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Keeping Our Focus

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:28-30)

Notice the train of events: first, Peter asks to come closer to Christ; to walk to Him on the water. Jesus responds by telling Peter, “Come.” So, Peter goes. Yet, then his focus point shifts from Jesus, to the winds and the waves surrounding him; he takes his eyes off the one keeping him afloat; his salvation, if you will, and focuses instead on the troubles surrounding him. This leads in turn to Peter beginning to sink, and having to cry out for help.

Sometimes it can seem like we’re closer to God than ever before; we’re inseparable from the Bible, and it seems like God is continually giving us new revelations; it can seem like we’re just continually growing closer to Christ. And, so long as we keep the Gospel as our focus; so long as we keep Jesus in focus, we’ll continue growing closer to Him. It’s when we lose sight of Christ, that we get swamped. Yes, troubles, and sin struggles, are a part of life. But we should never lose focus of Him whose able to keep us safe! Jesus is more powerful than wind, and He’s certainly more powerful than whatever troubles we may bring.

Jesus died that we may live, it’s not as if He’ll now abandon us to drown in despair, or get swamped in sin, if we’ll just look to Him for our help. The waves won’t help us, the wind won’t help us, only Jesus Christ can. So let’s learn from Peter’s mistake, and keep our eyes on what’s most important.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Proximity to Jesus

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:1-2)

Jesus, apparently in an effort to get high enough to be able to speak to the entire crowd, goes to the top of a conveniently near-by mountain. Next, up came his disciples, while the crowd remained below. There’s a pretty clear separation that we can see here: we’ve got Jesus, we’ve got His disciples, and then we’ve got the untold masses below. Now, perhaps someone put up a sign that told the masses gathered below not to come up to where Jesus was, and Matthew simply forgot to record it, we don’t know. However, as far as we do know, the crowds didn’t come up because they didn’t want to.

They, apparently, preferred to hear Christ’s teaching from a safe distance. A distance, where they could quickly disappear from if Pharisees showed up… Yet, they were still allowed to hear Christ’s teaching, right along with the Jesus’ disciples, who had actually come up the mountain to be with Him. So, what’s the real difference between the masses, and the disciples? Both parties had the chance to follow Jesus around and hear Him speak, but only the masses could hurry off, and not be caught if those opposed to Jesus showed up. So, was the crowd actually in a better position than the disciples, who were physically closer to Christ, were?

Well, it’s true that physical proximity to Jesus doesn’t matter that much. However, Jesus does reward their willingness to openly follow Him later. Only the Disciples got to witness Jesus curse a fig tree. Only the Disciples got to hear Him say, “Peace be with you.” when He appeared to them after His crucifixion. But now, let’s get back to being realistic; how does any of this apply to us? Certainly it’s good for the Apostles to be able to climb the mountain and be physically close to Jesus, but so what? It’s not like we can do that.

The Apostles teach us a lesson: when we walk Spiritually close to Christ, He’ll walk close to us. – When we make Him the focus of our day, and when our aim is to please and to give glory to God, Christ will show Himself to us in new and sometimes unexpected ways.

So, which are we? One of the masses who hears Christ, but will run off the moment opposition arises, or a disciple, to whom Christ reveals Himself in new and different ways?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Peter’s Progression

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” (John 18:15-17)

Let’s look at the events that occurred in leading up to Peter’s denying Christ: – on a side-note, Peter actually denied Christ three times, but his first denial is all we’re going to look at for now. – First, we see that Peter, “and another disciple” were following Jesus. Then Jesus and the other disciple go in to high priest’s courts, while Peter stays behind. This, right here, when Peter is away from Jesus and “the other disciple”, is when he denies Christ. There’s a progression that goes on here: first Peter is following Christ, and has another disciple to help him and spur him on (so to speak. — we don’t know if the other disciple actually did any “spurring on”…). But then, when Peter is alone, does he give in to the sin of denying Christ.

