Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Sermon Series, The Four Fold Gospel Week 3 - Christ Our Healer

A church back in the midwest hired on a pastor, and from the beginning there was conflict between one particular elder and said pastor. They would get into arguments constantly in meetings, because their approaches to the running of the ministry were very different. Animosity grew between the two; in fact it got to the point where they couldn’t even speak to each other without venomous words spewing out. Then one day the elder became sick. There was a spot on one of his organs; cancer, that if not operated on would spread and eventually kill him. As he was lying in the hospital bed God spoke with him about making amends with the pastor. So, the elder asked to see the man he had battled with for so long. At their meeting the elder asked for forgiveness, but it wasn’t given. The pastor walked away with animosity still in his heart, but the elder had obeyed what he was instructed to do.
Soon after the elder had his surgery. It was shorter than expected, and when he was lucid again, he found out why. When the doctor opened him up, there was no spot, no cancer, nothing was wrong. 
This story comes from Pastor David Gilmore who leads one of our Alliance sister churches over in Cathedral City, California, who’s father was the elder. He shared his father’s story several years ago at one of our conferences. It highlighted one of the main aspects of what the Alliance emphasizes, Jesus is our healer.

But when we talk about this subject, the idea of God’s divine healing gets so muddy so often that we need to dive into what it is and what it is not. And one of the best Scripture passages, that I have found, that summarizes what divine healing is and what it isn’t, is found in the book of Acts chapter 3, starting in verse 1. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be jumping into what divine healing is, by looking at Acts 3, starting in verse 1.
And as we open up in our Bibles, let’s recap where we’re at in our sermon series on the Fourfold Gospel and what the Alliance is.

We started this sermon series with the question what is the Alliance? Because so often we get people that come through those doors that have no idea what the Alliance is. And we really don’t empathize that we are an Alliance denomination. In fact, in all the twelve years I’ve been here, we’ve only talked about it, maybe a handful of times, and that’s including what we’re doing right now. To us, it’s not important that people know who the Alliance is, what’s important is that people know who Jesus is, and that he is lifted up through the work he has given us to do in Quartzsite. 
But we’re taking some time to talk about the core aspects of what makes up the Alliance, and what drives us to do the work that God has called us to do.
So in our first we we talked about the emphasis on Jesus being our Savior. Like all Christian denominations or non-denominations, this is a huge aspect. I mean, what’s the point of any of this, if Jesus isn’t our Savior? We’re just meeting together in a building for an hour to make ourselves feel good, when we could be out exploring the desert, or going to the river. No, we meet together because Jesus saved us from our sin, and now we are his followers.
Then in our second week we talked about Jesus our Sanctifier, and I have to tell you I was very surprised at the response I got. See, I was expecting that when we talked about Jesus as Healer and Coming King, we were going to get into some controversial territory, because I’m going to warn you now, I will probably say something through this talk today that you’re not going to like. But what surprised me was that there were some people that took issue with a few things I said during our talk last week. In our Sunday night discussion, we had a great interaction about being sanctified and what that was, and it was great. Which is why we have these Sunday night discussions. It’s a place where we as a church can go deeper together. Sunday mornings is just the tip of the iceberg of how deep these topics are. On the other end of the spectrum, I got a couple of comments, with the most productive being from a person who left a review on our church’s Google listing that contained some disagreements. I was able to connect with this person over the phone and we had a good hour long conversation. 
Here are some things that I said last Sunday that were controversial: I mentioned the shooting in New Zealand, and how many of those shot were going to hell. This is because they have not accepted Jesus as their Savior. This is plainly laid out in passages like John 1:12, and John 14:6, and other places if I need to provide more. The point of bringing this up was to talk about how, we need to have the love of God grow deep in us, so that we may share the Gospel with people. Because God’s desire is that no one would go to hell, our desire should line up with that (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). But if we’re not willing to share the Gospel, then we have some growing to do. 
Second, I said that I once believed that things like homosexuality were okay, and now I don’t. Well, I also believed lying, and stealing were okay, and a whole host of other things. My point was, as we get closer to God, things that we believe will be shaken, and if we’re serious about being sanctified by God, then we must be willing to have our beliefs, desires, and actions conform to his. It was on this topic that I was asked a specific question this week, “Can homosexual Christians go to heaven?” If you would like to know how I responded, I have printed my response, and put it on the information table in the foyer.
So last week was, I thought, not going to be such a controversial topic, but it was. Now, let’s get into the really controversial one.

Let’s dive into Acts chapter 3 verse 1.

1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

I love this passage because it sums up what divine healing is, and what it isn’t. For the last two weeks we have been going all over the Bible and showing passages that connect with our topic. Today, I want us to take the insights of A.B. Simpson, and put them against the healing we see in Acts 3.

