“The Almighty God”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY 6TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST FEBRUARY 17, 2019

Title: “The Almighty God”

Text: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)

Scripture Reading: Psalms 19.

A college professor, an avowed Atheist, was teaching his class. He shocked
several of his students when he flatly stated he was going to prove there was no God.
Addressing the ceiling he shouted: “God, if you are real, then I want you to knock me
off this platform. I’ll give you 15 minutes!” The lecture room fell silent. You could have
heard a pin fall. Ten minutes went by. Again he taunted God, saying, “Here I am, God.
I’m still waiting.” His countdown got down to the last couple of minutes when a Marine –
just released from active duty and newly registered in the class – walked up to the
professor, hit him full force, and sent him tumbling from his lofty platform. The professor
was out cold! At first, the students were shocked and babbled on in confusion. The
young Marine took a seat in the front row and sat silent. The class fell silent…waiting.
Eventually, the professor came to, shaken. He looked at the young Marine in the front
row. When the professor regained his senses and could speak he asked: “What’s the
matter with you? Why did you do that?” “God was busy…He sent me.”
God is constantly confronting humanity with his reality. Everywhere people turn,
they are faced with unmistakable evidence of a greater power. In spite of atheism,
materialism, rationalism, and agnosticism, prophets and apostle both in the Old and
New Testaments were certain that God “is, and that he is a rewarder of them the
diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Job said, “I know my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).
Paul said, “I know whom I believed” (2 Timothy 1:2). John in the fourth gospel said,
“We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). The Bible is
filled with certainties in regard to God’s existence; rather, his reality is assumed. There
are areas in which we can trace the footsteps of God. God is in creation. ​Reading Psalm 19:1, the Scripture tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God: the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” It obvious from this
scripture that the universe has an orderliness that cannot be ignored. The season come
and go on schedule. Night follow days. There is an intelligence behind all this. These
manifestations of nature comprise the effect of a “Cause.” That “Cause “ is an infinite
creator who made it all, set it all in motion, sustains it. Paul spoke of God as the “Cause”
behind everything when he described him as the One “in (whom) we live, and move,
and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Furthermore, there is a purpose and design in God’s creation. The atheistic
belief that life “just’ happened” is an affront to human intelligence. For example,
consider a house. Would an agnostic say, “We cannot determine who the builder of this
house is, so we know there was one because here is evidence of his handiwork, the
product of his genius.” Likewise, there was an intelligent purpose and design behind God’s creation. The hymnist Stuart K. Hine expressed it this way: ​O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds that hand have made, I see the
stars, I hear the rolling thunder, thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then
sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, How great thou art! How great thou art!
God can also be seen in humanity. Paul in Romans 2:14-15 writes, “Indeed
when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law,
they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that
the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness​, ​ and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”
From this text one can see that God is involved in his creation. As another
evidence of his involvement in his creation, God has placed within people a moral
consciousness that makes them capable of responding to their creation. People were
created with an innate knowledge that there is a higher power and with a capacity to
know that being. But at the same time, God gave people freedom of will, by which they
can choose to ignore and repress these inherent tendencies toward God and morality.
In so doing, they prove themselves to be fools, because they are asserting that which is
contradictory to the very nature of humanity (Psalm 14:1).
When people are born again, a miracle of restoration takes place in which God
brings alive these feelings and intuitions about the existence of a divine creator and
about people’s moral responsibility to abide by his laws. God is able, because of his
love and through the regenerative power of his Spirit, to resurrect those dead feelings.
This is the miracle of the new birth. In her hymn “Rescue the Perishing,” Fanny Crosby expressed this truth: ​Down in the human heart, Crush by the tempter, Feelings lie buried, that grace can restore.
The existence of God is also evident in the Bible. The law of the Lord is perfect,
converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The
statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgment of
the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea,
then much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them
is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (psalm 19:7-11).
The Bible speaks of God’s nature. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). “Spirit” is the
highest form of being, and God is essentially and eternally spirit. This means that he is
not confined to a human body, even though for thirty-three years he inhabited the
physical body of his Son, Jesus Christ. Still, however, God is a person. He has
personality; he is not merely an impersonal force that inhabits the universe. His
personality is expressed in his love, grace, mercy, pity, and compassion. Because of
this, the writer of Hebrews said, “We have not a high priest which cannot be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without
sin” (hebrew 4:15). In other words, God is God; he is infinite and perfect in his holiness
and power. Yet because of his inconceivable choice to identify with people and become
their Saviour, he understands our plight and is willing and eager to save us!
The Bible speaks of God’s attributes. God is immense. At the dedication of the
temple, Solomon prayed, “Will God really dwell on earth with humans? The heavens,
even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!”
(2 Chronicles 6:18 NIV).
A circle has a center and a circumference. The circumference is the limiting,
outer boundary of the circle. God has a center but no circumference! His “center” is
everywhere.
God is eternal. He has neither beginning nor ending. People divide time into
past, present, and future, but God knows no divisions like that. He told Moses to tell the
people of Israel that he was sent to be their deliverer by him who is the great “I AM.”
That means God is everlasting, the One who has neither commencement nor
consummation!
God is unchanging. He is the One “who does not change like shifting shadows”
(James 1:17 NIV). People change. They start and stop and are up and down. But not
so with God. His glory shines with an unwavering and permanent brightness. God is
immutable. But Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yea
and forever.”
In conclusion, we can say that God is omnipotent. This means that he is
almighty and has all power. There is nothing within the realm of God’s righteous nature
that he cannot do. God is omniscient. He has all knowledge. Simultaneously, God
knows all things. He knows the past, the present, and the future. God is omnipresent.
Not only is God everywhere, but there is also an added dimension to his omnipresence
because he is love. He cares about everything everywhere.
In spite of his inconceivable majesty and power, God “condescends to men of
low estate.” “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)

“The Incomparable Jesus”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

5TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

FEBRUARY 10, 2019

Title: “The Incomparable Christ

Text: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Scripture Reading: John 1:1-5, 10-14

One day a six-year-old lad came to his mother with this question: “Mother, who made God?” Instantly the mother’s face expressed astonishment and chagrin. Presently she said curtly, “What an awful question to ask. You had better run along and play.” In that same country community another lad approached his mother, and asked, “Did God make Himself?” His mother presently left her work and breathed a silent prayer. Taking off her wedding ring, she gave it to her son and asked, “Where does this ring begin and where does it end?” Before long the boy answered, “There is no starting place and stopping place to a ring.” The mother remarked, “Just so is God. There is no beginning and no end to God. He always has been and always will be.” This story is similar to the many encounters I have with many children children and adults.  At Family and Friends recently, the high school kids were asking similar questions about God and Jesus Christ.