We can learn something from Peter’s progression. First and foremost among the things we can learn, being not to be separated from Christ! Granted, in this case, Peter didn’t have a choice in the matter, but the fact still stands that when Jesus left was the time Peter fell. Likewise, when we grow distant from Christ; when we stop reading our Bibles, when we stop praying, and when we grow apart from other believers, that’s when we become most vulnerable to attacks.

The point being simply this: let’s not get away from Christ. Instead, looking forward to the cross, let’s run the race which has been set out before us.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2012 in Delivered Through Love, Peter

 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

Today my brother Daniel preached. The passage he talked on was 1 Peter 2:13-17. The gist of what he was saying, was, (as Peter is talking about in that particular section), we should obey the government.

In verses thirteen-fourteen, he brought out that it is the governments job to punish evil, and that it’s God that put the government into place. Here, he also brought out Romans 13:1-4, in order to support what he was saying.

In verse fifteen, he brought out how the majority of citizens in America mock the government. Here he also brought out an example of a site that’s sole goal was to publish one hundred government-mocking videos in the span of twenty-four hours. Here, he also posed the question, “What if they saw us, instead of going along with them, not mocking the government; would it cause them to stop doing it themselves?”

Finally, he ended on verse sixteen, with the statement that, we should live free, because we are free. Here, he also brought out Romans 6:1-2, to finalize his point.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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The Two Marys

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:5-7)

Let’s look together at what the man in the white robe had to say to Mary and Mary: he told them to ‘not be alarmed.’ Why not? ‘Because Jesus has risen. So go tell the disciples that He’s risen, and not only that, but that He’s going before them to Galilee.’ — Now isn’t that one of the most encouraging things you’ve ever read? Not only encouraging, but in there we’re also given an admonition to go tell others that Christ has risen.

Do Not Be Alarmed

“Oh, but Lord,” we may say, “I have no way of paying my bills! I’m without a job, and I can’t feed my family. Lord, you simply don’t understand my situation, if you did, you’d realize that I must be alarmed!” Yet that way of arguing as an internal flaw. You see, all of that would matter a great deal, if Christ hadn’t risen. “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.” Yet Christ has risen! And thus nothing on Earth should cause us alarm. Why should it? After all, what’s the worst that can happen; we die? If our Earthly selves die, we go to Paradise with Christ! Christians are not to be alarmist. We shouldn’t directly put ourselves in danger, obviously, but neither should we be alarmed at anything “bad” which happens. Something, granted, far easier to say than to do. In which case, “But God gives more grace” (see: James 4:6), becomes a very important verse to us. Not only that, but the knowledge that Jesus is, “going before us,” helps considerably.

But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.

Mary and Mary were told to go, and tell Jesus disciples, and Peter, that He is going before them to Galilee. Now, for the record, Peter is separated from the other disciples not because he wasn’t one of them, but because he needed special encouragement. They were to specifically seek out Peter and tell him the good news. But, that aside, the point is that they were told to go tell others that Jesus has risen. We are to the do the same thing! At the very least we are to live in a way different from the way World lives. Paul says it better than I do:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: (A)neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

The point being this: Christians are to not be alarmed at anything physical, and are to spread the good news, as the two Marys did.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
 

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The Sermon Today

Hello again!

This is the sermon my dad, Mike Cleveland, preached today at The Fountain of Grace Church:

How Do We Love

First Scripture Reading: Isaiah 45:22-25 22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath. 24 He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.’ “

Let’s sing together:

Second Scripture Reading: Romans 14:1-12 1 Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. 2 For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. 3 Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. 4 Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Let’s pray together:

Well as we begin to look at this new chapter, Romans chapter 14, I think we all understand that the Bible is very clear on certain things: for instance, we saw in Romans 13 that Christians are to submit to the governing authorities, we are to pay our taxes, and we are to respect authority, and we are not to commit adultery, or murder, or steal, we are not to be involved in drunkenness, sexual immorality, or strife and contention, because all of that violates the law of love. According to vs. 10 we are to “do no harm” to our neighbor. These things are abundantly clear in Scripture.

