Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

INTRODUCTION

This is the culmination of the series of messages given during the previous Sundays regarding the life of Joseph. The series is entitled Grace in Disguise. The message this morning is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Even so, this is still about grace in disguise. But this time, since we are now at the end of the story of Joseph, this is now about the unveiling of the disguise, and the revealing of the grace which was there all along from the very beginning of Joseph’s ordeal. Continue reading “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God”

The Christian’s Struggle Against Sin

Romans 7:14-25 NIV [14] We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. [15] I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. [16] And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. [17] As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. [18] For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. [19] For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Continue reading “The Christian’s Struggle Against Sin”

What does God seek?

light sunset people water
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

“Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13-14) Continue reading “What does God seek?”

Dynamics of Change

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV

[17] Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV

[18] And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

INTRODUCTION

Change is moving from who you are now to who you have not yet become. It can refer to character, location, status, circumstances. It can be for better or for worse.

What change are we referring to? Spiritual change. Conformity to Christ’s image. Growth in Christ-likeness. Bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading “Dynamics of Change”

How are we justified before God?

Galatians 3:6-14ESV
[6] just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? [7] Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. [8] And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” [9] So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. [10] For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” [11] Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” [12] But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” [13] Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- [14] so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Continue reading “How are we justified before God?”

The New Jerusalem

06 January 2019, Ikthus East Sermon, 8:00 Sunday Morning Worship Service

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

(Revelation 21:1-5, ESV) Continue reading “The New Jerusalem”

Looking Forward (part 1) – an Ikthus East Sermon, December 2018

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

INTRODUCTION

2019 is upon us and we’re looking to it with hope that things will be better than they were in 2018. We make new year resolutions because we want things to be better. We want to lose that belly fat and excess weight, we want to save more rather than spend more, we want to be more action-oriented instead of being lazy and passive. Our hope is 2019 will be better.

But whether or not 2019 will be much better for us than 2018 the fact remains that so much of what is wrong with this world won’t change in 2019 and might even get worse. There will still be widespread hunger and famine and crime and corruption and oppression and disease and death. That’s because this world isn’t what it’s supposed to be. It’s a fallen world after all. Continue reading “Looking Forward (part 1) – an Ikthus East Sermon, December 2018”

The Seriousness of Worship

(Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash)

TEXT: Isaiah 1:10-20

INTRODUCTION:

Is the Lord pleased with our worship?

In verse 10 of Isaiah ch. 1 it is quite shocking to see God referring to his people and their leaders as of Sodom and Gomorrah – cities notorious for their wickedness, so much so that God had to destroy them with fire from heaven! What did his people do to warrant such a deplorable epithet? Is it because they despised the Word of God?

I. GOD’S DISPLEASURE WITH VAIN WORSHIP

(A) “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?” (verse 11)

So much effort, so much labor, so much costly sacrifices – all in vain! – because God did not delight in their sacrifices. It does not follow that just because we have worked so hard to have an excellent worship service the Lord is automatically pleased with us. Continue reading “The Seriousness of Worship”

Dealing With Spiritual Failure

You have no right to give up on yourself when God has no intention of giving up on you.

19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.”

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.

21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.

22 For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. – 1 Samuel 12:19-22

Introduction: Christian Realism

The fact that we are now Christians does not mean that we can no longer sin. It is true that if anyone is in Christ the old has gone (i.e., it is on its way out) and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17), but we are not yet perfect (Philippians 3:12).

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:8-10

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,

23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. – Romans 7:21-23

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:17

Steps to Dealing With Spiritual Failure

Remain Positive. “Do not be afraid.” (Verse 20a)

“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned . . . Get up! Consecrate the people…’” (Joshua 7:10, 11a, 13a)

Our sins should grieve us but not discourage us. “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” (Ecc. 9:4)

You may be a filthy cur, but at least you’re still alive. And the fact that you are still alive means that God is still giving you a chance to repent. Therefore, instead of wallowing in despair, get up and make things right! The thief on the cross was at the very brink of death but even he had a chance to repent. God is merciful. Do not be afraid! Get up! Your sins are great, but God’s grace is greater (see Romans 5:20).

