Sunday, September 30, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Return of Christ

Sermon Notes from Sept. 30th
Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Wesleyans believe that Christ will return to this world at some future, but unknown, date to finally and completely triumph over evil, administer judgment on all sin, and to receive all believers into their eternal heavenly home.

Wesleyans don’t play around with dates.
Paul: about times and dates we do not need to write to you.
Jesus: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

Wesleyans don’t get hung up on debating a pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture. The Bible is not definitive. There seems to be Scripture to support all of them.

Wesleyans don’t fret over the mark of the beast and identifying the Antichrist. We just don’t have enough Scripture references to figure it out. The Bible only says that the number is 666 (man’s number).

So where does all this leave us? What can we know for certain?

The Return of Christ will be:
1) Secret – “like a thief in the night” 5:2

No advance notice. No Two Minute Warning.
The robber does not send a warning note: I will be at your house tomorrow night at 2 a.m. Love, Peter the Pick Pocket
Example Ten Virgins Parable – Matthew 25

2) Sudden – “while people are saying peace and safety, destruction will come on them suddenly” 5:3

Everything will appear to be normal when all will change in an instant. People will be eating, drinking, and getting married until the second before the end. No more time will be given to get ready. We will not know what is happening until it has already happened. Paul: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye”.

3) Sure – “as labor pains on a pregnant woman” 5:3

There will be no escaping the Lord’s return. You can’t avoid it or hide from it. It will be a blessing for some and a curse for others.

Rev. 1:1 – The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.

When Peter spoke of the Lord’s return he asked the question:
What kind of people ought you be?

Our Preparation for His Return:
When you hear about the possibility of an approaching storm you take certain preparations. Christ’s return is not just a possibility, but a sure thing. So what do we need to do?

1) Wake Up – “alert” 5:6

Keep watch. Be vigilant. Satan wants to use darkness and dullness to catch us off guard.
Darkness – not being aware of Satan’s schemes. Like the men of Issachar, we need to understand the times and know what needs to be done.

Dullness – going through the motions and settled into a rut of routine. Keep a sharp edge and keen spirit rather than being lulled to sleep.

2) Clean Up – “self-controlled” 5:6

Self control = moral integrity (mark of a man who believes he will have to settle accounts soon.)
“We know that when He appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:2-3

Peter: “you ought to live holy and godly lives”.

3) Dress Up – “putting on (faith, hope and love)” 5:8

Need to put our battle uniform. We are not in a frolic, but a fight. We live in enemy territory and we are to occupy until Jesus comes. Can’t let your guard down until Jesus comes.

Winston Churchill to House of Commons: “We must always be ready to meet at our average moment anything that any possible enemy could hurl against us at his selected moment.”

We need to Wake Up, Clean Up and be Dressed Up because the Lord could return at any moment. Are you ready?

The unbeliever should be convicted by the fact of the Lord’s return. The believer should be comforted by it.

Not on the Program Committee that is privy to all the details.
But we can be on the Welcome Committee that plans the party.

Ill: Arrival of plane at the airport. Air traffic controller knows all the details but doesn’t get excited about the plane. The fiancee in the terminal doesn’t know any of the details but is very excited about the plane because the love of her life is aboard.

Are you ready?
The return of Christ will be like a pop quiz, not an announced test.

Ill: In school – which class would you learn the most from?
The class where all the tests are announced ahead of time or the one where all the tests are unannounced pop quizzes? How would your approach differ in the two classes?

If the Lord’s pop quiz (return) were today would you be ready?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Sanctification of Christians

Sermon Notes from Sept. 23rd:
Text: Romans 6:13-19

I will do anything to make church theology interesting. I will sing Amazing Grace to the Gilligan’s Island tune. I will ride a bicycle into the church. What will I do today?
I will play with play dough. Watch me make a pencil, plate, corn, ball, & fish.
Why? Because I can’t make pottery, even if I could it would be too messy.

See Jeremiah 18:1-6
Isaiah 64:8 > O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Romans 9:21 > Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

Clay on the potter’s wheel is our image to better understand the work of sanctification in a believer’s life.

Wesleyans: We believe that sanctification is a work of God’s grace in a Christian’s life enabling him to wholeheartedly love and obey God by separating him from sin as the Christian surrenders completely to God.

* Sanctification is God’s work, not ours.
1 Cor. 1:2 > To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.
“Sanctification is the work of God in which believers cooperate.”

* We must be saved before we can be sanctified.
John 17:16-17 > They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
Sanctification literally means: set apart for sacred use, to purify, to make holy and pure. God can’t set us apart until we are His disciples.

* Sanctification involves our entire being (all of us).
1 Thes. 5:23 > May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Like the clay on the potter’s wheel we must allow God to take complete control in order to shape us and then to use us as He wills. Unlike the clay – we have free will and must decide to cooperate with the Potter.

God’s Part – Sanctify My Part – Surrender
Romans 6:13 > … offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Offer = yield / to put at one’s disposal

Three Things You Must Say to Experience Sanctification:

1) Say “NO” to Your Self.
God can do a better job with me than I can do with me.
I need to give up control.
Gal. 2:20 > I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

Dead people don’t control anything. They have no power.
Have you given Christ the steering wheel of your life?

2) Say “NO” to Your Sin.
God can not stand sin in my life and will help me destroy it.
1 Peter 1:15-16 > But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."

Common Attitudes:
I will sin all I want, God’s grace is free.
Romans 6:1-2 > What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

I can overcome sin if I am strong enough.
Romans 7:24-25 > What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Sin and Satan are stronger than I am but not God.
But when I repent (turn from my sin) and trust in God’s power, He will enable me to overcome temptation.

Gal. 3:2-3 > I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?

