when God places a ministry upon our hearts.
And I’m worried that there are churches filled with people all across America who would hear a message like this and think to themselves, “I’m not really sure what God wants me to do for his kingdom. I’m not really sure what he’s calling me to do. What is my ministry?”
And one of the main reasons they haven’t discovered that is because they don’t have enough times or opportunities when they’re alone with God… or have spiritual disciplines in their lives where God might speak His heart for them.
Well, the Scripture tells us that this is the call, this is the ministry that he gives Saul and Barnabas. And I want you to realize that,
“How He calls us,” might be similar… but it also might be different.
I mean, do you see in the Scripture how he called them…
the Holy Spirit said, “(quote)
I’m the kind of person who might say to someone, “I really feel like God was leading me to do this…” or, “I feel like you know God had placed this on my heart.” I might say, “I feel like God was telling me…”
But it’s all understood that I’m not really quoting him. I’m not one hundred percent sure… I just have a really strong inclination.
But here Luke comes along and he tells us that this group of people are spoken to so clearly–perhaps audibly, perhaps not I don’t know. But so clearly to by God, that they were able to say . “The Holy Spirit said…and now, there he is… “in quotes”.
And some of you might be able to relate. But I suspect that most of you are more able to relate to me… we don’t really tend to have God speak to us, in that way.
He might place upon your heart, a call for ministry in another fashion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this MIRACULOUS, is what I’mtrying to say to you. He places a burden on your heart. And perhaps you ignore it and then he places it on your heart again, and you ignore it again, and then he places it again; that’s probably…
If God gives you a burden, if you have a burden on your heart a repeated amount of times, it’s probably a good indication, it’s not from the devil… it’s probably from God.
So he can call us to our specific type of ministry in many different ways and circumstances, but I also want you to see that the type of ministry he calls us to, might be similar, or it also might be different.
Listen to the type of ministry he calls them to: they are not being called to just stick around their hometown, and begin to become the pastor of one of the local churches… they are being sent off to a cross cultural experience, where they are sharing Jesus Christ with people they don’t know, in a region that they are not familiar with.
And this is the type of experience and call, that some people in our church have. We have some people at Kirkmont, who spend a good portion of their lives overseas, somewhere else, doing that type of ministry.
But again, God doesn’t call all of us in the same way that he called Saul and Barnabas here. He might give us a a different burden — for some of us he might place on our heart a burden for missions, but we’re not the one who’s necessarily supposed to go, we’re the ones who are supposed to make sure that our church is generous, and supporting, and encouraging, and praying for missionaries, and sending others off.
That might be the burden that he gives you.
Other people might have a a global, social justice burden that God puts on their heart.
Maybe, you’re the kind of person who says, “You know what… there are millions of people who don’t have access to clean drinking water… that should not be. I want to do something about it.”
You might be the kind of person who says, “You know what? There are millions of people who are sold into slavery every year. That shouldn’t be. I want to do something about it.”
Or maybe you are more of a local person and you want to sign up for our Work Days with the Gospel Mission Project and go to downtown Dayton and and help some inner city people who could really use your love, and care, and support.
Or maybe God has given you a real heart and a passion for the Pro-Life movement, and you want to sign up for the Miami Valley Women’s Center and support them.
Whatever ministry he might have given you, He can give it to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as extreme, if you will, as what he gave Saul and Barnabas, or be cross-cultural at all.
In fact, I want to argue that really what God tends to invite most of us to do is to really not do anything else different… but instead by placing a ministry on our hearts, what he’s actually inviting us to do is to continue to live out our ordinary lives, but to begin to live them with extra-ordinary purposes.
To begin to do the things that we are already doing, but to now do them with Kingdom Purposes… to do that which comes natural to us but with supernatural purposes.
So for many people the ministry that he calls us to, unlike Saul and Barnabas, it won’t require a change in your schedule in any way at all. It will just require you to do what you’re already doing, with a new intention… for the Kingdom of God.
And I have often discovered that what God tends to place on our heart… while many of those causes, and issues I mentioned are significant and important… God tends not to putcausesandissuesandprogramson people’s hearts… he tends to putpeople on our hearts.
