Sunday, August 27, 2017


BE THE CHURCH!   Romans 12:3-13 
Introduction: When I ask you what is a Church, you may answer in one or two ways: A church is a building where Christians go to worship. Or a group of committed believers of Christ, figuring out how best to live out their faith. When people come to church, they come with preconceived ideas of what a church should be and with high expectations of what a church should do for them individually, or for their family. When those expectations are not met people become disgruntled and eventually leave to shop for another church.
            Unfortunately, we have many church shoppers and hoppers these days, who do not have full understanding of what church really is or perhaps they are looking for a perfect Church. Let me assure you, there are no perfect churches, because there are no perfect people. Let me read a poem, I found it interesting. “What makes a good church?
If all the lazy folks get up
If all the sleepy folks wake up
If all the discouraged folks cheer up
If all the gossiping folks shut up
If all the dishonest folks fess up
If all the estranged folks makeup
If all the depressed folks look up
If all the disgusted folks sweeten up
If all the lukewarm folks fire up
If all the Sanctified folks show up
If all the leading folks live up
If all the vowing folks pay up
And if all the grumbling folks pray up.” (Unknown)

            On a sunny morning, William's mother came into her son's room and said, "William, it's Sunday. Time to get up! Time to get up and go to church! Get up! "From under the covers came mumbles, "I don't want to go!" "What do you mean?" she said. "That's silly! Now get up and get dressed and go to church!" "No!" he shot back. "I'll give you two reasons.
            I don't like them and they don't like me!" "Nonsense," she told him. "I'll give YOU two reasons to go. First, you are 42 years old, and second, you are the PASTOR!" (Unknown). In this time and age, who needs church anyway? At times you may wonder why even bother going to Church? For the past several weeks we have been studying some important themes from the book of Romans. Today we look at what it means to “Be the Church.” (Romans 12:3-13)
            In the New Testament, church is compared to a building, a flock, a bride, a treasured possession, branches of a vine and a temple. The Apostle Paul while writing to the Roman believers gives a powerful analogy of the human body to explain what church is. Romans 12: 4-5, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

The word “Church” is so often used out of context. The word "church" as rendered in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning "an assembly" and "to call out" or "called out ones." Let me establish who really is in charge of the Church.  “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) In summary, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).
At Hope Church, we believe Christ is the head of our church and we all are members of his body with designated responsibilities and authority. Before we delve deep, let’s see the premises upon which Paul built his argument. It is GRACE, which appears 18 times in Romans.
What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who did not deserve his love. It is the unmerited favor. Only by the grace of God and by our faith in Christ Jesus are we saved. Therefore, we have nothing to boast. When we understand the concept of grace, we will seek God’s grace and extend his grace to others. In other words, we become “graceful people.” When we are filled with grace, we are realistic about our abilities. We become less judgmental of other’s mistakes and failures. We accept people as they are.
Let’s look for a moment how the human body works. The human body is one of the most complex organizations that exists. It is intricately and beautifully created by God. The American Association of Anatomists lists more than 7,500 named, human body parts in Latin, as of November 2014. The list of human body parts includes dozens of organs, more than 200 bones, hundreds of muscles, nerves, blood vessels and microscopic structures.”[1]
In a perfectly healthy person all these parts are working together for the common good of the whole body. Just imagine what happens if these parts do not cooperate with each other, and stop functioning the way they are supposed to function, worst of all if they start working against one another and fight against each other? Could that body survive and thrive? Absolutely Not!
The Apostle Paul brings this parallel truth to the body of Christ, almost in a warning way. Understanding this concept of Church as the body of Christ can radically change the way we look at ourselves, others and in general at the Church. As certain as a physical body cannot function efficiently without the cooperation of the other parts, so does a local body of Christ. Only with the cooperation of its members, each doing their job selflessly, sacrificially and tirelessly, a local church will survive and thrive.
Sadly, speaking during my three decades of ministry, due to the lack of cooperation of its members many churches have closed their doors. When you see that happening it is painful, not only that, it gives a bad taste to non-Christians. I hope and wish that would not happen to Hope Church. How could we prevent that from happening? It calls for clarity, intentionality, humility and unity to be the Church that God wants us to be primarily in Sharon and beyond.