Where do you begin when you start to talk about Jesus Christ?  If your subject were some outstanding historic figure, you would begin with his beginning: his birth, parentage, and heritage.  But with Jesus, there was truly no beginning, for he said of himself, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). Therefore one can begin anywhere and start talking about Jesus and never get it all said! But we will attempt to choose some of the most basic facts concerning Jesus Christ that are found in God’s Holy Word the Bible.

This is a staggering concept for the human mind.  For us, everything has a beginning. But the Bible teaches conclusively that Christ had no beginning; he existed eternally with the Father.  John prefaces his gospel with the declaration, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). In other words, he is saying that Jesus goes back beyond the beginning of the creation of humanity.  In John 17 Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (v.5 NIV).

Not only does Christ exist eternally, but John records in Revelation that Jesus came as “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (13:8).  Because God is omniscient, he knew that people would sin even before he created them. Therefore, because God’s nature is love, he provided a way for people to be reconciled to their Creator before they were made! In that dateless past, “love drew salvation plan,” and “In the fullness of time” Jesus came as the foreordained sacrifice for the sins of the world.  Paul said it like this: “When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5)

From the Bible itself, we have abundant evidence concerning the preexistence of Jesus before he was born of Mary.  In fact, both John and Paul ascribe the very works of creation to Christ. John said, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that we made, speaking of the “Word,” that became flesh (John 1:3).  Paul wrote, “By him all things were created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16).  Thus we must conclude by faith that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit has always existed as one God in purpose and equality.

Another truth about Christ from the Word of God is his earthly manifestation.  When we consider the incarnation, God becoming man, there are two important truths we must hold with all the tenacity faith provides for us.  First, Jesus became at the same time and in an absolute sense both God and man. He did not “become God” at the baptism and “cease to be God” at his death.  When he was born in Bethlehem, he was God; when he ascended from Mount Olivet, he was God! Second, in becoming flesh, Jesus, though he laid aside his heavenly glory, in no sense laid aside his deity.  This has to be true, for his full deity and complete humanity were necessary if his death on the cross was to have redeeming value for humanity.

Our text declares that Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Dwelt here means “tabernacled.” Jesus “pitched his tent” as a person among people.  In the miracle at Bethlehem, God became what he had never been before. God became Jesus of Nazareth. Furthermore, John said that he was “full of grace and truth.” Some say that Jesus was no more than “a good man” or perhaps “the best man who ever lived,” but they stop short of admitting that he was God.  John declared that Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” The Greek word for “truth” is formed from the word concealed, or hidden, with the Greek word alpha added to it, giving it the opposite meaning. So “truth” literally means “the unconcealed.”  Until Jesus came, God Almighty was at least partially hidden from humanity in an aura of majesty and transcendency.  He was, for the most part, unapproachable by humankind. Thus people had a poor, limited concept of God as a personal God.  Jesus came and “unconcealed” God: he became the complete revelation of God.

The book of Hebrews says that Christ was “tempted in all points, like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15).  Here we see Jesus humanity in that God allowed Satan to do everything he could to deter Jesus from the cross.  This was necessary not to see if Jesus was truly God, but to prove that he was God.

It is important to glean from our text, Jesus Christ in his present ministry.  When Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, he did not leave behind just a fond memory of himself in the hearts of his followers.  He had told them, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). What about his present ministry in heaven? He is completing in heaven the work he began on earth.  The phrase “right hand of God,” describing Jesus’s position now in heaven, is a symbol of his power, authority, and glory. Part of his present ministry in heaven is the preparation of an abode for his church.  He said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2) At the same time, he has kept his promise and sent the Holy Spirit to fashion the church and to prepare it as his bride. Two glorious projects are underway simultaneously: God is preparing heaven for us and us for heaven.

But that’s not all.  Christ also intercedes for us.  Every Christian has a redeemed soul, but that soul is housed in an unredeemed body that sometimes disobeys and dishonors God.  Often we find ourselves crying as Paul did, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24).  On the basis of his complete sacrifice on the cross, Jesus is our intercessor before the throne of grace. He takes our imperfect prayers, perfects them, and offers them to God as a sweet smelling savor.

Finally, Christ’s present ministry in heaven brings to completion and perfection the three Old Testament offices: prophet, priest, and king.  After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the Holy Spirit was manifested in him “without measure.” Therefore, possessing all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit without measure, he has the full knowledge of a prophet, the perfect holiness of a priest, and the absolute power of a king.  A prophet spoke to the people about God and declared God’s word to them. Jesus was the very embodiment of that word. A priest mediated between people and God; Jesus suffered in humankind’s place, satisfied the divine holiness of God, and opened the way for people to be reconciled to God.  Kingship is one of Christ’s eternal prerogatives. He was born a king; during his earthly life, he asserted his kinship and people recognized his claim. His resurrection proved his sovereignty as King of Kings and Lords of Lords.

Now as we anticipate Christ’s return, Christians rejoice in the prospective majesty of the Son of God, for Jesus will in reality be crowned King of Kings and Lord of Lords.    

“The Living Word”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS McCARTHY

5th SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

FEBRUARY 3, 2019

Title: “The Living Word”

Text: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 1:19-21

In 1985, for the first time in more than fifty years, Congress authorized the issue of official US government gold coins. Beginning in 1986 these new coins came on the market. Each of these American Eagles, as they are known, is guaranteed by the US Mint to contain the stated amount of pure 22 karat gold. They come in 1/10, 1/4, 1/2, and 1-ounce sizes, and buyers from around the world trust these coins because they trust the promises of the United States government that the coins are what they claim to be.