And so many of you may never identify with some great ministry or some great cause that you sign up for. But instead, in your ordinary, mundane life, God will put people in your path, who he burdens you with: the person whom you buy a coffee from every day… He may all of the sudden say, “Alright… it’s time that you be a light in this person’s life.
You see what I’m saying… that it’s not all like Paul. It’s not all like Barnabas. It’s often doing that which is ordinary for extra-ordinary reasons… it’s not often programs, its more usually people.
And that person that God places upon your heart, may be extremely open and SO grateful for the fact that you took the risk of sharing your faith in Jesus Christ with them… or… they might be incredibly belligerent of the fact that you tried to share your faith with them.
And that brings us to our second and third points… that
2. Sometimes, the ministry that God gives usseems like a failure;and
3. Sometimes the ministry that God gives usseems like a success.
Let’s go on in the Scripture, on Acts 13, verse four the Scripture tells us
Now on to Cyprus. The Scripture is about to tell us that from Antioch, Saul and Barnabas went down to the port city Seleucia. And then they sailed across the Mediterranean, not that far across it, to Cyprus… Cyprus was an island on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean. And there they start to minister in a couple of different cities. Here’s what the Scripture says,
4-11 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.When they arrived atSalamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas(this is Bar-Jesus, just a different name for him) and said,“You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
Now let’s pause there. So the Scripture tells us they come across a man named…. what was his parents thinking? … Bar Jesus.
Now. I got on my phone and I started searching for all the bars in the Dayton area. I found a Bar Louie, a Tank’s Bar, a Timothy’s Bar, but no “Bar Jesus”
Bar Jesus actually it means “son of Jesus”… in Aramaic it’s Jesus, but in the Hebrew it’s Joshua, or Yeshua. And so the Son of Yeshua is this guy’s name.
And the Scripture tells us that when Saul and Barnabas arrive, this man, not only does he not receive their message, not only is he not converted or persuaded by their talks about Jesus, but in addition to his rejection of them, he is working to make sure that others around him don’t receive their message of Jesus Christ. Particularly… this proconsul.
So here we find that Saul and Barnabas encounter this man… and I think that this is a common theme in the book of Acts that,
…sometimes our ministry efforts, that God calls us to, seem like a failure.
And the reason why I use the word “seem” like a failure is because sometimes that which seems like a failure is really a success. And sometimes that which seems like a success is really a failure.
But the truth is,
…that many times, when it seems like it’s a failure, it’s a failure.
(Laughter)… and when it seems like it’s a success, it’s a success.
So here we find they encountered this man Bar Jesus, and if their goal was to turn him and convert him by all practical means we could say this was a failure–they faced some resistance at this point.
This is a common theme in Acts. We cannot read Acts, and see all of the advancement of the Gospel, all of the ministry successes, without also seeing that almost every time there’s a ministry success, it’s accompanied with the ministry failure.
It’s so important for us to realize that… because I’m concerned there are many people, when you talk to them about evangelism, or sharing their faith, or participating in a ministry, they will tell you about some experience they had — they tried that at one time. And here’s why they don’t do it anymore… because it’s failed.
Well here’s the thing.
Failure happens in the Bible.
This your coach, kicking you in the butt saying, “Get back on the field, you can do better next time.”
Failures happen… this happens. And so many people get discouraged–they don’t anticipate it. And so when it happens they think, “Well this must not be what God’s called me to… I must be doing it wrong somehow.”
But the reality is,
…sometimes you might do everything right, but sometimes our ministry, that God calls us to, is still_a_failure.
It’s crucial for us to grasp because often times, I’ve discovered, that the failure come before the success.
Some of you know the story of the first time I was ever called to lead a Bible study. I was in high school. And I didn’t grow up in the church, I had no real Sunday School knowledge. And I was just trying to attend a Bible study, but someone elected me to be the Bible study leader.
So that week I started reading this book by a Max Lucado, and it was “In The Grip of Grace”… a wonderful book, and he has this section in there that God really spoke to me… and I really felt like he was telling me to share this with this group of students.