But there are some other things that are not so clear, and that if not careful, Christians can end up arguing about them. The Bible calls these things “disputable matters” or “doubtful matters.” And where we find Christians, in any church, who are distracted from Christ and are off arguing about disputable matters we soon find an unhealthy church, a church that is languishing and is sickly. But in this passage of Scripture that we’re looking at today, God gives us the remedy, the medicine, that will make for a healthy and loving and growing church if the instructions are followed.

Now just a little background on our passage: in Rome there were some converted Jews who were raised under the Law. In Leviticus chapter 11 and other Old Testament places, it strictly forbids the eating of unclean meat. And in Leviticus chapter 23 there were 7 special days, holy days, that the Jews were to keep, such as the Passover, and Feast of Tabernacles, and the Day of Atonement, etc.. These were special days that belonged to the Covenant God had made with Israel, and now some of these Jews had become Christians and had carried over part of their religious belief system into their Christianity. It’s very easy to carry the baggage of our past into our Christian life.

In fact, the apostle Peter did that. One day he was on the roof of his house and he had a vision of all kinds of animals being let down in a sheet and God told him “rise Peter, kill and eat.” Acts 10:14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” Peter, even though he was a Christian, still held to the Old Covenant dietary rules, where you wouldn’t eat unclean meat, and worse yet he wouldn’t accept “unclean Gentiles” as being believers. And so God graciously corrected him through this object lesson.

Some people today believe that those old Covenant dietary restrictions are still in place under the New Covenant, and that we are still to keep special days. I was raised as a Seventh-Day-Adventist and we were vegetarians and Sabbath-keepers. And that’s exactly what some were doing in Rome. We’ve seen in vss. 2-5 that some, who were weaker in faith, believed that they were not to eat meat and that they were to keep certain days holy. But those who were stronger in faith believed that you could now eat anything and that every day was alike.

So the question comes, “who is right? Are the Old Covenant dietary laws still in effect? Do we need to keep the Sabbath today?” But Paul tells us in this passage that those are the wrong questions to ask. The right question to ask is how do we treat fellow Christians who see things differently than we do? Not, “who is right?” but “how do we love each other?”

That’s the question that Paul is going to answer. And in His answer, God gives us four things to do to love each other. Four truths that will make for a healthy, loving, growing church family where there is unity and love and grace flowing freely, if we are careful to follow His instructions. Here are the four things, briefly:

  1. Accept each other (vss. 1-2).
    1. Do not despise each other (vss. 3-5)
    2. Do not judge each other (vss. 3-6)
    3. Consider how our lives affects others (vss. 7-8)
    4. Focus on Jesus Christ and the Gospel (vs. 9)
    5. Leave the judging to God (vss. 10-12)

First, vs. 1: “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” In other words, if someone came to their church who believed differently than they did in things that are not clear, they were to receive him warmly, to accept him with love. In essence, they were to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), and to welcome people into the church with open arms, just like Jesus opened His arms on the cross and died to make believers acceptable to the Father.

Romans 15:7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Maybe there are some here today who have not yet put their faith in Jesus, maybe thinking they won’t be accepted. “I’ve gone too far.” Well this verse presents Jesus as a receiving Savior. Luke 15:2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” He sure does. His heart is open to receive us and to fellowship with us. And that’s how we should be with each other.

Illustration: a lady by the name of Esther risked her life to save her people. She came before the King uninvited (against the law), and wasn’t sure if he would receive her or not, but then the king extended the scepter, lowered his scepter to her. Esther 5:2 when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. She was welcome, she was accepted. Well at the cross, God extended the scepter to anyone who comes to Him for forgiveness: we found favor in His sight. “You are welcome in my presence.” And you and I are to extend the scepter to people who do not believe the same way we do, when it comes to disputable matters.  