            What does it take to be the Church, in a highly individualistic, self-sufficient, self-reliant and do it yourself culture? To be the church we need to realize that we cannot do it ourselves and we need others to help us along the way. For example, if the United States army wants to send a solider to fight in a battle abroad, would they send one soldier alone with the best available weaponry in the world? Let’s suppose if they did, could that solider survive alone in the battle field? The answer is an emphatic NO!
            Then how in the world could you and I expect to fight spiritual battles alone all by ourselves? That was what Paul so passionately communicating to the Roman believers. They were a part of the larger body of Christ and they could not do it by themselves, and but were in need of the other members for their own survival. In order to make them understand he gives them two principles, to be the Church: Recognition, and Release.
A. We need to recognize, in Christ we are many, yet we belong to each other.
            This recognition is very critical for the survival of any local church. When we come together on a Sunday worship service we need to recognize that we are not just a few but are many, that makes room for others. I encourage you all to join us, there is place for you here at Hope church, you belong here, we need you and we cannot do without you. Those of us who are already serving need to recognize that we are primarily serving Christ and one another.
            We also need to recognize that each of us are uniquely gifted by God, and those gifts are for serving others. Here in this passage Paul mentions eight gifts. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8). We will do an elaborate study on gifts another time, but for now we need to recognize God gave each of us a special gift.
B. We need to release ourselves in our gifts to serve the body of Christ.  
            Any ministry gift is a gift and not a privilege. The Holy Spirit determines who to give those gifts, therefore we have nothing to boast, except to humbly receive them by faith. The Apostle Peter, writing to the persecuted church encourages them to exercise their unique gifts. “The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:7-10
            The apostle Paul shows how we can use our gifts and be the Church: Vs 9-13 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
            The message of both Paul and Peter is one and the same. Each of us are given a special gift, not for ourselves but for the purpose of serving others. We should release ourselves in our gifting. When I look around in our Church this morning, I see some of these ministries already happening. We are blessed to have: God fearing leadership team.
            Capable administrators, and trustees. Gifted and anointed worship team and musicians. Caring and loving people, those who are gifted in hospitality. Technically creative people. People who are burdened for prayer and missions. We have mercy oriented people who are ready to meet the practical needs of people. If you want use your gift to serve God and one another, there is place for you at Hope Church.  Please come and talk to one of the leadership. We will do our best to see you released in your gifting. God needs you and Hope Church needs you.
            I envision the Hope Church members in the days to come will move out into the community, connecting and being the salt and the light in tangible ways. Through our love for God and for one another many will be brought into the Kingdom of God. Let’s recognize that Christ is the head of our Church and we all are the members in the body of Christ. We need to learn to release the potential that is within us and to serve Christ and one another. Jesus is coming back soon and we have no time to waste, we have some work to do, let’s rise up and “BE THE CHURCH. Amen


Sunday, August 6, 2017


Romans 6:1-14 (8/6/2017)
Introduction: "Christianity has an image problem," claim the authors of Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why It Matters (Baker). In interviews with hundreds of 16- to 29-year-olds, coauthors Gabe Lyons and Barna Group president David Kinnaman discovered that nearly half of unchurched young Americans hold a bad impression of evangelical believers. They are especially bothered by, among other things, evangelicals' conservative political activism, hypocrisy, anti-homosexuality, and judgmentalism. The writers then explain how Christians can turn their image around.
            Does it really matter what non-Christians think about us?  It mattered to the Apostle Paul, what men thought. He taught the Roman church, saying, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” Romans 14:13. For the past few weeks we have been working through various themes in the book of Romans. So far, we have looked at, themes such as, “All of life, a Sacrifice, Knowing God’s will, Thinking differently, Sin, What’s the BIG deal, and “A Biblical view of Homosexuality.” I closed my message last week saying, “where sin increases, grace increases even more. Today we will pick up where we have left to find out what are the implications of a life under the grace of God. Dead, Yet Alive In Christ. Romans 6:1-14
            This is a dual definition of a who Christian really is. As weird as it may sound, a “Christian is a Living Dead Person. You may wonder how that can be. Before we delve deeply into our passage, let’s back up and see Romans 5:20-21, “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Keeping that as the background Paul makes three profound assertions: We are dead to sin, we are alive in Christ, and we are to take control over sin.

            How are we to understand a passage like this.? “The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Why did God want sin to increase? Increase here does not mean to multiply or grow larger. God merely wanted sin to be made more obvious, to be brought out into the open. God’s law highlights our sin so that his grace can be highlighted even more.
            The grace of God is a free gift. Wherever sin increases there the grace of God increases even more. In other words, God’s grace is unlimited, and is abundantly made available to all sinners of all times. In the sixth chapter, the Apostle Paul poses two rational questions, and provides his own answers. “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
            What does, “we are dead to sin” mean what are its implications? Death is the finality of all matters. For example, “According to a legal doctrine in Massachusetts if someone dies after conviction but before the completion of their appeal, the person’s legal records in that matter are wiped clean. The recent tragic suicide ended the former NFL player Aaron Hernandez's life and also his legal saga. According to the above law he went to his grave as an innocent man.”[1]
            Similarly, when Christ died on the cross for our sins, all the records of our sins are wiped clean. We are no longer held accountable to our past present and future sins. Also, how a dead man can no longer commit crimes, as Paul would say, “We are those who died to sin, how can we live in it any longer? This remains a challenge. Let’s look at the second assertion.