So what are some big things we see in Acts 3? Peter and John, two of Jesus’ closest disciples are heading to the Jewish temple at prayer time. There is a man who cannot walk from birth. This man begged every day to help with his situation, and everyone knew him. The lame man requested money, Peter had none, but Peter said the only thing he did have was Jesus. Peter grabbed the man and stood the man up. The lame man was completely healed, and began praising God. The people were amazed. These are the basic beats of the story.

Now, let’s look at what A.B. Simpson comments on what divine healing is not and see if it agrees with the passage. 

Divine healing is not medical healing. We’re there any doctors, or medical professionals operating on the man? No, so divine healing is not simple medical fixes of the body. It is more than operations. Can we be healed through medical work? Yes, but that’s not what we’re talking about when we’re talking about divine healing.
Next, divine healing is not metaphysical healing. This means that the man isn’t “mind curing” himself. He wasn’t put into a state of hypnosis, or trance. Can we “trick” ourselves into feeling better? Of course, that’s the placebo effect, but that’s not what we’re talking about with divine healing. This man was simply grabbed, and healed.
Third, divine healing is not magnetic healing. We see this all the time in Quartzsite and maybe you’re wearing one right now. Using magnetic bracelets to help our bodies natural electrical charge flow better. This isn’t divine healing. We don’t see any bracelets, or magnets anywhere to be found, because that isn’t divine healing.
Following that, divine healing is not spiritualism. This is referencing that Satan has power to give and take away disease. We see this in the Old Testament where the enemy gives boils to Job. The healing we’re talking about is not Satan’s work, or any other spiritual being’s power. Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Satan has no power in response to Jesus.
Next, divine healing is not prayer cure. I get this all the time. Because I’m a pastor people ask for me to pray for them, because my prayers seem to work. If my prayers work, it’s only because I pray in God’s will. No one believer has any greater access to the throne of God than any other one. A pastor is not more spiritual because he has a title. There is no truth to the idea that some of us were made to be closer to God than others. The real question in prayer is, are we asking in God’s will, or our own. Peter and John didn’t even pray in this situation.
Fifth, divine healing is not faith cure. The last one focused on someone else’s prayer and faith, this one focuses on our own. I’ve heard it so many times, if you would just have more faith, then you would be cured. No! Faith is not the object of the healing, Jesus is! More faith does not equal more healing. The man in Acts didn’t have any faith to be healed, he wasn’t even thinking about being healed, he was thinking about getting money from the disciples, yet he was healed.
Sixth, divine healing is not will power. This one piggy backs on the metaphysical, “mind cure” one. We might will ourselves to stay off a cold. We might will ourselves to work through the pain. But these are only temporary “cures”. The man could not will his legs to work, it only came from the outside power of God to move in his body.
Next, divine healing is not defiance of God's will. I have heard this from people who usually quote places like Matthew 21:22, where Jesus says, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” or Mark 11:24, “ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” But what people tend to miss, is that every time Jesus mentions words like this, it’s always in the context of our will being submitted to God’s. Therefore we’re asking for things that fit his will and not our own. We’re not forcing him into something, we’re agreeing with him. The man in the passage didn’t even seek the healing, but it was rather thrusted upon him, because it was the will of God.
This next one I think we want, but isn’t even close to what God wants: divine healing is not physical immortality. This past few months, I prayed that one of our members would still be with us, because there was so many things that would have benefited from his touch. I prayed several times for his healing, but it came to a point where my prayers changed from wanting keep him here, to letting him go to be with God. This is a momentary life, we are meant for the eternity of God. We had a man several years back named Ralph who was healed of a back pain. But only a couple years later God took him home. 
Finally, divine healing is not a mercenary medical profession. This means, that you can’t make a living off people going around healing them. Peter and John’s purpose was not to go around and just heal people. Jesus’ purpose was not just going around and heal people. They could have done that, but their purpose was the spreading of the Gospel. That was their intention, and the healing of this man, gave the disciples that very opportunity.

So what then is divine healing?