Now if you notice in vs. 1 there are two groups of people addressed here. We can see it clearly in vs. 2: “One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.” So Paul is writing to people who are strong in faith and people who are weak in faith. The strong one believes it’s ok to eat meat, considers every day alike. The weak in faith believes in only eating vegetables, and he keep certain days as special days, as holy days.

Strong faith needs nothing but belief in the gospel, whereas weak faith needs additional rules to help it believe. It needs crutches to help it walk, so it gravitates toward laws, rules, something tangible that we can do. It just needs a little help. And the Bible does not knock either one, but gives instruction to both as to how to love the other one.

A.Now notice the instruction to the strong in vs. 3: “Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat.” Do not despise each other. So here’s the temptation for the one who is strong in faith: he knows more, he is more experienced, he has walked with the Lord longer, and his temptation is to despise his brother who doesn’t know what he knows. Despise means to treat with contempt, to treat as meaningless and utterly wrong. Here is how it would sound: “Don’t you know how ridiculous it is to put yourself under the Old Covenant when Christ brought in a New Covenant. 1 Timothy 4:4 “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;” It’s just foolish to keep special diets and special days, that’s ridiculous.” This one who is supposedly so strong in faith, has just despised his weaker brother.

B.But then notice the instruction to those weaker in faith in vs. 3: “and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him.” Do not judge each other. Here’s the temptation for those who are weaker in faith: it’s to judge others who don’t need the rules. Here’s how this would sound: “you don’t follow the Lord in the commands He gave us to separate ourselves from the world. You are a Carnal Christian who has turned liberty into license to sin.” You’ve just judged your brother.

So do we see the word pictures that the Bible paints for us here? Think about these portraits that Paul is painting here in both the strong and the weak Christian: there’s a man walking along the road in crutches. Another man walks up to him, kicks the crutches out from underneath him, says “you don’t need those” and walks away. He has violated the Law of love. What he should do is come alongside the man, with a heart of love and compassion, and say “brother, here put your arm around my shoulder, and let me just walk with you awhile.” And they walk together and strengthen each other. Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. Be very careful about a weak person’s conscience. The conscience has to be won over little by little through patient instruction, and gentle leading, not taken by storm.

Well here’s the other picture: the weaker Christian sees someone who attends his church having a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant. This weaker person, in his mind, walks up the stairs to the judges’ bench, puts on the judges robe, sits down in the judges seat and declares that other brother guilty of worldliness, guilty of being a Carnal Christian, guilty of not living a separated life, and he slams the gavel down. And in so doing he has violated the law of love.

Think of something for a minute: you know what we have to do before we put on the robe of the judge? We have to take off the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says “for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Jesus’ purpose was not to condemn, but to be condemned in our place. He didn’t come to judge but to be judged instead of us and thereby save anyone who repents and believes.

Notice vs. 4: Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Every Christian would be wise to keep these two main thoughts from this verse in mind: “who are you?” and “God is able.” Who are you to judge? There’s the instruction about humility. Who are you? Who am I? Well we’re sinners. We were rebellious enemies of God, dead in our sins and trespasses. So now I’m a judge? No! Who am I? I’m nothing. But then God is able. God is able to make each person stand. God is able, we’re not. Jude 1:24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Let us be very careful not to judge someone who believes differently than we do. Let’s leave it to each person to seek out the truth and to come to a particular belief. That’s exactly what vs. 5 says, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Let me just give some practical help in this matter. Look for just a minute at Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. Now let’s apply that to our subject today. You know what I’ve learned to do as I get to know someone: begin thinking on his or her good points. How are they like Christ? What are their good qualities? And run through these qualities in my mind. Play that tape over and over in your mind. That way, if someone came up to me and says, “so and so is doing this or that; they are a weak Christian or a carnal Christian” I can say “maybe so but they sure are humble, and faithful. And look how they love the body of Christ. Wow, I can sure see Christ in them.”

So the first instruction is to accept one another, don’t condemn and don’t judge. This even includes motives. Romans 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. Don’t judge motives, because it’s entirely possible that whatever that fellow believer is doing is doing it unto the Lord.