I was excited… I was nervous, but I was more excited because I felt like God was behind me and he was supporting me, and I had this great thing to share. And I got into the room. And I completely tanked… It was a miserable experience for me, and I’m sure for everyone else in the room as well.
I know because we had like twenty-five students the first week, and like twelve the next.
But that morning I went back to my locker and I sat there and I cried, in my public high school, at my locker, thinking,“God, this is the first time that you’ve asked me to step out in faith and do something like this and this is what happens?”
And the thing is that, since then, and even in my ministry today, things go back and forth.
There are some Sundays where I leave church I feel like a real success… and other Sundays I leave church I feel like a real failure. Some Sundays I leave committee meetings, or session meetings feeling like a real success… and others I leave feeling like a real failure.
Sometimes I get emails from people that make me feel like a real success… and other times I get emails from people that make me feel like a real failure (Laughter).
You get the idea.
And here’s the thing… we have to be prepared for that reality. God will give you a ministry, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be accompanied with success — at times you will also experience failure.
And I think the reason why He does that is to make sure our hearts are on the right place.
Because if I talk to someone about my faith in Jesus Christ and they reject me… are they any worse off than they were before? No.
But I feel worse. I’m now wounded. And what prevents me from going back? …my care for them? …or my care for myself? It’s my care for myself — that’s what keeps us from having these hard conversations… it’s because, if we’re honest before God, we really care more about ourselves than them.
And I think one of the reasons why he allows us to fail before we experience success is because we have to get to a place in our heart where we care about the other person, more than ourselves.
Isn’t that the Gospel?
… that when we care about them more than ourselves we can have that conversation, even in the face of rejection, because we’re there for them, we’re not_there_for_ourselves.
There’s this Facebook quote, I threw up on our Facebook page here at Kirkmont the other day… and I’ll throw it up on the screen for you… this speaks to this whole topic that we’re discussing… it says,
To be brave enough to start a conversation that matters… it takes bravery, because sometimes those conversations fail — but they matter, because sometimes they succeed.
Let’s look at the very last verse in our Scripture together this morning.
12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
Isn’t it nice that the Scripture section here ends with that as well… not just this Bar Jesus guy.
Sometimes ministry seems like a success, and in this case, indeed it was.
And this ought to motivate us… for the Gospel of Luke chapter fifteen verses eight through ten tell us this.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
This is Luke, the same guy who was writing in the book of Acts, now quoting Jesus when Jesus said,
Luke 15:8-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsand loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Church, at the beginning I asked you…
Does the best case scenario, outweigh the worst case scenario?
And I think this Scripture is a vivid reminder that,
Are you willing to be mocked —the worst case scenario… for thebest case scenario… which is,
the angels in heaven rejoicing over a sinner who has repented.
Indeed… the success is worth the failure.
And may we, this morning, leave this place… may we go into the world, with the love for others — the same love that drove Jesus Christ to the Cross for us, and for them…
And with the power of the Holy Spirit — the same power which raised him from the dead, that we might be used by God to change people’s stories.
I want to invite our Praise Team to come forward as we prepare to sing our closing song together this morning … this is a song, “Your praise will ever be on my lips”. This is a song they introduced to us just a few minutes ago during our offering. And now we have the opportunity singing together as a congregation.
(If you listen to audio, be sure to scroll down for video at bottom of this page)
“Those are words that, if we’re honest with ourselves, probably every single person in this room has asked God at one point in time… Why me?
Maybe you’re here this morning, and you have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one and it led you to ask the question…“Why me?”
Or maybe you’re here this morning, and it wasn’t a life or death matter, but you just feel like you’ve experienced more misery, or more hardship, or more tribulation in your life than you really deserve, or you really earned–than you think God should’ve allowed you to experience… and it led you to ask the question. “Why me?”
Or perhaps you’re here this morning, and you’ve asked the question “Why me” from the oppositeend of things… you actually feel like God has blessed you, has spared you, has cared for you… greater than you deserve, in a certain instance, or over the course of your life, and it has led you to ask the words, “Why me?“… why have you treated me so well, and spared me when you haven’t others?