First, it’s the supernatural divine power of God infused into human bodies. This is what the tree of life is in Genesis 2. This is what the river of life is in Revelation 22. This is branch connection to the vine of John 15. This is what Peter said to the man, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” Peter had the Holy Spirit and that’s all he could give the man. Divine healing is God’s divine power penetrating our very being to heal.
Next, divine healing is founded on the Word of God alone, not on anyone else’s word. People are not healed because I say people are healed. People are not healed because some evangelist says people are healed. And people are not healed because other people say they have been healed. No, people are healed because God says, people can be healed. Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” God’s work of healing, is deeply connected to the saving work of Jesus on the cross. And by God’s Word, the Savior came and died for us, and by God’s Word, we can be healed in a multitude of ways through that sacrifice. Peter was only there, and was only able to heal that man, because Jesus had sacrificed himself on the cross.
Third, divine healing recognizes and submits to the will of God. People ask, why didn’t someone get healed? I don’t know, but what I do know is God’s will is a major crux of why. In the case of the man in the passage, I know why he did. Everyone recognized him as the lame man begging day in and day out. But all of the a sudden he was healed, and jumping around causing a scene. This gave Peter and John an opportunity to share the Gospel, which led to the disciples being arrested and put in jail. But then something interesting happens in the fourth chapter, verse thirty-one, after Peter and John we’re released. It says, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind…” This one healing was a catalyst to the Gospel being proclaimed, believers being filled with the Spirit, the believer’s being embolden, and the Church being united. What more is the will of God than these?
Next, divine healing is the work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be produced by man. We cannot force God’s hand, nor can we manifest this type of healing on our own. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. This goes hand-in-hand with our will being submitted to God’s will. And us not being able to produce it through medical, metaphysical, or our own faith focus. But rather it is God’s will accomplished through the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, divine healing comes to us by faith in God. This means that God is the focus, not what we can do, but what he can do in us. It’s not about me having more faith, or finding people that have enough of it, but rather knowing that if it is God’s will, then we may be healed. Peter and John had faith that healing was only found in God, and God moved.
Finally, we know that divine healing is in accordance with Church history, and that it is one of the signs of the age. Take a survey of church history, and you will find personal testimonies of people agreeing with the miraculous work of God. Origen, Justin Martyr, D.L. Moody, A.B. Simpson, David Gilmore. There are even people in this church that have experienced God’s divine healing in their lives, I mentioned Ralph. The Holy Spirit was at work at the beginning of the Church, and he is still at work today.

But here’s the thing, how does this impact us? How does God’s divine healing effect us today?
Maybe you’re dealing with an infirmity, most people in Quartzsite are. I would encourage you to seek God’s healing. Maybe you have sought it, and nothing has happened, I would encourage you to keep seeking it until God says no. Whether you have sought it or not, here’s the key that I have found to divine healing: We have access to God’s healing through the saving work of Jesus on our behalf, we are being transformed by God through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and as we are aligned in his will, the healing of our bodies because secondary to the work that God desires to produce in us.
And when our attitude moves beyond our own momentary glory, to God’s eternal glory, then we will be content in the work of God in our lives. Whether we experience healing or not.
But until God says and abrupt no to healing, we continue to seek him, as a child seeks their parent for the goodness that they have. 

This is my challenge for you today, if you have something you desire to be healed, and that might be a physical ailment, a mental ailment, or a spiritual ailment, the elders of the church want to pray for you. We’re going to anoint you with oil, and lift you up to God for his work to be done. But don’t ask if you’re not willing to have your will aligned with God’s, because then we’re just going to be seeking our own good, rather than the glory of God.

This is a part of the Alliance that drives us forward. God is active and working through his people today to heal every aspect of us, in accordance with his will. What great and wonderful things has he for us? Let us seek them from him together. Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Sermon Series, The Fourfold Gospel Week 2 - Christ Our Sanctifier

Last week I shared with you the part of my testimony that brought me to accept Jesus as my Savior. What I didn’t expect from that, but I gladly welcomed, was that the door opened to hearing many of your testimonies. In fact, we spent a good part of our Sunday night discussion sharing and hearing people’s stories of how God has worked in their lives. On the way out the door last Sunday, I remember one man saying, “It’s good to hear how the Lord is working today.” I fully agree with that. To quote the Christmas hymn I Heard the Bells, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;”. God is alive and well and working through you and I, and in this world right now.
Today I want to share with you the second part of my testimony. A little shorter than last week, but it’s the reason why I am here today.
Last week in our story, I had accepted Jesus as my Savior at my sister’s college graduation in North Dakota. At that moment, I had a radical realignment in my attitude. The world became new. I began to enjoy the things around me. The new life I had in Jesus began to bubble up inside of me. My zeal for the Lord became overwhelming. When I returned home, I began to share with others, my experience. To my friends at school, to people online, whoever I could share with, I did. Even when I was fulfilling my community service, I began to share my experience with Jesus, with the teens and adults who were working with me.
But what I found was a lot of resistance. From those that I didn’t considered Christians I understood why, they simply didn’t believe in Jesus. That resistance only spurred me on to deeper reading of the Bible, and how to refute arguments that were presented against me. It deepened my faith rather than shaking it. No, it wasn’t the non-Christians that affected me, rather it was the ones who I thought were Christians that shook me the most.
As I shared with my Christian teachers, including my Bible teacher, I found a wall. Looking back, I felt kind of like Paul. Though I hadn’t tried to kill any Christians, I had created enough of a image, that an experience didn’t seem to be enough to break my teacher’s perception of me. Not only them, but my fellow classmates who I thought were Christians, rejected me. And through this experience of speaking to other Christians, especially those that were in my age group, I came to realize that thought they professed to be Christians, many of them had not taken Jesus as their personal Savior, but merely as a social acceptance.
At the end of that school year, I had been basically expelled and asked not to come back; that’s due to all my pervious rebelliousness I shared with you last week. Which no amount of change could stop at the point I was at. But I spent the summer in pursuit of knowing God deeper. Things began to change in my life, and how I related to people. This was nowhere more evident than in my relationship with my parents.
In the fall I started at another Christian school, this time, where I could play baseball. But something happened over the course of the next two years. Though I was a Christian and in some ways growing, I began to return to my old life. Not to the extreme as before in most cases; though I did almost attack a coach, and then at another time, a player. It was more of a cooling. Looking back I know the reason why it happened, even though I was going to a Christian school, I wasn’t being fed spiritually. I tried to look for a youth group, even traveling up the mountain to a church my family tried once, but they were always gone or meeting somewhere else. And the other churches with youth groups, always met on days I couldn’t attend. So slowly I began to become cooled in my relationship with Jesus.
Fast forward through another relationship where I experienced betrayal and a couple of other hiccups along the way, and where at the end of my senior year with me beginning to search for a college to attend. By God’s leading I participated in a baseball camp where they analyzed your talents and then pointed you towards colleges where you would get the most play. One of those places was a small school in Redding, California called Simpson College.
After I looked it up, God spoke to me in the realization that what I needed in a college was not a place to simply play baseball, nor to get a degree, but rather a place where I would grow in my relationship with him. And for the next four years, not only did I receive a degree, a wife and a lot of good experience, I finally understood the greatest thing about having a relationship with God: it’s a life long discovery, that leads into eternity, of knowing the limitless God, who transforms us into the people that we were created to be.