Second instruction is “consider how your life affects others.” Vs. 7 says, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself.” Maybe we shouldn’t have that drink with dinner so that we don’t trip somebody up. We don’t live just to our own selves, our own desires. Paul said, 1 Corinthians 8:13 13 if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Vs. 8 says “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Third instruction: “Focus on Jesus Christ and the gospel.” The mature person has learned to get off the small things, the petty things, the disputable things, and focus on Jesus and what He did for us. Vs. 9 “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Christ died to be Lord over that brother we think is weaker than us. And Christ died to be Lord over that brother we think is living carnally. Focus on the fact that Jesus died for Him as well as for you. Ever wondered what is most important in the Christian life? The primary thing we should focus on? 1 Corinthians 15:3: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

And in so doing, Jesus won the right to be the Lord of all. Think of what He is doing there on the cross. Yes, He is bearing our sins in His own body on that tree. He is suffering under the wrath of God, He is despised and rejected of man. He is treated as if He were nothing, and worse than nothing, a criminal, a despised and hated man. He is being wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. Then He dies under the condemnation of God and is taken down from the tree and buried. Why is He enduring all of this scorn and hatred and ridicule and mocking and piercing and death? He is winning our worship, and our submission, so that as He rises from the dead on the third day, He now has the right to be both Lord. Vs. 11 “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.”  Psalm 72:11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him.” He suffered all this for us, that He might be our Lord, exalted to the right hand of God.

Illustration. Joseph was loved by his father but hated by his brothers. His father sent him on a mission of mercy to check on his brothers, but when they saw him coming they plotted to kill him; they ended up selling him into the hands of Gentiles for pieces of silver. While he was there he was falsely accused and thrown into prison, down into a dark dungeon where he was placed right between two criminals. To one he brought a message of life, to the other a message of death. But then, he was raised up out of the dungeon and he was exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh where he became lord and savior of all, providing bread to all who came to him. Notice what all the people were to do to Joseph:

Genesis 41:41-43 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, “Bow the knee!” So he set him over all the land of Egypt.

The depths of the dungeon to the heights of lordship. Treated as a criminal to sitting at the right hand of power. “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philippians 2:10-11). Have you bowed the knee? Have you received the Savior? Focus on this!

Well let’s close with our final point. Therefore, because Jesus died and rose to be Lord of all, we have the final instruction on how to love each other, which is, leave the judging to God. Romans 14:10 But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Vs. 12 says “So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Picture that day when you and I are standing before God in heaven to give an account of what we’ve done on this earth. That is not the time to ask for mercy, and to be ashamed that we rejected the Son of God, that we did not surrender all and bow our knee to King Jesus. We do not want to hear the words, “away from me, I never knew you” and to be sent away from His eternal presence. If anyone wants to escape this judgment and God’s wrath, just surrender all to Him, receive Jesus and put Him on, and God will see that He has already judged you and you’ve already paid for your sin in Christ. Now if we are believers, we are not being judged for life or death, heaven or hell, Jesus was already judged for us, was declared guilty and was put to death in our place. We’re being judged for rewards. Do we get the gold, the silver or the bronze?

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Todays Sermon

 

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Faithlessness and Denial

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful– for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

That last part (the bit in bold) is a very interesting, and is something we really need to understand correctly, as it implies that all Christianity is, is mumbling a prayer (getting a faith), and then going to live however we want, because, after all, Christ will remain faithful to us. This not true.

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. (Romans 6:11-14)

If we deny Christ, He will deny us. “Denying Him,” doesn’t, per se, mean stating out-loud that you “Deny Jesus.” Instead, if you just don’t give Him all your worship, then you’re denying Him; and situations to the like.