When it comes to Scripture, we have something far more reliable than the guarantee of a government—we have the promises of Almighty God that His Word is perfect and pure. God promised to preserve His Word for us. That means that, according to the promise of God, we can have complete faith that every word in the Bible is there on purpose. Psalm 12:7 affirms, “Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.”  The wise man in Proverbs also caution, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” Proverbs 30:5

What should be one’s attitude toward the Bible? Some have made a sacred fetish out of the Bible.  People worship the book rather than the Christ it portrays. Others feel that there is some magical value in having a Bible nearby, regardless of whether it is read or studied.  These attitudes are dangerously close to bibliolatry. Bibliolatry is the worship of the Bible as a book rather than understanding the Bible as a divine Word of God and the expressions of God’s plan for people’s lives.  

Before we can properly assess our attitude toward the Bible, we must discover what it is.  We call it the Word of God, the living Word, the Law of life. All of these definitions are valid.  But what we do mean by them? To answer this question, let us look at few things we can consider the Bible to be.

    The Bible is a specific revelation.  People decide that they are going to “study the Bible” and master its contents just as they would study American history, anatomy, philosophy, or any other subject.  They immediately become frustrated and convinced that the Bible is nothing more than a mass of unrelated material filled with contradictions. What is their problem? It is simply that they are natural people attempting to understand spiritual things.  Paul commented on this problem to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:14).

On the other hand, when people are filled with the Bible, they find an inexhaustible source of truth opening up before them.  They discover an amazing unity and a beautiful symmetry in its message. They see a magnificent interrelationship between its sixty six books, each making a contribution toward the overall theme of God’s redemptive purpose for the fallen, sinful humanity, as that purpose is culminated and revealed in Jesus Christ.  That makes me to ask the question, what do we mean by the term revelation?

    The word itself means “drawing back the veil,” signifying that an obstruction must be removed for a person’s vision to be complete.  It means to make known that which was once concealed from view. Divine revelation is disclosure by God of truths that one could not know otherwise.  Therefore whatever people discover about the truths of God must come by divine revelation. So then, what do we mean by illumination?

If a specific revelation by God to a person is to take place, that person’s understanding, which has been darkened by sin, must be illuminated.  Spiritual illumination means the bringing of heavenly light into the soul of a person who was born into spiritual darkness and who has lived in that darkness.  This is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. This is to illuminate the minds of believers so they understand God’s Word. In honesty and sincerity, the true believer prays, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law” (Psalm 119:18).

    To receive illumination from God in regard to the meaning of the Bible, we must be faithful to the light, or understanding, that we receive.  If the motive of our study of the Bible is spiritual pride, causing us to be “puffed up” with our intellectual grasp of the Bible, we grieve the Holy Spirit within us.  We must carefully apply the spiritual knowledge we receive to our everyday lives.

    The Bible is a progressive revelation.  Not only is the Bible a specific revelation of God to humanity, but it is also a progressive revelation.  When Christian begin a systematic study of the Bible, they discover that it is a gradual unfolding of God’s plan and purpose.  

    When children are in kindergarten, they aren’t given Shakespeare to read and algebra problems to work or solve.  Rather, they learn how to write the alphabet and how to count. The progressive development of their minds and understanding begins here.  So it is with God’s Word. God started with people, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little,” until Jesus came and lived with symbols, or “pictures.”  The Old Testament is a great picture book filled with symbols that lead us to Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament.

    For example, there is a ‘scarlet thread’ that runs through the Bible.  It begins in the garden of Eden, where the blood of an innocent animal was shed to provide coverings for the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned.  From that primeval incident, God began to show that people cannot hide their sins from him nor remedy the condition of sin in their lives. Only God can do it.  Thus the ‘scarlet thread’ has woven its way through the Bible. Finally, in glorious climax and culmination, it flows forth on Calvary to fulfill every symbol in the Old Testament.

    One would see how the New Testament as a book is bathed in blood, the vicarious, redemptive blood of our crucified Lord.  Natural people are repulsed by this; the critics of Christianity turn away from it. But without the power of God progressively revealed in the Scriptures, flowing forth in the shed blood of his Son, there is no power to save people from their sins.  Therefore God has progressively “turned on the lights” of understanding. The first promise of God in Scripture (Genesis 3:15) has in it the anticipation of a completed redemption; and the first act of worship looks toward God.

    Finally, the Bible is an inspired revelation.  In addition to being a specific and progressive revelation of God to humanity, the Bible is also an inspired revelation.  Without an acknowledgment of the divine inspiration of Scripture, the Bible becomes little more than the study of history, myth, and superstition.  The word inspired is found twice in the King James version of the Holy Bible. It is found in Job 32:8 and 2 Timothy 3:16. The job reference refers to God’s authorship of humanity’s intelligence, while Paul’s word in 2 Timothy means “God-breathed,”  suggesting that God imparted his Word directly into the minds of the authors.

When we speak of inspiration of the whole Bible, we refer to those original documents as they came from the pens of the various authors.  We no longer have the original manuscripts, but of one thing we can be certain: the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writers in the beginning will preserve the truth of the Scriptures.  Translators are not inspired in the sense that the original authors were , so their choice of words and phrases may not always be completely accurate.

God’s Word was inspired not by ‘common inspiration’ or in the same way that human literature geniuses are inspired.  Rather, God gave his thoughts to the individual writers, and they then expressed them within the framework of their unique personalities.  Holy people of God spoke in old times as they were “moved,” or inspired, by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21).

Since John penned Revelation, God has not given any new pr further revelation to humanity.  His will for people and for the ages is contained in the Bible. Everything people need to know to be saved from their sins and to live a Christian life is in God’s Word.  It tells people that they are lost and condemned in their sin. It also tells people that God loves them and that he demonstrated his love in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  All they need to do is accept by faith the message of the living Word of God.

“The Church: God’s Lampstand”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

2nd SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY

JANUARY 20, 2019

 

Title: “The Church: God’s Lampstand”

 

Text:

“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: This seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20

 

Scripture Reading:  Revelation 1:16-20.

 

Our passage under consideration begins with a word which is used in a special way throughout the New Testament.  The Bible speaks of the word mystery as of the seven stars and of the seven golden lampstand. The seven lampstand stands for the seven churches. One of the great titles of Christians is that they are the light of the word (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2;15).  It is important for us to understand that the churches are not the light, but Jesus is the light. The churches are the vessels within which the light shines. The light of the churches comes from Christ. Reading Revelation is a difficult job.