And it’s this life long discovery that we’re going to talk about today. So if you have your Bibles, were going to be in the Gospel of John chapter 15 starting in verse 1. And as you open your Bibles, I want to quickly recap what we talked about last week.

Last week we began to talk about what the Alliance is. We’re approaching it from the perspective of what drives the Alliance at it’s core. And so we talked about how the Alliance is driven by what the founder of the movement called, the Fourfold Gospel. It was the first aspect of this Fourfold Gospel that we covered last week, which was Jesus our Savior. An aspect that is so important that it drives us to go to the ends of the earth to share with people we’ve never met. It’s not unique to the Alliance, every Christian denomination holds to this truth, but the emphasis on it by the Alliance is something I like. Like I said last week, it’s a reminder for me to keep coming back and realizing more and more the depth of God’s saving work in my life.

But there’s three more aspects, so let’s dive into John chapter 15 starting in verse 1.
“1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

I love this passage, because it speaks to the very nature of our relationship with God. You and I were never intended to be unconnected with others. That’s why when people try to get away from civilization, civilization follows them. That’s why we get married and have children, and have animals as pets. We were made to be connected, but the greatest connected relationship that we are to have is with God. And without him, we can do nothing. We are simply unfulfilled, and never reaching a full experience of life.
But because of sin, this connectedness was broken. When we do something that’s in rebellion against God’s law, like lie, cheat, steal, or a list of other things, we create a barrier between us and God. We become unconnected to the source of life, and because of that, all of our other connected relationships become stained to the point of breaking. But through God’s love, God the Son came down to earth to live as one of us, but in perfect connectedness to God the Father and Holy Spirit. He was then killed and sacrificed willingly and on our behalf for our sin. And when we accept that sacrifice, that work of Jesus, we are brought into connectedness with God. That is Jesus as Savior. But that’s not all.
Jesus is not in the ground, he’s risen! And those who put their trust into Jesus as Savior are also risen to new life. And that life is a life that begins now and last into eternity. It’s a life where we are being reoriented into the person we are meant to be. This is why Paul calls on us in Romans 12 to be transformed. Jesus says it like this later on in his pray in John 17, “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified (v.19).”

And it’s this transformative, deeper connectedness, sanctifying life that God has brought us into through Jesus our Savior. This is the second aspect of the Fourfold Gospel, Jesus our Sanctifier.
Now the word sanctification is a big word, that simply means “to be set apart” or “to be made holy.” But I’ve always like the idea of laundry when it comes to understanding this life long process of sanctification.
Picture this, you worked all day, sweating, getting dirty, there might even have been some blood from a cut, and all you want to do is get out of those clothes. So you do, and they go right in the washing machine, because they’re just too stinky, and dirty to go in the wash basket.
That is exactly what being saved by Jesus is, stinky clothes being put in the washer. But you don’t just leave them there, or the whole house will smell. You grab that detergent, and dump it in and turn on the roughest cycle to make sure those clothes get cleaned. That’s sanctification. That detergent is the Word of God and his Holy Spirit. In fact, that’s just what Paul says about the Church in Ephesians 5:25-26.
And have you ever listened to a washing machine go? I’m glade I’m not those clothes. They get beat around, the machine starts moving, but sure enough, out of that washer, comes those stinky dirty clothes, fresh and clean and ready to be dried.
God’s sanctifying work sends us through the beatings so that we can come out on the other side cleaned of all of our sin and ready for him, where he speaks of the church being washed to be made clean.
For the first two years of my Christian life, I didn’t have anyone to tell me that this was part of my relationship with Jesus, and so I floundered. But when we begin to understand that God wants us to go through this process where he is cleaning us from every stain of sin, the depth that we can go, and the experience we can have with God is endless. Because it doesn’t push off the glory of God to some future date, but rather brings it to the here and now.