            The first assertion of Paul is that ‘We are dead to sin.” In what sense have we died to sin? Paul claimed that in a relationship with Jesus Christ, sin loses its authority over us.  In other words, we are no longer slaves to sin. It may still come knocking at our door, but God’s grace makes it possible for us to refuse. We can choose not to sin and live a Holy life.
            When Jesus was crucified, he in a certain sense took us with him into death. By his resurrection, he raised us to new life. The Apostle Paul identified in the death and the resurrection of Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20. This should be the testimony of every born-again believer.
            Our death to sin, and our being alive in Christ is clearly demonstrated in the act of Baptism. Let’s see how Baptism plays a significant role in this process of dying to sin and living in Christ. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
            What does baptism have to do with death? Baptism symbolizes the dying of the old self and reminds us that we are made new in Christ. We have three people confirmed to be Baptized this coming September. It is going to be a beautiful occasion to witness. When they will be immersed in the water, symbolically they will be dead to their sins and buried in the water but when they come out of water they will come out to live in Christ Jesus our Lord.
            They will no longer carry out the commands of their old master the devil, but now voluntarily serve their lord Jesus Christ. This transition from our old sinful life into the newness of Christ, is not instant and dramatic like for some people, but a lifelong process of making God honoring choices. What does it mean to be alive in Christ? It means we are made new persons in Christ. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18.
            Being alive in Christ means to live in the recognition of what Christ has done on a daily basis. It means giving up on old, dilapidating habit patterns and cultivating spirit energizing new habits. Developing spiritual disciplines such as reading the Bible, personal worship and prayer, attending a bible study group, celebrating with saints during Sunday worship service, giving generously to the work of God, sharing our faith with others do not come easy. Cultivating these disciplines takes intentionality and consistency, the end result is the freed-up life in Christ.
            Living in Christ also means saying good bye to certain friendships that are not right and choosing relationships that will stimulate and encourage you to live God honoring life. You ask anyone who is born again and living for Christ they would tell you, though at times it is tough and challenging, but overall fulfilling and adventurous. Let’s look at the third assertion.
            The great evangelist of our times once said, “Salvation is free but discipleship costs everything we have.” There is a lot of truth in it. Salvation is a free gift from God. We are saved by grace through faith and not by works. But everything afterwards requires effort and discipline on our part. In our passage Paul exhorts believers to take the control over sin.
                “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 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. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:11-14
            These four verses sum up Christian’s struggle against sin and their victory over sin. Paul offers some practical suggestions in our fight against sin. The first step to victory over sin is to consider that we are dead to sin and alive to God, and by faith we are to live in the light of this truth. We are to firmly believe in this truth. True believers are “in Christ” because they have died with Christ and have been raised to new life with him.
            Secondly, we are not to let sin reign in our bodies instead are to take control over sin. The analogy here is like putting a rein on a horse. A rein is a long, narrow strap attached at one end to a horse's bit, typically used in pairs to guide or check a horse while riding or driving. The horse riders know how important is to have a rein on a horse.  Similarly, if sin has a rein on us then we will be obeying its orders, but if we have taken the reins over sin then sin will no longer be our master. In other words, we will control sin instead of sin controlling us.
            Thirdly, the only way we can ever take control over sin is by letting the control of ourselves go, by offering every part of our body as an instrument of righteousness. In Chapter 4, the apostle Paul reiterates this truth of God crediting to us or counting us as righteous, eleven times. It is a powerful truth to hold on to as believers. When we believe this truth, it will transform us. The reason why we want to stop sinning is not to become righteous, but because we have already been made righteous in Christ.
            Another reason why we want to stop sinning is because we don’t want to hurt the one who loved us so much, and was willing to die on the cross for us so that we might live with him forever. Dear friends I want you to leave with these truths today. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Christ has set us free from our sin through his death on the cross.
            Therefore, now we are dead to Sin through baptism and made alive in Christ. We live under grace not under law, therefore we may struggle with sin momentarily, but it will never be our master. We are to take control over sin and not other way around. Remember that the only way we can master sin is not through striving but by resting in the completed work of Christ. Amen