 

We would go far astray in attempting to interpret the book of Revelation if we ignored the fact that the writers uses apocalyptic language to convey the great truths about the Lord Jesus Christ’s future work in the world.  John uses “sign language” to describe events revealed to him by Christ that were beyond the imagination of the people of his day. Apocalyptic literature was often used by scriptural writers during times of great international stress.  This was certainly the case when the Revelation was given to John. The early Christians were under persecution, and John was in exile on the isle of Patmos because of his faith. With eager longing he looked across to the mainland, where the churches were experiencing severe attack by forces of darkness.  It is not incidental that his vision of the exalted Christ described in chapter 1 contains the image of the seven churches as seven lampstands with the triumphant Christ walking in the midst of them. The churches are described as precious, beautiful lampstands lifting up the light and dispelling the darkness.

 

The first thing we glean from this passage of Scriptures is the world is filled with darkness.  Darkness is used many times in the Bible to depict many different situations. Darkness is a metaphor for such things as ignorance, failure, confusion, despair, loneliness, fear, disappointment, and death.  Even in a world where knowledge is doubling about every five years, people still remain in tragic darkness. They continue to ask, “Where did i come from?” What is the real purpose for my being?” “What is to be my ultimate destiny?” Apart from divine revelation in the world, these questions cannot be answered. An attempt can be made however.  

 

Jesus Christ came as the light of God into the world to dispel darkness.  The prophet Isaiah had said of the time when the Christ would be born, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matt. 4:16; cf. Isaiah 9:2 NIV).  And it was by the light of a heavenly star that the wise men found the Christ child (Matthew 2:2). When Jesus was dedicated at the temple, Simeon proclaimed that the Christ has come as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to [God’s] people Israel” (Luke 2:32 RSV) John said of Jesus, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5 RSV).

 

It was not accident, with this prophetic background, that Jesus later declared, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12 RSV).  As God has led the children of Israel through the wilderness by a pillar of fire, so Jesus Christ came to lead people by means of divine light.

 

Jesus came to disperse the darkness about God and humanity, life and eternity. First Christ came to cause the darkness that beclouds the souls of people to disappear.  He continues to light the way by providing guidance and answers for people who trust him. The light of the world comes silently like the sun each day. The Light of the World shines continuously like the sun century after century. The Light of the World comes in grace rather than on the basis of human merit just as the sun comes up graciously every day.  The Light of the World comes powerfully like the sun to bring life, love, hope, and beauty.

 

Secondly, Christ came that those who dwell in spiritual death and darkness might have eternal life.  This is to be found in Jesus Christ and in him alone (1 John 5:11-12).

Thirdly, Christ came as the Light of the World to reveal the way to abundant life.  A full life is not found through going one’s own way or pursuing material gain; it is found only through Jesus Christ.  People do not find real life by simply eating earthly bread. They find it as they take into their innermost beings the Bread of Life, “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).  This spiritual nourishment will provide them with all they need for abundant living. Having brought forth light into darkness, there is a need for the medium through which that light will be dispense.  The church is the medium through which the light will be dispense.

Each church, like a beautiful lampstand, is to be a dispenser of the light that gives life to those who will respond to Jesus Christ. Within each church are individual Christians and congregations who are reflectors of the divine light.

Individual Christians and congregations are to serve the same function for Jesus as the moon serve as a reflector of sunlight.  The sun is a tremendous source of heat and light while the moon is cold and frigid. Nevertheless, the moon does serve as a reflector of the sun’s light, providing illumination to those who live on the earth’s surface.  

 

We are to reflect the unsetting light of Jesus Christ as he reveals the way to God and to abundant life. We are to reflect the unsetting light of Jesus Christ. Somewhere on the face of the earth at all times at all times the moon is reflecting the light of the sun.

We are to reflect the all-sufficient light of Jesus Christ, for he is sufficient to meet the deepest needs of all. We are to reflect the essential light of Jesus Christ, without which people dwell in darkness and death.  We are to let Christ live in us in such a way as to constantly send forth the light of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Everywhere we see digital signs that convey a continuous series of messages.  In a sense, this is a picture of what each church should be in its community. The light that shines forth must come from the love of Jesus Christ within us.  And our individual lights will blend with the lights of others with whom we worship, work, fellowship, and minister. God wants us to send forth a radiant, cheering, helpful, benevolent, revealing light into the darkness of the world.  You are God’s lampstand. Let it shine! Let it shine!

 

 

 

“The Church Jesus Christ Is Building”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD’S SUNDAY

JANUARY 13, 2019

Title: “The Church Jesus is Building”

Text: “I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 RSV).

Scripture Reading: Colossians 1:24-29

Mormons say that the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and completed the compilation and writing of the Book of Mormon. He told Joseph Smith where to find golden plates buried near his family home. He then translated what was written on those plates (the Book of Mormon). Eleven men are said to have seen the plates and three of them were relatives of Joseph Smith.

In contrast, the local church and Christianity is not built on a faulty foundation. It was built on a solid foundation, not from superstition. Jesus Christ was seen of hundreds and lived among us. The Apostles were eyewitnesses of His life!

Jesus spent his early years as a carpenter building furniture and home.  By engaging in this type of work, he affirmed the divine approval of everything that contributes to wholesome personal and family living.

Toward the end of his earthly ministry of seeking to bring the will of God into people’s lives, Jesus verbalized his determination to build his church.  The word he used for the church is the same word used for the people of God throughout the Old Testament.

On the day of Pentecost, he came in the person of the Holy Spirit to administer the work of his church.  He continues to abide within the hearts of believers, and it is through them that he accomplishes the redemptive work of God in the world..

Across the centuries the Divine Carpenter has continue to build his church in quality and size.  Jesus did not think of his church as a building in the sense of its being a physical structure at a particular address.  He thought of his church as people. The The structures that often are identified as churches today are but the meeting places for the church.

Jesus thought of his church as a body of born-again, baptized believers.  He began the construction of this beautiful temple, this body of believers, from the beginning of his ministry.  John’s gospel records how “Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1). The coming of the Holy Spirit on these disciples on the day of Pentecost was the divine way of authenticating them as the church that Jesus was building and through which he would carry on his redemptive work.

Our text under consideration today records Jesus’s desire, decision, and dedication.  The first thing we will look at is that Jesus builds his church through evangelistic activity of his disciples.  When Jesus walked the earth, he gave his disciples the Great Commission. The Great Commission has a universal application to each of Jesus’s disciples.  We as disciples must guard against interpreting it as applying only to clergy or only to foreign missionary or missions. It is as each disciple of the Lord shares a testimony concerning God’s gracious work within his or her life that the gift of faith is imparted to unbelievers.  As each of us shares the good news of God’s love, Jesus is at work in us building his church.