Either way. We’ve asked the question…“Why me?”
And today in our passage of Scripture, as we continue through theBook of Acts, we come to Actschapter twelve, and we find two Biblical characters, two guys who were early leaders in the church… who both loved God and wanted to honor Him with their lives, but who seemingly get treated very differently by God.
And quite frankly, I couldn’t blame either one of them, if they would have asked the words… “Why me?”
I want to invite you to our passage of Scripture together this morning… as I said, it’s found in the Book of Acts, which is the fifth book in the New Testament. I’d LOVE to have you take a Bible and turn there with us to the Book of Acts–whether it’s your own or one of the ones we provide for you in the pew.
Fifth book in the New Testament, the Book of Actschapter twelve.
If not we’ve got the Scripture on the screen behind me… we’ll pull it up for you. So here we are in the Book of Acts, chapter twelve starting in the very first verse.
Let’s look at these two characters and see how God treats them in a seemingly very different way.
It’s entitled in most of your Bibles something like, “Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison“… as we got a glimpse of earlier in our children’s message. The Scripture says this,
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
So Luke, who’s writing this, his early account of the church… he comes along and he tells us that a man named King Herod… now when we think of a king we think of somebody who’s like the absolute top authority. But in the Roman Empire that wasn’t the case. The emperor was the top authority, but the kings were in charge of various regions of the empire empire and they were appointed directly by the emperor.
So, King Herod was sort of like the second in command, the second tier of authority, if you will…. and for all practical purposes, he was in charge of the daily events of his area, his region. He got to decide how people were treated in his area on a day to day basis.
And so it tells us that this king, King Herod, his name was Herod Agrippa… decides that
“he’s going to arrest some who belong to the church”.
Now, “some”… we don’t know exactly who he’s arresting, we don’t know exactly how many, but he decides to come along and he arrests some of them for the purpose of persecuting them.
We don’t know why he’s motivated to arrest them, to persecute them yet–we’re going to see that in a second, but this is what he’s decided to do.
He comes along and in verse two the Scripture says,
2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
We might be asking ourselves, “Who is James?“…besides the fact that we know he had a brother named John, because Luke just told us that.
Who is James?
So if we go all the way back to the Book of Matthew, Chapter four we look at verse twenty-one the Scripture tells us this.
21Going on from there, he saw (that is Jesus saw) two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.
So now we’re talking about the guys who Luke is talking about in Acts chapter twelve.
22 They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
This was a key moment in Jesus’s life as He’s beginning his ministry, and he’s decided to gather together twelve disciples who are going to be his best friends, whom he’s going to train in the matters of the Kingdom of God.
And among the twelve, two of them are a man named John and his brother James. James might have been the older brother since he’s listed first, we don’t know for sure, but he’s called James.
So this James guy is, of all the people that Jesus could have chosen to follow him out of the twelve that he chose, he’s one of them.
And not only that, but most people agree that John, his brother, was Jesus’s best friend. So not only was he chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve. But he was the brother of Jesus’s best friend. And this is the guy that King Herod Agrippa decides to put to death at the sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews.
So now we have an understanding of why Herod’s about the business of putting these Christians in jail and having them killed–it’s a political move.
He not that invested personally in the church one way or the other… but he’s a political figure, and as we know, sometimes, they tend to do things that might just make people happy… that might make them more popular. And so we discover that that is why he does this.
He saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.
Now you might not recognize the name James, but if you’ve been hanging out with us here at Kirkmont for the Acts Series, you would recognize the name Peter… because Peter is the leading figure in the early church at this point.
He’s been involved in almost every chapter of Scripture we’ve looked at so far. Peter, John, and James,the brother of Jesus, at this point are probably the three biggest leaders of the early church.
So what you have is really kind of this movement of Herod… he goes from James to Peter, and I think it’s on purpose.
Now we have to realize that when James is put to death at the sword, this is the first time that one of the original twelve disciples was martyred for their faith. They had been mistreated… Peter had been mistreated in the past… other people have been killed for their faith, but James is the first of the twelve disciples who gets killed for their faith.