Like last week I want to share with you some of A.B. Simpson’s, the founder of the Alliance, insights on what Sanctification is. 

First off the nots of sanctification:
Sanctification is not justification, or that saving moment when you come to Christ. Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Justification is the moment you move from death to life in an eternal and spiritual scope. Sanctification happens in the life you have now, so that the person Jesus sees us as, is the same person that we see ourself as. And just like Paul says to work it out, and how it will be fulfilled, it means that this sanctification is a process.

Second sanctification is not morality. Having a better moral compasses is not what’s happening. Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” This idea that sanctification gives me better morality, there is some truth to it, but if we’re just trying to become more moral, then we’re just falling into legalism. It’s us trying to just adhere to a code, which the Bible teaches cannot bring us to God. And in our own power we just make things filthy, because their tainted with our own self-centered desires. Which leads into the third not.

Sanctification is not our own work. Piggy backing on our filthy rags, we can’t do this by just working on it. Ephesians 2:8-9, “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Again it’s legalism trying to be a certain way, in our own power. Making others do the same. That’s the kind of people Jesus doesn’t want. That type of earning the cleansing is what the Pharisees were getting people to do. No it’s God who does this, we get to be actively a part of it, but we cannot do it solo.

This fourth one is a big one, sanctification doesn’t happen at death. In the sweet by and by is a great aspect of God’s work to look forward to, but in the sweet now and now, Jesus is actively working in this life. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That’s a now life. This life is given to us to be fully experienced with Jesus and through Jesus, not just in a future time, but now.

Fifth, sanctification is not self-perfection, Colossians 1:27-29 says, “27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” It’s Jesus’ work in us, not our own. Am I just repeating myself at this point? We can’t do this on our own, this cleansing from sin is based on the connectedness we have with Jesus.

Finally, sanctification is not based on emotion, 1 Corinthians 14:15, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” It’s based on our will being purposefully and intelligently given over to God. Does that mean our emotions won’t be apart of it? No, but it’s based on a cognitive and purposeful choice to say, “Not my will by Thine.”

But just like salvation, there is a sanctification is side. Those is’s are…

Sanctification is being separated from sin, Romans 6:11-14, “11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Sin loses it’s foothold in our lives through Jesus’ work. It doesn’t control us. And though we will always struggle with sin in this life, we move further away from it’s control, and towards the control of God.

Second, sanctification is becoming more dedicated to God, 1 Corinthians 15:56-58, “56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” God’s work becomes more focused in our minds. “The things of this earth grow strangely dim”, because the focus moves away from earthly endeavors and onto heavenly ones. When God’s work becomes alive in us, it becomes more important to share the Gospel, than it is to stay silent about it.

Third, sanctification is being conformed to the Image of the Son, Romans 8:29, “29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
In our apologetics class on Wednesdays we just talked about this idea of the Image of the Son. In greek the idea of image is not a sketch, so it’s kind of like the original but very different. Nor is it a carbon copy of the original. Instead it’s a mirror image, very similar, but slightly different. It’s our uniqueness that God created us to be, melded with the characteristics of God himself. We are an individual, but fully connected to God.

Finally, sanctification is love becoming more abound in our life, 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13, “12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” Jesus said the two greatest commands is love God and love people (Mark 12:29-31). Paul echoes this idea with his statement that love is never ending (1 Corinthians 13:13). God’s love explodes in our life. And not that sappy love, but a love that endures pain, and anguish and strife. Love that brought a perfect God to earth to die for his creation. And all of God’s characteristics begin to show through us, because of our deeper connectedness to him.

This is sanctification, God’s cleansing us from all unrighteousness right in front of our eyes. And it’s to be a daily process where we rely more and more on the Holy Spirit, connecting ourselves more and more to the God who loves us and has saved.

And because it’s a daily process, I want us to leave here today with some practical steps to engage this process purposefully. I had a mentor one time say it like this, “We are cookie dough ready to be transformed, we just need to get in the oven, and let the heat of God bake us.”

So how can we purposefully put ourselves in the fire?
Well first, we need to accept God’s Word over ours. We need to trust it even if we do not yet understand it. That is huge, because I no longer come to God’s Word trying to get it to say certain things, but rather I allow it to say exactly what God intended it to. And that means that I need to dive deeper into it.
Next, we need to spend intentional time in prayer, both in purposeful quiet times, and in those moments throughout the day. In a car, in the shower, in the line at the post office, talk with your Father in heaven.
Finally, we’re all going to experience temptation, I want to encourage you to stand firm. Turning to God and relying on him. If you do, you will overcome the temptation and grow. But if you fail to rely on God, do not turn away from him. Rather the key to dealing with temptation whether we overcome or fail is to turn back to God. In both cases we will grow in our connectedness with him. In the trump and the failure.