Now that we’ve established the definition of “denying Christ,” what exactly does it mean to be faithless to Him? Well, this is the thing: yes, if we deny Christ He’ll deny us. However, this doesn’t mean that if we fall to temptation we’re no longer Christian. Sometimes even the most faithful of Christians falls into some temptation, and thus becomes “faithless.” However, the real difference between denying, and being faithless to Jesus, is that being faithless is a temporary situation; every true Christian will, through the power of God, overcome. Yet if someone denies Christ, they aren’t Christians. Though, as we see in Peter’s case, (remember that he denied Christ three times) if someone repents, they can be saved.

15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

 17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter.

   He replied, “I am not.” (John 18:17)

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)

So, to summarize: all Christians at some point fall to temptation; and are thus “faithless”. Yet God will bring them back! But those who deny Jesus, though they can be saved, will remain trapped in their temptation.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

P.S. Just to update everyone: my mom now has a sort of tingling numbness in her left arm (in addition to the pain in her chest), which is one of the symptoms of a heart attack, so she’s gone back to the hospital for the now. Please continue to pray for her.

 

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Becoming a Fruitful and Effective Christian

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

‘Don’t get carried away’, that seems like a fairly general statement. Remain steadfast, don’t get blown around by every wind of new teaching, that sort of thing. But how is it that we can remain (and not be carried away); How can we stay steadfast?

First, how can we obey what Peter has just told us? … Seeing as we’re incapable.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

It’s not actually us obeying, therefore it’s possible; It’s Christ though us. But however it happens, the point is that we remain steady against false teachers (Muhammad, Buddha and several others). – Pretty simple really.

You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:17-18)

On the other hand, this admission by Peter is different. He tells us to grow in the Gospel. But how can someone do that? By growing in(to) Christ. To quote from myself:

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

Obviously it’s not possible for us to suddenly turn into the physical Jesus, Paul isn’t talking about that, he’s talking about us growing spiritually into the likeness of Christ. He’s talking about a Spiritual transformation, which is an entirely different thing than psychical transformation, and for that matter, is much easier for us to do. Speaking of which, how again do we grow into the likeness of Christ?

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Our Spiritual life is much like our physical life, in both we grow, in both we need to “eat”, and in both we mature. However, is our Spiritual life we are also transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

– http://goldenbible.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/the-image-of-god/

Stick with me please, this all does have a purpose and will eventually fit together. – As we learned in my last post, if we have self-control, we need steadfastness and if we have steadfastness, we need godliness (i.e. we need to grow in the Gospel). Peter is first telling us to be steadfast and now he tells us to also grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (in the Gospel). First he told them (and us) the characteristics, now he’s giving them (and us) practical ways to apply them.

We are steadfast, by not being, “blown around” by every false prophet that comes our way. We grow in Godliness by becoming more like Christ. We have knowledge by growing in the knowledge of Jesus (which is the Gospel). Same with virtue:

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. (2 Peter 3:13-14)

Same with all the characteristics. Paul is giving us practical ways to be, “fruitful and effective”. – The point? Through Christ’s power, we’re able to stay steadfast in him, able to be spotless in God’s eyes, able to have virtue, faith, godliness and the rest. In short, the way we become a fruitful and effective Christian, is by growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Characteristics of the Effective and Fruitful Christian

Hello again!

Today we start the book of 2 Peter! – This is what God gave me today in his word:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, (2 Peter 1:3-5)

We’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world, therefore clearly we should make every effort to supplement our faith with virtue (etc). That doesn’t seem to make much sense. We’ve escaped for Heaven’s sake! Why is it then that we would have to, “supplement our faith”?

First, why is it that we have to, “supplement our faith” if we’ve already escaped the corruption in the world? … 

and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:6-9)

We need to, “supplement our faith,” because of the reason Peter just named. i.e. To keep us from being, “ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – We happen to know that the, “knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” is the Gospel, so with that in mind, how can someone be ineffective or unfruitful in it? By not having knowledge, self-control, etc. It’s safe to assume therefore, that since in order to be ineffective and unfruitful we need to not have those things, that in order to be effective and fruitful we need those things. Let’s list them out and then review them:

1. faith

2. virtue

3. knowledge

4. self-control

5. steadfastness

6. godliness

7. brotherly affection

8. love

But of course, that isn’t right is it? I listed them wrong, I put them all separately (on purpose; to make this point). Peter says, “knowledge and with knowledge self-control,” and so on. This is because when you have the first one,  you need the second one as much as you need the eighth one and you need the seventh one to have the eighth: getting the point yet? We all need faith to be Christians, but when we have faith, we need virtue, or our faith is useless. As James says:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-16)

If we have virtue then, we also need knowledge. What good is it to give someone a bowl of soup and send them on their way?  That person is still entrapped in sin! If you’re going to care for someones physical needs, also care for their Spiritual needs; the only way you can do that, is if you have knowledge about the Gospel.

And if we have knowledge, we need self-control. We have to know when and where to use that knowledge. What real good can knowledge serve, if it’s not presented at the right time. Also, just in general, people need to have self-control.

Now if we have self-control, we also need steadfastness. What good is self-control if you can’t continually use it? By that, I mean if you’re not steadfast, you can’t continually do something, what ever that may be. Whether it’s having self-control, or even simply having virtue.

What good is having steadfastness though if we’re not Godly? What good is being Godly though if we’re Godly in a, “holier than thou” manner? No, we also need brotherly affection to love those who we’re talking to. But how can we have brotherly affection if we don’t have love? How can we have virtue if we don’t have love? How can we remain steadfast if we don’t have faith? How can we have faith if someone first didn’t give us the knowledge of God? It all intertwines. Everything is important, but you can’t have one without having the other.

The point? All these characteristics that I mentioned spring out of one thing. Just one. The Gospel of Jesus! We can’t have knowledge of it (and therefore faith, etc), if we don’t first and foremost know that. It is the most important thing and should never be forgotten.  It’s the only way we can even be effective and fruitful! Without knowing the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again for us, every effort that we make towards, “holiness” is fruitless, every, “good deed” fruitless. It doesn’t matter how much faith we have if we don’t know what we have faith in! It’s no good if we have virtue but aren’t Godly! We need everything to be, “effective and fruitful,” but the only way we, or anyone who God blesses us with the ability to minister too, can be a Christian (much less a effective and fruitful one) is through the power of the Gospel.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Satanic Attacks and Our Defense

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in his word:

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1 Peter 4:1-3)

All who have suffered in the flesh, have died to the flesh. That makes sense when you think about it, after all, if you’re reveling in your flesh (which is exactly what we were doing before being saved), you’re clearly not suffering in it. Whereas if you’re suffering in it, you know for certain you’re actually trying to resist it (in the power of the Holy Spirit). – Aside from that though, what exactly is the, “way of thinking” that Peter is talking about?

First, what, “way of thinking,” is Peter talking about? … So that we can arm ourselves with it.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

“arm yourselves with the same way thinking,” in saying that, Peter was referring to Jesus’ suffering in the flesh. i.e. He’s saying that we should arm ourselves with a mindset of suffering in the flesh. If someone is saved, they will at some point, suffer in the flesh, no matter who they are or how much they’ve, “done for God”. So Peter warns us to expect this; to prepare our defenses for when the attack comes, because it will come. – Then he continues, giving them further instructions on what else they can do to prepare them-self.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11)

Both Paul and Peter say pretty much the same thing at this part, “above all, keep loving one another earnestly” or as Paul says, “above all else, put on love”. Loving one anther with a Godly love is clearly important, but why is that? If you love someone (with a Godly love) that person can share their struggles with you, as, likewise you can do with them. But also, because love binds together. If you have a church without love, you don’t have a church, you have a, “religious group”.

And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:14)

The point? In order to actually have a church, or more specifically, to have a church with good defenses against Satanic attack, you need a couple of things (which Peter mentioned), but the main two are these: the knowledge that you will in fact be attacked and a healthy dose of love from those around you.

Of course, you should also always keep in mind that Jesus has defeated Satan and that because of that, we do have the power to overcome temptation!

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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