The book of Acts begins with a command to the disciples to evangelize the nations. Acts 1:8 tells us about this command by Jesus to his disciples: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Even earlier, the theme of preaching the word of salvation appears when Jesus teaches his disciples concerning the Kingdom of God (1:3). In Jesus’ teaching, the message of the Kingdom is the message of salvation. With this reference to the Kingdom, Acts 1:3 forms a bracket with the last verse of the book (28:31), which also refers to preaching the Kingdom. Everything in between these two verses deals with the spread of the message of salvation, the good news of God’s Kingdom, into which all who commit themselves to Jesus Christ enter.

Jesus builds his church through the missionary activity of congregations.  Every congregation should have a heart big enough to hold the world and should be contributing to foreign missions.  But giving an offering for foreign missions does not exempt us from being responsible for our local community. Likewise, having concern for the local community does not exempt us from responsibility toward those who live on the other side of the globe.  It is both and proposition rather than an either/or.

Jesus builds his church from within.  Our Lord is concerned not only about the exterior extension of his kingdom, which can be measured by the increase of churches and believers, but also building up his church from within that it might become the true family of God, the household of faith.

In writing about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul urged the disciples in Corinth to “strive to excel in building up the church” (Corinthians 14:12 RSV).  In Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians he spoke about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that have been bestowed on the church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood/womanhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles” (Ephesians 4:12-14 RSV).  

When I talk about Jesus building his church from within, I mean Jesus wants his church to be a school in Christian discipleship.  When we read the Sermon on the Mount, it convinces us that it was a lecture on the plain from Jesus to his disciples. They sat before him and he taught them rather than preaching to them.  Most of us know the word disciple itself means learner, follower. The new birth, as essential and wonderful as it is, is but the beginning of our Lord’s plan for us, not the crowning climax.  To grow in Christ we must follow the example of the early church, who “devoted themselves to the apostle’ teachings and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42 RSV). Jesus builds his church when we meet together to study his Word and when we put his teachings into practice.  

Jesus Christ wants his church to be a fellowship of spiritual brothers and sisters.  Through the miracles of the new birth, we become children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  We becomes brothers and sisters. Paul speaks of the church as “the household of faith.” The fellowship of the early disciples was a source of great enrichment of their spiritual well-being.  They were not isolated, solitary believers. They were real family in which love, compassion, and unselfishness were the rule of the day.

Jesus wants his church to be reverent and worshipful.  In the book of Acts, “Fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43).  We come together as a crowd of people, but reverence for the presence of Christ causes a crowd to become a congregation of worshipers.

Christ comes to church every time his disciples come together in his name (Matt 18:20).  We need more of the reverence that filled the heart of Simon Peter when he fell down at Jesus’ knee saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8).  Peter had a feeling of unworthiness for close contact with Jesus. Recognition of our sinfulness along with a response to the holiness of God could cause us to be more reverent and worshipful when we come together in the name of our precious Jesus.

Jesus builds his church when members give themselves devotedly to prayers.  When we read Acts 1:14 and 12:5, we see a church that consistently pray. The early church was a church of prayers.  The early church devoted itself to prayers. Jesus Christ ministry was a ministry of prayers. Prayers lift up congregations.  Prayers allow us to dwell in the very presence of God.

Jesus builds his church when the disciples recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadership (Acts 4:31).  The leadership of the Holy Spirit can also be found in Acts 13:1-3. The Holy Spirit came to indwell the church on the day of Pentecost.  He will remain in the church until the Lord returns to claim his own. The Holy Spirit has come to be our divine Teacher, Leader, and Helper.  When believers neglect or refuse to recognize the Holy Spirits’ loving leadership, the work of Christ and the growth of the church are brought to a standstill.

Jesus, the Divine Carpenter, is at work in our midst.  He comes to meet with us, speak to us, commission us, and encourage us.  He is building a church through evangelism, through missionary activities, through the impact of the Holy Spirit in us.  

If you are not yet one of his disciples, open the door and let him begin his good work in you today.  Let him have command over your life. Let him become your Teacher, Guide, and Helper beginning today. God bless you all!  

“The Church: Unified in Purpose”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

EPIPHANY SUNDAY, JANUARY 6, 2019

 

Title: “The Church: Unified in Purpose”

Text: Acts 4:32-33.

 

Many Christians have been asked the question, “Why does the church exist?”  In a survey conducted to find answers to this important question, folks from over a thousand churches were questioned.  Eighty nine percent of the respondents believed that the purpose of the church was to take care of the needs of them and their families.  Many of those questioned believed the purpose of the pastors was to keep the members happy and not lose any one. Only eleven percent thought the purpose of the church was win the world for Jesus Christ.  When the same questions were given to the pastors from the same churches surveyed, the results were the opposite of what the pastors said. Ninety percent of the pastors believed the purpose of the church was to win the world.  Only ten percent agreed with the members.

From what one can learn from the above mentioned survey, one would wonder why there are conflict, confusion and stagnation in some of the churches today,

There is nothing more important than purpose.  The first order of business in any church should be “Why do we exist?”  What is our purpose? Until everyone understands and know what the church exists for, there will be no foundation, motivation, no direction and no unity.

The book of Acts gives us insight into the early church.  The early church knew why they existed. The early church knew the purpose for which it came into being.  The early church was united around that purpose. Our text tells us, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul…and with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and great grace was upon all of them (Acts 4:32-33 NIV).  When Jesus Christ called these disciples, He was calling them not to a life of leisure, but a life of service. Each of the apostles had their own task to perform. Each had a different talents, but they had the same calling to fulfill the great commission in their day and time. The apostles of the early church had one leader who was Jesus Christ.  They also had one purpose which was to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people. These early disciples did more for the early spread of Christianity than any generation of followers since, Walk with me this morning as we examine Acts 4 to find out what the apostle did in accomplishing the purpose of the first church: spreading the gospel.

In verse 32 of our text, it tells us that “All the believers were one in heart and mind. “This tells us about unity.  They were united. They were united in love and in purpose. Reading further, the text tells us, “but, they shared everything they had.”  One can see that there was a fundamental solidarity of love and purpose. To be of one heart and mind is to be united in every fiber of their being.  