My challenge for you this week is to take these three purposeful steps in sanctification. We cannot do it on our own, it is the fire and Spirit of God that does it, but we can place ourselves purposefully in the process, so that we may see the work of God in our lives today.
This is why I choose to attend Simpson College, so that I could grow in my relationship with God. Not even knowing that that was his intention.
Let us be the people of God who strive to have his cleansing work in us, not just in the future when we move into eternity, but today as we walk this mortal plain. Amen.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sermon Series, The Fourfold Gospel Week 1 - Christ Our Savior

So a couple of years back a couple came to our church, and like a lot of people asked about what the Alliance is. I explained to them a little history, a little bit of the theology, and a little bit about what our particular ministry was here in Quartzsite. At the end of this about ten minute explanation, The woman responded with, “All that sounds good, we thought you were some sort of cult.”
I was taken aback by it, and I found it really funny. But I can see why they might have thought that. The Alliance denomination isn’t widely known. It has no where near the high profile of a Baptist, Methodist, or Calvary Chapel. And it’s not like we have one of those “cool” names that so many churches have today, like the River, the Rock, Adventure, or any other number of different names. We’re simply the Alliance Church of Quartzsite.
So when people see our church signs, or ads, I can see them thinking, what type of weird cultist place is the Alliance? Well, I’ve been praying about a time to share more about what it means for us to be an Alliance Church. And since we’re in this limbo period between our winter sermon series, and our Easter sermon series, this seems like as good of time as any to delve more into what the Alliance is, and how God has worked through the Alliance for decades. And as we do this, we’re going to focus on how the relationship between God and the founder of the denomination, A.B. Simpson, molded a group of churches into what is now known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to dive into the book of Romans chapter 5 starting in verse 6. And as we do I want to share with you my testimony.

As far as I remember, I have never shared my full testimony with the church. I try to share it with the teens at least every year or two, to help them understand where I am coming from. But with the whole church in this type of setting, I have never give my full testimony. 

As I have shared before my parents were saved into an Assemblies of God church in Lodi, California. When we moved to a little town called Comanche, we started the process of finding a new church. This process continued until we eventually stopped regularly attending altogether. At the start of my seventh grade year I was invited to attend a youth group with my buddy, who’s older sister was one of the leaders. The youth group was putting on a haunted house and so I was invited to help out. After helping with the haunted house, I attended a few more times, but never cared for it, because the older teens were complete jerks.
It didn’t help that the leader was indifferent, and didn’t really teach us anything about the Bible. It was more a social club than anything else. Well, my junior high years were not the best. I didn’t do a lot of my school work, and spent the majority of my eighth grade lunch period in detention for not completing homework. It was at this time that one of my teachers told my mom, that if I continued the way I was going, I’d end up in juvenile detention pretty soon. This was close to a prophecy. But in the end I barely scrapped by and graduated.
Then High School happened. I loved playing football, even though I was only eligible for the first half of the semester. Again, I didn’t care for school, and piling on top of that, my anger began to really grow out of control. Getting to the point, where I would physically challenge adults. It was in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, that things began to explode in my life. The town that I had lived in since I was in fourth grade was a similar size to Quartzsite. And being that it was a rural town, there wasn’t a ton to do. One early summer night my friend and I were at the local elementary school messing around on the playground. I don’t know how it happened, but we decided to check the doors of the classrooms. One of them was unlocked. It was all down hill from there.
For the next month or so, we began to break into not just the elementary school, but also the local junior high. For me, I did it for the thrill, and because I was bored. For my friend, who was into computers, it was about building a better computer. We eventually got other friends involved and we were having a great time. But it didn’t last long. Eventually the cops caught two of my buddies, and they turned the rest of us in.
From here, reality began to press itself against me. I was arrested, brought before a judge, and eventually sentenced to, in retrospect, a very light sentence. My parents took me out of my school and sent me to a Seventh Day Adventist private school in Lodi. 
Even though all this reality was circling around me, I was still in rebellion. Though I began to take my schooling seriously, I fought against any authority figure. In the Bible classes we had, I would use what little knowledge I had to argue with the teacher. I gravitated to the teens that didn’t fit the mold that the school wanted. I even went as far as taking round up and spraying a nice little happy face in the grass in front of the principle’s window. Added to all this, I had a girlfriend who I would get to school earlier for, just to walk off campus with.
Fast forward to the end of the year, I’m still on probation and have started on my community service. Every weekend, and when the summer hit, every day, was spent in the, at the time, hottest summer to hit our county. About this time I also found out that my girlfriend was cheating on me.
That reality that I had antagonized and rebelled against was starting to collapse on me. And I couldn’t handle the weight of it. Thoughts of suicide, or just running away, filled my head all the time. Escape was all that I wanted. It was then that my family flew to North Dakota to attend my sister’s college graduation. As I sat in the back of the rental car, trying to listen to my cds on my Disc-man, I became fed up with the words that I was hearing. It was then I had my first miracle of the day. I dropped something on the floor and reached under the seat in front of me to retrieve it. Instead of finding my lost item, my hand found a cd case with a Christian artist named Kirk Franklin. I began to listen to the cd, and my heart began to break. In that weekend I came to recognize my need for a Savior. I understood that all of my pain and rebellion was rooted in a need that I was trying to fulfill for myself, but I could never do. I recognized my sin and need for Jesus, and in a hallway of a college in North Dakota I accept Jesus as my Savior and placed my trust in him.
I returned home with a new zeal for life. But none of my friends were Christians so they didn’t understand. There was no youth group in my area, so I never got connected. And so for the next two years, I gradually returned to my rebellion.