And now, Herod realizing, and thinking…“Hey. .. the whole James thing seemed to go over pretty well… people kind of like that.; let’s step it up a little bit and let’s go for the top dog of the church. Let’s go get Peter.”
And he has Peter thrown in prison.
So their circumstances are very, very similar. And yet the outcome.. very, very different.
This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains,
So, some time has passed by… we don’t know if it’s a night, or couple nights, or a few nights; but either way what we can gather is that this is now the night before he’s about to be brought to trial.
So Peter has every reason to believe this is his last night here on earth. He’s going to be put to death tomorrow.
He’s bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
So in other words, Peter thinks he’s having some sort of an out of body experience–a dream if you will, whereby God is showing him in this dream a miraculous escape.
Now you thought you had a dream that you woke up from and were disappointed to find out it wasn’t true. Could you imagine, had Peter woken up from this and it was just a dream, “Hey, I showed you what it would have looked like, and how it could have felt to be escaped from prison…”
This is sort of Peter’s state of mind; he’s sort of in this trance, he thinks this is a vision, sort of an out of body experience… however you want to get your head around it…that’s what the Scripture is telling us.
Then in verse ten, it says,
10They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
So here we are, two leaders in the early church… both of them who seemingly loved God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength… wanted to serve the Kingdom of God. We have no Biblical indication to think that one of them has committed some erroneous sin that God would want to punish them for… they for all practical purposes seem to be on the same level, on the same par,
and yet, God allows one to be put to death with the sword… and one is miraculously freed from prison.
And I could not blame either of them for asking the question,
James asking the question, “Why is this happening to me?” Peter asking the question,“If that happened to James, why are you freeing me?”
We could not blame them if they asked that question. And truthfully we could heap all other kinds or types of questions on this. There are all types of scenarios that flow out of this. Which seem sort of difficult to respond to, and to handle.
Now if we want to try to answer the question, “Why me?” from the text, our mind goes to the subject of PRAYER… because that’s a subject that Luke, clearly involves in this passage of Scripture.
He makes sure that we know that while Peter is in prison, the Church, repeats on two occasions, “the Church is earnestly praying to God for them.”They were gathered around praying for him.
So we cannot deny that Luke is including a component of the miraculous power of prayer. And that part of the reason why Peter has escaped from prison and freed from prison, is because of the power of prayer.
That is certainly something we are supposed to take away from this chapter… but can that serve as the only answer? Can that stand alone, in answering the question,
“Why does God free one, and allow the other to be put to death?
Certainly it can’t … because that would beg the question, ‘What about James?” Was no one praying for James. Had they forgotten to pray for James? Are you telling me that one of the leading leaders, one of the leaders of the early church, one of the twelve disciples is in prison, and at risk of having his life come to an end… and no one thought of praying for him?
Are you telling me that James didn’t think to pray for himself? Are you telling me that Jesus who called him into a relationship with him, himself who was seated at the right hand of God the father, forgot to intercede to the Father on his behalf.
“No one prayed for James…”… right? …”and people prayed for Peter, and that’s why it happened.”
That’s doesn’t hold up.
Of course the other problem with that would be, we would naturally be asking the question, well what about all the scenarios in my life where two people are put in very similar difficult circumstances. And the number of times of which the person who had a bunch of people praying for them, and was not spared, was not delivered.
And there are other occasions where someone doesn’t have a bunch of people praying for them, and maybe they did indeed NOT even think to pray for themselves. And yet they were freed.
What about that? How does prayer stand up to that?
It doesn’t completely suffice in answering the question, “Why me?”
And a lot of other scenarios that would piggyback off of this scenario. I mean there are some people who experience “the James thing”, and then kind of “the Peter thing”.
Then some people who experience sort of the Peter scenario, and then only to experience the James scenario.
That’s something that happened, I think, in Amanda and my life. In the last few years, I think we’ve sort of experienced the Peter thing… and then experienced the James thing in our life. Let me tell you what I mean by that.