All the believers shared in this unity, not just the apostles, not just the leaders. The believers were one big family in relationship.  Being of one family, these believers shared the same spiritual father, Almighty God. They also shared the same spiritual birth which means they were born again into the family of God.

They were friends in fellowship.  Being friends, they shared their lives and possessions with one another.  Their relationship went beyond kind words and pats on the back. These believers put first the meeting of physical and practical needs that everyone could see in the community.  Charles Spurgeon believed that the mission of the church was to help take away the suffering of the people. He thought that the church should be doing more to express the love of God by fighting the unfairness that many faced.  Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” The early disciples did that in their community of faith.

These disciples did not only come together for family gathering, for making sure their physical needs were met, but they shared enterprise together. They came together to attain an objective.  They were partners in reaching the world for Christ. They linked arms together not only for their convenience, their comfort, and their support, but to reach out to those who had not yet linked up with them.

I know that our understanding of the word church is people called out of darkness or sin to do what Christ came to do. I want us to understand that we are members of that body of people.  We are people from different backgrounds with different interests. We are also people who look at things differently. But I want us to understand that we have been called for a purpose. In meetings I had with both Staff Pastor Parish Relations Committee a while back, I made it clear that it is important for a church to have a purpose. When a church has a purpose, it encourages unity.  It also changes the people’s relationship to one another. It signals where the church is going and it fosters retention of congregation and staff. We need each other if anything significant is going to happen for Christ (1 Corinthians 12:20-22; Ephesians 4:15-16).

The purpose of our church is to cooperate together in reaching out to each other and to others beyond our walls so others can know the love of Christ.  We are in the business of pointing people to heaven. This is best accomplish when we understand that we are a family of friends in partnership with each other.   

Our text does not only show that the church had unity in accomplishing the purpose of the church, it also shows that they experienced the power of God.  I want you to understand this morning that without purpose, there will be activity without accomplishment. Without purpose, there will be efficiency without effectiveness.  What am I saying? What I am saying is a church that is focused on its purpose will manifest the power of God. The power of God will be evidence by the coming together of its members in continuous fellowship.  The power of God will be experienced in its services. The power of God will be experienced in its growth. Growth here does not only means size but spiritual growth. In Acts it tells us that in a matter of weeks, the church grew tremendously.  Scholars tell us that the within the first twenty five years the first century church grew from 120 to over a 100, 000 people. It grew from upper room to living room. The church grew spiritually. That is the power power of God being manifested in a purpose driven church.

God also gave the early church power in their diversity.  The church was made of different people with different opinions.  They acted differently. They saw things differently. They had different gifts.  It was a diverse group like our church today. But they found strength in their diversity because they had one purpose:TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL.  In their diversity, they found strength to create a singleness of spirit, of identity and of purpose whose unifying center was Christ Jesus. We will all agree that a church that is unify in purpose resembles a symphony. In a unify church one person will play a different note from the person sitting next to them.  Their variety and diversity will create a more significant, a more magnificent sound than if they were all on the same instrument, playing the same note. Unity exists amid diversity because we all follow the same musical score.

When the church is unify around its purpose, the favor of God is always upon them.  In the final verse of our text, it tells us “and God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” The disciples well unified in purpose and were committed to the task of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This brought God’s grace upon them (Acts 4:33). Because they were generous, God was generous. Because their heart broke over the same thing that broke God’s heart, God smiled upon them. Because they lifted up the purpose of Jesus, God lifted them up.  I submit to you this morning that there exists a relationship between our faithfulness to God’s plan and God’s favor in our lives. If we want to experienced God’s blessings, we must first be obedient to God’s purpose.

Let me tell you what Christ prayed for on the last night of his life. This will help you understand why the church should be unified around its purpose of teaching Christ.  Jesus prayed: “I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. . . . I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-21, 23).

The words in this prayer are deep.  Our Savior knowing he was going to died, prayed for us.  With death breaking down his neck, Jesus prayed not for our success, our safety, nor our happiness.  He prayed for our unity as we would go out to fulfill his purpose. He prayed that we would love each other as we went out to love the world.  In his last prayer Jesus Christ prayed that you and I be one.

Of all the lessons we can draw from this text, remember that unity matters to God.  In John 13:35 Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Unity create beliefs. How will people come to God if we do not love each other. How do we keep the unity? How do we do that? How do we make every effort to keep the unity? Does that mean we compromise our convictions? No. Does that mean we abandon the truths we cherish? No. But it does mean we look long and hard at the attitudes we carry. Unity doesn’t begin in examining others but in examining self. Unity begins, not in demanding that others change, but in admitting that we aren’t perfect ourselves. Unity grows as we learn to accept others differences and to forgive when wronged. Unity continues as we humbly serve those who are different. Unity is fulfilled as focus on who we believe in rather what we believe in. Unity is favored as we lovingly take the message of Jesus Christ to a divided world.

That’s our purpose. Let’s be unified in it.  Happy New Year! God bless you!

Seizing Our Opportunities”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

1ST SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

DECEMBER 30, 2018

 

Title: “Seizing Our Opportunities”

 

Text: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16 RSV).

 

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15-20.

 

Tomorrow night we will stand on the edge of a new year.  It is my thinking that many here today are wondering what the New Year will bring.  Some of us are wondering the new year would bring joy or sorrow, increase or decline, grief or happiness, the list goes on.  One thing I would remind you of is the New Year could be a time of new beginning when we leave the past behind and turn the corner.  The fact is there is little we can do about the past, yet many spend their time living in the past, seeking to relive its joy and sorrows only to come to the realization that there is nothing we can do physically.

We certainly cannot return to past glories or grief.  The past is gone. God is going to hold us accountable for the past.  The only way we can deal with the past is through the Cross of Calvary and to realize the child of Bethlehem was to become our redeemer, shedding His blood for all the bad things we have done, that we can realize a position that we have been justified by Christ before Almighty God.  This means that I can sleep at night secure in the knowledge that my past is forgiven, my present secured, and my future certain. So no matter what way the wind blows, I am centered in Christ and in Him I am anchored in life and certain in death which leads to eternal life.