I share this first part of my testimony, because the words of Paul starting in verse 6 of Romans chapter 5, are the words I that fit my life. “6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

These words, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” are the words that pierce my life. I remember that young man in distress; I remember his pain and hurt; I remember the moment he accepted Jesus as his Savior, and the radical impact it had on him. And I praise God that while I was a sinner, Christ died for me. The prophecy of my eighth grade teacher did not come true, because when the teachers, and judges, and everyone else looked upon me and said that boy is just going to be a dredge of society, Christ saw me and loved me. He died on the cross 2,000 years before I was a speck, and though I was a sinner after the fact, his death broke through history and saved me. 
I was not abandoned by God in my time of need. Though I broke everything from his law, to my parent’s hearts, “While I was a sinner, Christ died for me.” Not because of anything I did, but because of his deep love. I, an imperfect sinner, was loved by the perfect God who came to earth, died on a cross for me. And I didn’t have to become good, I didn’t have to fix my life, I didn’t have to look, or act, or smell, or think a certain way, Christ died for me even in my sin. Even when I didn’t think, or act, or speak right. Christ died for a sinner like me.
And in my powerlessness, the work of Jesus on the cross brought me salvation. And I moved from death to life in a flash.

This is the first aspect that A.B. Simpson stressed to the Alliance, Jesus is our Savior. This is the first step in our understanding of God. Jesus saved us, not because we deserved it, but because of his deep love for us. God’s saving work through the cross, speaks to the depth of his love, and the extremes he is willing to go to show us his love. Jesus as Savior brings us from death to life. It brings us from rebellion into right relationship. And it brings us from eternal self absorption to eternal selfless worship. 
A.B. Simpson gave 8 things that Jesus saves us from. First, Jesus saves us from the guilt of sin, Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” So when the lies of the enemy tell us, “you messed up again you sinner,” we can exclaim, “but Jesus does not condemn me by his work on the cross!”
Second Jesus saves us from the wrath of God, Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” God hates sin, and seeks to destroy it in every place it hides. But through Jesus’ work on the cross the wrath of God passes by, because sin has been and is being dealt with in our lives.
Third, Jesus saves us from the curse of the law, Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’” Paul writes that through the law of Moses we recognize what sin is, and it’s by the law we are condemned to death because of our sin. But through Jesus’ work on the cross, the law’s judgment is broken because Jesus paid our penalty.
Fourth, Jesus saved us from our own evil conscience, 1st Peter 3:21 states, “…and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” We try to justify our sinful acts and thereby pervert our conscience into agreeing with our lies, but through Jesus’ work on the cross we are now clear of the lies and deception we need to create to make ourselves feel good.
Fifth, Jesus saves us from our own evil heart. In the book of Jeremiah it reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (17:9)?” God knows that our hearts are corrupt. Jesus even says that out of the heart comes all evil things, (Mark 7:21). But through the work on the cross Jesus saves us from this corruption.
Sixth, Jesus saves us from the fear of death, in 1st Corinthians 15:55-57 Paul stands defiantly and proclaims, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The fear of death should no longer constrain us, but rather we stand in front of it and proclaim Jesus’ work is greater than the grave.
Seventh, Jesus saves us from Satan’s power, 1st Peter 3:8 states, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” The works of the enemy do not control us who have accepted Jesus as our Savior. And so we can stand on the work of the cross and proclaim, I am a servant of only one master, and his name is Jesus!
The final thing Jesus saves us from is certainly not least. Jesus saves us from eternal death. Jesus states in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” We have moved from the road that leads to a place of eternal death and decay, on to the road where everything is new for eternity.
I’ve experience all of it. I am free from the shackles that I placed on myself, because of my rebellion. But while I was a sinner, Christ died for me and set me free from all the things that God never intended for my life. But that’s not all.