Acknowledge Your Sin. “You have done all this evil.” (Verse 20b)

“Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD. I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the LORD; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt…” (Jeremiah 3:12)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Don’t Give Up. “Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord.” (Verse 20c)

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, – John 6:68

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. – John 6:37

Keep on Serving. “But serve the Lord with all your heart.” (Verse 20d)

“What God has made clean, do not call unclean.” (Acts 10:15)

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.”

Guard Yourself Against Idolatry. “And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.” (Verse 21)

“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?” (Isaiah 44:9, 10)

“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” (Isaiah 31:1-2)

“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things.” (Psalm 119:36-37)

Conclusion: The Lord Will Not Forsake His People

You have no right to give up on yourself, for the Lord has no intention of giving up on you.

For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. – 1 Samuel 12:22

What is at stake in our holiness is the greatness of God’s name. If God gives up on us and leaves us in our sins, then it is not only us who fail, it is God himself who fails. But God will not allow his name to be besmirched by failure. He will not allow himself to fail! He will save his people from their sins: completely from the penalty of sin, gradually from the power, and ultimately from the presence of sin.

22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.

23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.

26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. – Ezekiel 36:22-28

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Sermon preached at Ikthus East
The Porch, Lopue’s East
Bacolod City, Philippines
May 13, 2018 Sunday 10:00 a.m.

What to Do During a Sabbatical

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

For a minister, a sabbatical is a time to rest in order that one may gather strength for the work of ministry. In other words, a sabbatical is a strategic retreat. A minister engages in a season of rest not in order to abandon the work God has given him, but in order to refresh his own soul so that he may return to the work with renewed strength and vigor.

For we need strength from above if we are to do the work of the ministry. On our own, we lack the strength (2 Corinthians 2:16). That is why we always need to pray, “Strengthen the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17). And that is why we need to have times of refreshing for our own souls. If we are burned out and stressed out, how can we minister to others?

Jesus himself took time out from ministering to the crowds in order to be alone and to rest and refresh his soul.

Thus, we read in Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, he went out and departed to a solitary place; and there he prayed.”

In Mark 6:31 we read, “And he said to them [his apostles], Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.”

But we must make sure that we make good use of this season of rest. We must make sure that the time is well-spent in gathering spiritual strength for the work we have to do when we return to it.

How do we that? By making use of this time of rest to find peace in our hearts, and renew our trust and confidence in God. The formula here is quietness plus confidence equals strength.

FINDING PEACE

The work of the ministry – just like any other work – has its own stressors and troubles that eat away at our peace and, in the process, weaken us. If there are fears and worries that have ensconced themselves in our hearts, a sabbatical is a good time to face these fears and worries and dissolve them with the peace of Christ.

Freed from the daily grind of ministry, we have more time to cultivate a deeper relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

Whatever it is that troubles you, the Lord has promised, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

RENEWING FAITH

Just like all believers, a minister must live by faith. But ministers, being human like the rest of us, are also assailed by doubts and temptations. They too have burdens to carry, and they too sometimes wonder where is God when they need him the most. It is one thing to know in one’s head that God will never leave you and will never forsake you. It is another thing to deal with the disappointment you feel in your heart when it seems God has let you down. Doing so is difficult, regardless of the number of Bible verses you’ve memorized!

That’s why we need times of rest in order that we may renew our confidence and hope in God.

Just like Elijah. After experiencing a great victory at Mount Carmel against the 450 prophets of Baal, he fled because of the threats of a woman (Jezebel)! He was afraid, discouraged, and depressed, so much so that he wanted to die.

We read in 1 Kings 19:4-8, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tee. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’ Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.’ So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”

Elijah rested and slept, but he also arose and ate. And if I may be allowed to interpret this figuratively, the lesson we can learn from this incident in Elijah’s life is that we must make good use of this season of rest to strengthen our faith by nourishing our souls with God’s Word. Of course, a minister is always studying God’s Word. But during a sabbatical we meditate on God’s Word not for the sake of preaching to others but to nourish our own souls.

For God’s Word is the food that strengthens faith. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) And “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

CONCLUSION

So there you have it. Make use of this season of rest to find peace in Christ, especially through prayer, and to renew your faith through feeding on God’s Word. In so doing, you shall be gathering strength for the work you are called to do when you return to it. During a sabbatical we are called off from the busyness of working *for* the Master in order that we might spend more time *with* the Master.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

(A devotional message given during the Ikthus East Family Retreat at Cabacungan, Negros Occidental on March 30, 2018)