Since this is the last Sunday in 2018, I wanted to bring a message that would encourage us as we wrap up one year and prepare to enter another.  My mind was drawn to the words of Paul the apostle in Ephesians 5:15-16. Actually I found myself using these words to critically appraise my actions in the past year and encourage myself through the difficult ones.

In today’s text Paul was calling on the disciples of Jesus Christ in the city of Ephesus to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (Ephesians 4:1-16), to walk differently from the pagan world about them (verse 17-24), to walk in love (4:25-5:2).  During our Bible studies of the Book of Ephesians, those of us who attended learned that in the first part of Ephesians chapter five, Paul urged them to walk in the light as sons of the light (Ephesians 5:5-14). In the words of our text, he encouraged them to walk with wisdom, seizing every opportunity to render service to God and to others.

Billy Graham told a story about a conversation he had with president John F. Kennedy shortly after his election.  In his autobiography, Just As I Am, Billy explains the impact of a miss opportunity to hear what the president had to say.

According to the book, the president elect Kennedy stop the car and turned to Minister Graham and said, “Do you believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? I most certainly do,” answered minister Graham.” Well, does my church believe it?’ They have it in their creeds.’They don’t preach it,’ he said. They don’t tell us much about it. I’d like to know what you think.’

Minister Graham explained what the Bible said about Christ coming the first time, dying on the Cross, rising from the dead, and then promising that he would come back again. Minister Graham asked the president, “Are we going to have permanent world peace.” The president said, “We’ll have to talk more about that someday.” And he drove on.

Several years later, the two met again, at the 1963 National Prayer Breakfast. At that meeting, minister Graham remembers having the flu. After giving his short talk, and the president gave his, they walked out of the hotel to his car together, as was always our custom. At the curb, the president turned to minister Graham. “Billy, could you ride back to the White House with me? I’d like to see you for a minute. Minister Graham told the  President he had the fever. Not only was he weak, but he didn’t want to give the president the flu. He asked the president, “Couldn’t we talk another time? It was a cold, snowy day, and I was freezing as I stood there without my overcoat,” minister Graham wrote in his book. The president accepted graciously.

But the two would never meet again. Later that year, Kennedy was shot dead. Graham wrote that His hesitation at the car door, and the president’s request, haunt him still. “What was on his mind? Should I have gone with him? It was an irrecoverable moment.” We all have miss opportunities to serve God and humankind in the past that we cannot recover.

 

Paul issued a call to walk in wisdom over against the folly of a pagan world.  Here, wisdom is not an intellectual achievement but it is a mind set in which one seeks to do only those things that are pleasing to God.  We are to snatch up all opportunities that are available for doing God’s will. Paul uses the commercial vocabulary of the marketplace to describe the intense activity that he was encouraging each of them and us to put forth.

Some people watch the stock market with intense interest because they are eager to seize bargains.  They try to buy at the ri9ght time and sell at the right time in order to experience a profit. The apostle Paul was encouraging this type interest, energy, and ingenuity concerning spiritual opportunities for service.  We are to seize an opportunity for service in the same manner that we would seize a bargain in the marketplace. The early Christians outlived, outthought, and outdid their contemporaries. That is what our present generation needs.

This test is a call to a serious acceptance of our stewardship and time.  Not one of us has as much time as we think we have. It is much later than we think.  Our opportunities are rapidly slipping away from us. Each of us has an equal amount of time everyday, and each must make the most of it.

Orville Kelly was the founder of an organization called Make the Day Count.  Kelly founded this organization after discovering he was terminally ill with cancer.  The purpose of the organization was to help those who were fatally ill face the realities of both their disease and their remaining time.  We need to stress the importance of the present and become intensely aware of the value of life and time. This would help us to learn what really matters and what doesn’t.  What matters is how we live our lives. In our text, Paul is urging us to live our lives with wisdom. Why should we live a life of wisdom?

Life is a gift. Verse sixteen gives us the answer as to how we should live our lives.  It calls us to “make most of our time.” To make most of our time is to understand what we do with our lives.  It is talking about the relationships we form, the work we undertake, the good things and the bad things in life, and the joy and the sorrows.  The life that we live is associated with time. The time we live is loan to us by God, so is the life we have. It is a gift given to us by God.

The book of James is a practical gospel. It is down to earth about daily living.  This book relates the teaching of Jesus Christ to the affairs of daily life. In the fourth chapter of this book, James the half brother of Jesus Christ talks about those who are spiritually short sighted: “Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade and get gain”: whereas you know not what shall be tomorrow.  What is your life? For you are a vapor, that appear for a little time, and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “if the Lord wills, we shall both live, or do this or that” (James 4:13-15).  From an immediate context, one can see that James question is one that emphasizes the brevity of human life to those who look at time instead of eternity.  Life is short.  If this gift of life is short, how seriously should it be viewed? How desperately should it moments be treasured?

We should view it seriously seizing every opportunity to serve God. Moses lived 120 years (Deuteronomy 34:7). He lamented that man’s day “are soon gone and we fly away” (Psalms 90:10).  There is no one among us who has reached the maturity of his life and has not reflected on the times of his youth as if it was but a moment ago? Play around the yard, walking down a dusty road to the fishing hole, the smell of mother’s baking bread-where has time gone?

Perhaps, though, the most haunting of all thoughts is the reality that we’ve let life slip away quickly, having neglected so many grand opportunities for advancing ourselves spiritually and for helping others. Oh, if we could but rescue some of those times.  Let us rescue those times by seizing the opportunity to know God more fully. Let us know, love and serve God this new year. God made and fashioned each person in his own image and after his likeness (Genesis 1:26-27: 9:7). In verse 17 of our passage this morning, Paul says, “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” It is important to know the purpose of your life.

When one reflect on the fact that life is a gift from God, one cannot ponder the purpose of his existence.  Church, Isaiah declared that man was fashioned to glorified his maker (Isaiah 43:7). Why do we live as if God has no claim on us?  On the contrary, Solomon, in the weaning days of his life explored the purpose of his existence. In retrospect, Solomon surveyed the folly of his youth in search for happiness.  All the solution he sought prove to be fruitless. Solomon concluded that the purpose of life is to reverence God, and submit to his command (Ecclesiastes 12:13). There is no way we can find contentment.