A.B. Simpson brings out that we are just not saved from something, but rather to something. Jesus saved us to be justified in God’s sight, Romans 5:1 reads, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” God sees us through the lens of Jesus, and when God looks upon us, all he sees is the perfect work of the Son.
Jesus also saves us to experience the favor and love of God, The Psalmist wrote, “11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11-12).” We who put our trust into Jesus can experience this love and favor because we gain Jesus’ righteousness.
We are also given a new heart, God prophecies about this through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (36:26).” Our heart can beat as it was supposed to, with the fruits that will be produced in us through Jesus work.
Jesus’ work also saves us to experience God’s grace to live every day, Paul talks about this kind of grace in 2nd Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God’s grace is there so that we can do the work that he has saved us to be a part of.
Jesus’ work through the cross also brings us the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Paul talks about the giving of the Holy Spirit to us in Romans 5:5, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” We can live daily in the power of God, through the Holy Spirit who lives within us.
Jesus’ work also brings us God’s working out of all things for our good, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Those are Paul’s words in Romans 8:28. Even when we mess up, God can take those mess ups and turn them for good as we seek him.
Jesus’ work on the cross also brings the opening for more blessings to flow to us. Paul recognizes this in his prayer for the Ephesian church, “14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:14-21).” We cannot even begin to understand the blessings God has for us through Jesus.
Finally, but not the least, we are saved to eternal life. “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” And that life, begins at the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior and moves into forever. 
None of which we deserve, but because of God’s deep love for us, he gives freely.

Jesus as Savior is one aspect, of what A.B.Simpson called the Four Fold Gospel. This approach to understanding the Gospel spurs the work of the Alliance ahead. The gratitude we as believers have, because of the depth of love shown through the cross, that, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

This sinner, who from an early age was in rebellion, was pandered by almost everyone he came into contact with, but Christ died for such as he, and now I serve at the command of Christ. Not to earn my salvation, but in adoration of the God who has done so much for me. 
To often in our lives we take for granted the depth of work God has done for us to bring us to salvation. But God wants us to remember that depth of work Christ did on our behalf by his work on the cross. And to rejoice in it. 

Jesus spoke this parable from Luke chapter 7, “41 ‘Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ 43 Simon replied, ‘I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.’ ‘You have judged correctly.’ Jesus said.”
I now seek to understand the depth of my debt, so that I would love my Savior even more. 
This week my challenge is simple, seek God’s understanding of the depth of your debt to the Savior. Make a list with the words, “While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” at the top. Then, after writing all that Jesus saved you from, write at the bottom, “While I was still a sinner, Christ died for me.” And praise him for his work.
Let us be a people that seeks to know the depth of love that our Savior has for us. It is seeking to understand this depth that we join together as a family of believers to be called the Alliance. Amen.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

God Sees Your Story

Watch: https://www.snotr.com/video/1927/BURN_E

What I like about this clip so much and what makes it different from all the rest is the fact that this is a story, told about a robot who had a job at the same time that the events of the movie WALL-E was going on. Now if you’ve seen the movie WALL-E, you know that the story is about this little garbage compacter robot who helps another robot named E-VA find the first plant that has grown on the earth since the humans left the planet destroyed. The humans are now living in space and will not return home until they get confirmation that things can start growing on the earth again.
WALL-E is one of my favorite movies, because almost the first half of it is a silent movie, with only two words being spoken, WALL-E and E-VA. But Pixar is able to bring you into a world that you are captivated by, because the characters have so much character to them that you don’t mind that they don’t talk.
Well, while the story of WALL-E is going on, the robot BURN-E is also having a story. It’s not as great as WALL-E’s. BURN-E isn’t fighting to win his loves heart, BURN-E isn’t trying to combat evil robots. All BURN-E is trying to do is to fix something, and things just keep getting messed up.
As I watched this short story, I realized that so often I feel like this. I feel just like BURN-E. All around me it feels like my story isn’t that important; it feels like my life isn’t that noticeable. I mean, I’m not a famous athlete, actor, world leader. When I die, my name won’t go down in the history books as curing cancer, or discovering a new element on the periodic table. My story is not that known, so I feel just like BURN-E, just over here doing my own thing, but I’m not apart of the real story, the one that everyone knows.
Ever feel like that? Ever feel like you’re just not noticed, that your story isn’t the one everyone’s thinking about? Ever feel like a BURN-E?
Tonight I had a Scripture verse to share with you, about how God knows your path, but as I was sitting at my desk a Scripture I hadn’t thought of popped in my mind. I believe that God wanted me to share it with you. It comes from Matthew 11 where Jesus tells a crowd, “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!”
John’s story was great, he was chosen before birth to start the movement of people towards Jesus. He even knew who the Messiah the Savior of the world would be before he was even born. He recognized Jesus, while both he and Jesus were still in their mom’s belly’s and he jumped. But Jesus is saying that even though John had a huge story, that God is looking for those of us who are living out our stories where no one else is looking.
God sees us, he notices our lives, he sees the BUNR-E’s that we are and watches us and knows us.
Isn’t that crazy, God watches the BURN-E’s of this world, the you and me’s. Tonight, as we end I want to share with you one more song. It’s by a groups called Sidewalk Prophets; it’s about following the path that God has for you. Because you don’t need to have a WALL-E, or a John story. God’s watching your BURN-E story and noticing you and because of that, in God’s eyes your story can be that much greater.

Listen to Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsjZ94K7UQs