A few years ago, we felt like God was calling us to start the adoption process… through the country of Ethiopia. We felt like he was calling us to adopt two children from Ethiopia.
And quite frankly we put it off for a year or two after we felt like he was prodding us to do that. Because the money was just intimidating, and we didn’t have it. We thought his timing must have been wrong.
And so eventually though, a couple of years after God was sort of prompting us in that direction, we had had a recent miscarriage, and I think we finally just decided to sort of submit to God’s will in our life.
So we started the process, making it known to our friends and family, knowing that we didn’t really have the means to finish the process.
And, you know, that within forty eight hours or so my sister called us up, and she said, “I saw that you’re starting the adoption process.,” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Do you know that I’ve been thinking about you guys and adoption, and that if you ever did, we would want to help you, we would want to support you in that process.”
And, she said, “I just haven’t been wanting to bring it up because of the miscarriage… it just seemed insensitive, but if you’re ready to move forward we want to help you out.” And she said, “What’s your immediate need?”
I said, “Well, to get started, there’s a three thousand dollars payment to our agency… and I mean we’re stuck from the get go. And she said, “I’ll make that happen.”
And we hung up the phone, and we were just thinking, “Oh my gosh.. God is clearly providing for us.” And this happened time and time again.
The closest we’ve ever experienced, to God’s miraculous hand in our life, seeing Him, just provide for us, like God did for Israel with manna in the desert on a daily basis.
And this happened time and time again. We would get a thousand dollar check from a family member right when we needed the money; but probably the biggest incident that happened, happened several months later.
We were up against a five thousand dollar road block… that’s what we owed our agency and it was just this, insurmountable amount to us at that time.
But, for the past few years leading up to that, I had been volunteering for a role in our denomination… I had been serving in this role, as a volunteer.
And my time came to an end, right as we were owing this money. And our denomination came to me and said, “You know when we asked you to do this, we didn’t realize how much work this was going to take.” And so they said. “We would like to give you a ‘thank you’.”
Now when I heard that I wasn’t even thinking about the adoption process. I was thinking, ‘Fifty dollar Applebee’s gift card’… you know… like, “We’re going to dinner tonight!” … or something like that. Or maybe a hundred dollar check; but they give us a check for…, well, you just tell me how much… “Five thousand dollars”… that’s right.
So… here we were, God is treating us like Peter.
And then last May, our agency called us up, and said, “You know what, we can no longer afford to operate in Ethiopia. We regret to inform you that we are closing our adoption process through the country of Ethiopia.”
And in effect… “All of the time, and all of the money that you’ve spent on the process, are now gone, and wasted.”
And the biggest thing for Amanda and I in wrestling with this was, “Why would you bless us so, only for this to be ‘The End’. Why would you treat us as Peter, only to eventually treat us as James?
And you know others have experienced similar circumstances, maybe you here in this room. And others have experienced the opposite. They’ve been treated as James, but eventually treated as Peter.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a group of men, most notably known by the name of Jim Elliot, he was one of them. As a group of men, who went to Wheaton College in 1945, and eleven years later in 1956, they felt God was calling them to go be missionaries, to a specific tribe of people in Eastern Ecuador, in a Tropical Rainforest, and to minister to this group of people.
And this tribe of people were known to be extremely violent. And also known to have never really heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a result.
So they felt like God was calling them to take their wives and their young families and move, and try to share the Gospel with this tribe that was notorious for killing people with their spears, and for their violence.
So they moved, and they relocated to a point where they were at a safe distance, but close enough that they could reach them. And they began by taking their plane, and flying it towards where the tribe was, and dropping, sort of, “Care packages”, if you will.
So that they would start to associate the plane, with their care and their provision and their love for them as a tribe. And eventually, these five men finally decided it was time… they felt like they had warmed up with them enough, that it was time to land the plane get out of the plane and to make personal contact with them.
And the very first time that they got out of the plane, and tried to make contact with them, the tribesmen speared all five of them to death.
And I couldn’t blame any of those men, if while it was happening, if they hadn’t said something like,
“Why would you put this upon our heart for this to be the end of it?”