3) Say “YES” to Your Savior.
God can empower me to victory if I will always obey Him.
This is the true measure of our love for Jesus.

John 14:23-24 > Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.

Shirley Caesar song: I'll say yes, Lord, yes
To your will and to your way
I'll say yes, Lord, yes
I will trust you and obey
When your Spirit speaks to me
With my whole heart I'll agree
And my answer will be yes, Lord, yes.

Romans 6:19 > Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.

Have you offered yourself to God today? It is a daily decision.
The first time is the hardest. But it is never easy.

Will you be like clay in the potter’s hands today and let God sanctify you so that He can shape you as He wants and use you as He wants?

God can’t shape us unless we are yielded to His will. Our hearts can be hard like clay can be become hard.

Eze. 36:26 > 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.

Invitation: Come and take a piece of clay (play dough).
Let it be your reminder of this act of surrender and your need to yield every day for the rest of your life so that God can sanctify you through and through.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In the Security of Believers

Sermon Highlights from Sept. 16th:
Text: 2 Peter 1:3-11

I rode a bicycle into church when it was time to preach and parked it on the platform. I told the congregation that I would later let them know why.

The question of the security of believers tends to divide the family of God (church) into two camps or opinions.
Calvinist – unconditional security
Arminian – conditional security

John Wesley: “Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union; yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”

Calvinist and Arminians agree on the core truth of the gospel – Jesus Christ is the only means of our salvation and faith must be placed in Him and His death on the cross for eternal life.

Calvinist – focus on the sovereignty of God and election of the saints > predestination > perseverance of the saints

Arminians – focus on the free will of man and the choices people have > conditional salvation upon both saving and continued faith

Wesleyans are in the Arminian camp. Therefore, as Wesleyans:

We believe that God allows all people, including believers; freedom to accept or to reject His grace, believers can have security in Christ as they continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God.

Some Calvinists accuse Wesleyans of being eternally insecure; that we are never sure of our salvation. Perhaps this is because of a difference in defining sin.

SIN – missing of the mark of God’s perfect standard or willfully and deliberately violating a known law? BOTH!
Can we ever meet God’s mark of perfection? NO
Can we break free from willful violations? YES by God’s grace

1 John 3:9-10 > No one who is born of God will continue to sin, … he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.

Wesleyans who stay focused on sin will be insecure. You gravitate toward what you focus on. So how do we have security?

This is why I rode the bike today. When I ride a bike I don’t worry all the time about falling off. I have learned the two things I need to do in order to successfully ride a bike.
1) Stay focused on where I am going.
2) Keep pedaling. (Balancing will take care of itself.)

These two things are very much like the two things I must do to be secure as a believer.

1) Keep my eyes on Jesus.
The attractions of the world will try to entice me to look aside; like billboards on the road – they want me to take mt eyes off where I am going.

Hebrews 12:2 > Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.
Colossians 2:6 > Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.

2) Keep growing through spiritual disciplines.

Colossians 2:7 > Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.

Personal Disciplines – Prayer, Fasting, Bible Reading, Meditation, Service, Self Denial, Solitude
Corporate Disciplines – Worship, Study, Fellowship, Sacraments, Preaching, Teaching, Intercession

Read 2 Peter 1:3-11

Every day I have a choice to exercise or not to exercise personal disciplines. Every week I have the choice to exercise or not to exercise corporate disciplines with other believers.

2 Peter 3:17-18 – Be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Three Questions:
Have you gotten on the bike?
Have you put your trust in Jesus?

Are you keeping focused on your destination?
Are you keeping your eyes on Jesus?

Are you pedaling the bike?
Are you maintaining your spiritual disciplines?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In The Family of God

Sermon Highlights from Sept. 9th:
Text: Galatians 3:26-29

We believe that the earthly manifestation of the family of God is the church and includes all believers in Jesus Christ of all ages. This family has one father, the God of the Bible, who intends for His family to live in community with one another.

Members of the family of God share the same:

1) Portal (same entry point)
v.26 – You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

As sinners, we all need a Savior – there is only one, Christ Jesus.
“I am the way, the truth and the life.”

2) Parity (everyone shares a commonality)
v.28 – There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Henri Nouwen: “We are unified by our common weaknesses, our common failures, our common disappointments and our common inconsistencies.”

No distinctions made based on: Race or Class or Gender
The church is built on level ground.
The family of God understands the common of community.
We need each other to survive. We are interdependent and interconnected. We rely on each other.

3) Promise (same hope, purpose and desire)
v.29 – If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We gather week after week to encourage, edify and exhort one another.

Hebrews 10:24-25 > And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.

We rally with other local churches to support and strengthen each other in our mutual endeavor.

1 Cor. 1:2 > “with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours.”

John Wesley: “Although a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union; yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?”

We look forward to the grand family reunion in heaven with all the family from all the ages.

Hebrews 11:39-40 > These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

As family members let us pledge our loyalty to the universal church and to one another by saying together:
Pledge to the Church: I pledge allegiance to the church of Jesus Christ. As part of God’s family I will live in harmony with my brothers and sisters, seek to exalt Christ and serve others in His name.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Wesleyans Believe In The Inspiration of Scripture

Sermon highlights from September 2nd:

Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (primarily v.16 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.)

As Wesleyans We believe in the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God and have been transmitted to the present without corruption of any essential doctrine. We believe that they contain all things necessary to salvation.

Trust in the Bible is built on 4 T’s:

Transmission – We have to trust that God spoke through the original human authors.

Transference – We have to trust in the early church fathers’ selection of books for transference into the canon.

Transcription – We have to trust that the copyists were collectively accurate in their transcribing of the original manuscripts.

Translation – We have to trust the translators of Scripture to communicate the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew texts.

As Wesleyans we make this Pledge to the Bible: I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.