And I certainly wouldn’t have blamed their wives, and their children if they had all just packed up and gone home, and said, “Well… this must be a James incident.”
But you know what? … what happened in history is that their wives, and their families, and other friends, came alongside and supported them, and they stuck it out.
And eventually through the Divine Providence of God, He gave them the opportunity to communicate with them safely… they were able to communicate to them a message… could you imagine this, a message of forgiveness.
The tribe’s hearts were softened by the Spirit of God… they gave their life to Jesus Christ. And this group of white people and this tribe became family.
Later we’re going to see a video clip, about how some of this comes to an end. But just imagine being a child, growing up with this tribe, knowing that one of these men around you, is the man that probably took your father’s life.
See, this began as a James Story, but it ended up as a Peter Story.
And so God has all of these miraculous ways, and all these different ways of working, and we could have multiple questions about, “Why Me?” … And why does this happen… why does it start with James and become Peter, or vice versa… Or why one or why the other, but we’re here for answers, more than we are for questions, right?
And I think the answer lies in the idea that we as a church here in America have completely lost our way when it comes to understanding what it means to be blessed by God.
We’ve completely lost our understanding of what it means to have God treat us fairly, to care for us, to bless us. We have adopted and embraced the mentality of the world’s blessing around us and therefore we haven’t a clue anymore, when we have been blessed, or when we haven’t been blessed.
We don’t even understand that anymore, because our mindset is completely adrift from God’s.
You think about this passage from our mindset here in America… we are trained to read it and say,“James was obviously treated unfairly…Peter was obviously the recipient of God’s blessing.”
Many of us, if I had preached that message, would have never ever questioned that–it seems so obvious to us that that’s the way it is, we’re hard wired that way.
But just Paul in his Epistle… does he say later in the New Testament, “Oh by the way to die is to be cursed by God?” Does he say, “To die is somehow to not be treated fairly by God?” Does he say, “To die is not to be blessed by God?”…or does he say, “To die is…” what??? …
Philippians 4:21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He says those words because he has a perspective that many people in the Church have forgotten even though it’s one week since Easter… and that is he has an Eternal Perspective… he understands the power of the resurrection, and the beautiful Glory of Eternal Life; and the promise of eternal life and therefore he views God’s treatment of him through that lens.
But most people in the church have completely forgotten about that.
We review God’s treatment of us through the lens of the world around us. Our understanding of being blessed is no different than the world around us.
We want to have a spouse that’s good looking and doesn’t argue with us just like the world wants.
We want to have a house that’s big enough so we never have to worry about how much room we have, just like the world does.
We want to have a car that others envy that we don’t have to worry about breaking down from point A to point B… just like the world does.
We want to have children who are smart, and good looking, and successful — just like the world does.
We want all of the same blessings that they do, and we haven’t ever really asked ourselves, “Is that what it means for God to bless us?”
There are folks in the Bible, maybe you’ve heard of the stories: Shadrach,Meshach, and Abednego, in the book of Daniel, chapter three. The Scripture tells us, starting verses sixteen through eighteen.
The context is, these are three men who want to honor God with their lives, and they’re being forced to consider that idea of worshipping a human king. And they refused to do that and the king basically says, “Okay if you refuse I’m going to put you in a fiery furnace and you will die.”
And you thought YOUR religious freedoms were being challenged… And so they say this,
16-17Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver usfrom Your Majesty’s hand.
Now let’s just pretend that the verse ended there, the whole passage ended there, that that was the essence of their response. What they would basically be saying is,
We believe in a God that can miraculously deliver us.
We believe in a God who will treat us like Peter. And as long as he does we will keep worshipping him and praising him; we will be faithful to him.
We’ll honor him, we won’t regret having honored him because he will deliver us like he does Peter.
But that’s not the end of their response. They also say,
18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
In other words, “We will continue to be faithful to him regardless of whether he spares us or whether he doesn’t. We won’t worry about that… God gets to treat us how he will, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he is our God regardless of the outcome.”
And the thing is, that we have too many people in the Church who view God’s blessing through the lens of this world, and not through an eternal_heavenly_perspective.
Too many people in the church who want to go to heaven some day and they, quite frankly, want to have heaven today too.
And not enough people in the church who have the heart and the spirit of Shadrach,Meshach, and Abednego… that say, “God has done all that he needs to do for me by saving me through his Son Jesus Christ. ..
This life is his… and he can treat me as he will…and I will continue to honor him with my life.
I want to play this video clip for you as I promised. It’s from The End of the Spear–that’s the name of this movie.
There are a lot of movies and books that surround this whole story, but this is the scene whereby the son of one of the men who was killed by this tribe has grown up.
They’re still in relationship with this tribe, but by now the tribesmen have become brothers and sisters in Christ… and he learns who the precise man was, that took his father’s life. And the whole subject of forgiveness and stuff as just round up and this.
We’ll let you watch it.
This message this morning isn’t necessarily a topic about forgiveness per se, but we can’t deny that forgiveness isn’t wrapped up in it… that if we are clinging to this world’s view of being blessed by God, and without an eternal perspective, then those people who have taken something near and dear to us, away… will be very difficult to forgive.
And as we transition. And as we come to this table we are reminded that this table is indeed a sign and a seal of God’s covenant of grace… His covenant of forgiveness.
For by his body in which it was broken, and his blood which is shed, we experience the full measure of that forgiveness. And as a result of it we have the promise of eternal life, so we are able to say to God, with complete confidence, “You can treat me in this life, and allow whatever circumstance you want to happen to me in this life… as you will, because I am forgiven, the grave will not contain me,.it cannot hold me, and I will go to a place that you are preparing for me, even as we are gathered here this morning.
I want to invite our elders who are so helping to serve to come forward and just time.
And as they do, I want to let you know that if you happen to be new with us here at Kirkmont, that this is not a table that we claim ownership of. And certainly, I’m not the host of it. And by that I mean you are welcome… regardless of whether this is your first time here or not, to come to the table and join us for Communion, to participate in these elements.
We ask only that you have placed your faith and your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
And if that’s you, you are invited to participate on the table together.
I would remind you that on the night that Jesus was betrayed, that Jesus, having given thanks for the bread, he then broke the bread and in plain view of his disciples, saying to them,
“This bread representsmybody, which is broken for you.”
And then he invited them to do this and remembrance of him.
Transcription: “I love that last line in the video we just watched… it says that “The truth that is crying out from the empty tomb, is that no matter where you’ve been, or no matter what you’ve done, LIFE can begin again – BECAUSE OF HIM.”
Speaking of LIFE, my wife Amanda and I learned very early on in our marriage, that we were not very good at taking care of things that were alive. In our first year of marriage we had multiple incidences of failure, taking care of things that were alive.
The first one that happened, we were at seminary where we spent our first few years of marriage, and her best friend brought to us a plant… she was going away for a while and wanted us to take care of her plant.
She cared about this plant, well… more than I think anyone should care about a plant, but she cared about this plant, and she brought it to us and we were to take care of it.
I don’t remember all the details but I’m sure that we watered it… for a couple of days. And then we forgot all about it, until we heard the knock on the door, and we had the Walk of Shame to Brittany, her best friend whose plant had died in our care.
And then some time later, my wife’s sister, who was also at seminary with us, who apparently hadn’t heard about the plant story, brought to us a fish. This was a fish that she cared about, more than I think anyone should care about a fish, but nonetheless she brought us a fish and put it in our care.
I don’t remember all the details. I’m sure we fed the fish… for the first couple of days. And then we forgot about the fish until she knocked on the door. And we had the Walk of Shame having to bring to her… I assume we didn’t bring the dead fish; we probably had done something else with the fish by then, and maybe just brought her the empty bowl of some kind.
But you know, as bad as we are at caring for a living things, one of the things that united Amanda and I early on in our relationship, is the recognition, that as bad as we are at that, we have messed up our own lives, far worse… we have messed up our own lives far worse than that.
And so we love expressions like, the truth of the empty tomb crying out to you and I saying, that “ No matter what you’ve done; no matter where you’ve been, life can begin again.
So I want to talk to you about this whole idea of,