As we entered the new year, let us seize our opportunities by treasuring the gift of life.  Let us seize the opportunity of using our life to extol God. Read your Bible, find time to spend with God through prayers and devotions.  Serve God by serving your church and humankind. In such a pursuit, we will find that which is blessed both in time and eternity. I wish you a happy New Year, and God bless you!

 

“Christmas Means Listening to Jesus”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

DECEMBER 23, 2018

Title: “Christmas Means Listening to Jesus.”

Text: “In these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:2 RSV).

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1:1-4.

The first four verses of Hebrews 1 serves as an introduction to the whole epistle.  These verses set forth major doctrines of Christianity. The different ways in which God spoke through the prophets bring to the fore a major theological theme in Hebrews, namely, the relationship between the Old and the New Testament.  It talks about God’s prophecies about the coming of Christ communicated through the prophets. God communicates through Jesus Christ in our day and time. What does the coming of Christ means for us? What does Christmas means for us? Christmas means many things. Christmas means giving, sharing, loving, singing, and fellowship. But Christmas also means listening to Jesus Christ, to what God has to say through His birth.   The big question is, “ do you listen when God speaks through Jesus?

The faith of the Old Testament and the faith of the New Testament is that the God we worship is the God who communicates with his creatures.  The Bible is a record of God’s events of self disclosure in which he has sought to communicate with his people. One way in which he communicates is through his natural creation (Psalms 19:1-4).  Another way God communicates is through what we call conscience. People have a sense of “oughtness.” God communicates through a universal moral law to people’s consciences.

The writer of Hebrews declares that “in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1;1 RSV).  God spoke through holy men moved by the Holy Spirit. Through Moses, God gave the Ten Commandments, ten great principles by which an ordered and stable society can be regulated, maintained, and perpetuated.  These laws are self executing laws in that to ignore or to violate a single one of them is to break oneself on them (Exodus 20).

Through Elijah, God called the nation of Israel away from the waste and desolation of idolatry and urged them to worship the one true God (1 Kings 18:21-22).  Have you listened to the challenge of God through the prophet Elijah? Have you forsaken the false gods that always disappoint? Are you worshipping the one true God the one true God with all of your heart?

Through Isaiah, God spoke concerning his sovereign holiness.  Isaiah went into the temple to pray at a time when his mind was filled with thoughts of an empty throng because of the death of King Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1).  As Isaiah bow in reverent worship, God opened the eyes of his soul and let him see the eternal king sitting sovereign and supreme, majestic and holy, on the throne of the universe.  God revealed to the frightened young man that even though Uzziah was dead, Israel’s God was still on the throne. The God whom Isaiah saw was a holy God who could not tolerate sin. Isaiah acknowledged his own sinfulness and unworthiness, and immediately one of the seraphim came and purged away the filth of his soul by the means of a hot coal taken of the altar.  With cleansing there came a call to God’s service, and Isaiah volunteered. He heard what God was saying. Have you heard what God was saying through his prophet Isaiah?

Through the rustic shepherd prophet, Amos, God spoke to northern Israel concerning his own moral character and of the absolute necessity of his people being committed to righteousness and justice.  It was Amos who declared that a moral God places moral demands on his people, that a God of integrity requires integrity on the part of his people (Amos 7:15). Have you heard God speak through Amos?

Through Hosea, God spoke to the nation of Israel concerning his suffering, seeking love. Hosea is the evangelist of the Old Testament, the prophet through whom God revealed that there is hope in God’s grace when all hope seemingly has disappeared.  In Hosea’s domestic tragedy, God revealed his compassionate love for the wayward nation in the person of Gomer, the prophet’s wayward wife (Hosea 1:2; 2:5) How do you listen when God speaks? Have you heard what God was saying through the prophets of old?

The message of Christmas and the message of our Hebrew text declares that in these last days God has spoken through his Son, who was born of a virgin in Bethlehem.  Christmas means that we should listen to Jesus Christ as he speaks about God, for it is in Jesus Christ that God has made his full and final self-disclosure. Kindly walk with me this morning as we examine this passage in Hebrews, and understand how God is speaking to us through Jesus Christ this Christmas season.  So why should we listen to Jesus Christ?

Reading Hebrew 12, you will find out that God appointed Jesus Christ “the heir of all things.”  Jesus Christ is declared the goal of history. The kingdom belongs to Jesus Christ. John declared, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15 RSV).  It is important to know also that victory belongs to Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:6-11). Jesus Christ has fought the decisive battle of history through his coming in the flesh, assuming the form of a servant, taking on himself our guilt, and dying as a sacrifice for ur sins on the cross.  God exalted him by raising him from the dead and has lifted him to the position of supreme authority in this world and the world to come. It is through this One who is “the heir of all things” that God speaks.

People listen to people of power.  Powerful political and military leaders can command a crowd.  Those who have power in the world of finance can command the attention of businesspeople.  The inspired writer tells us that in Jesus Christ lied the creative power by which the universe was literally called into being, John declared.  “He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3 RSV). In Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he declared, “All things were created through him and for him” (1:16 RSV).

One other reason you should be listening to Jesus Christ is because Jesus Christ reflects the glory of God.  The word translated reflect is a strong word also translated “effulgence.” It refers to the radiance shining forth from a source of light.  Just as the radiance of the sun reaches the earth, so in Jesus Christ the glorious light of God shines forth to illuminate the heart and the way of humankind (Isaiah 49:3;1 Corinthians 4:6).  

Jesus Christ is the very image of the substance of God.  We see the images of great people on our coins. Just as the image on a coin exactly correspond to the device on the die used to make that coin, so the Son of God bears the very stamp of God’s nature.  To see Jesus Christ is to see what God is really like. Paul said to the Colossians, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (1:19 RSV).

Jesus Christ upholds all things in “the universe by the word of his power.”  Jesus Christ upholds the universe not like the mythological creature Atlas who supported the dead weight of the earth on his shoulders but as one who carries all things forward on an appointed course.  Jesus Christ keeps the universe on schedule (Colossians 1:17).

Jesus Christ, the baby of Bethlehem lived his life, rendered his service, and finally sacrificed himself as an atonement for our sins on a cross.  For us to neglect to hear him speak concerning our need for the forgiveness of our sin is to miss what God is saying through Jesus Christ at this and every Christmastime.

As the perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ has entered into the most holy place as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  He has borne the penalty for us all. On the basis of his sacrificial death for our sin, he is able to offer us the gift of eternal life..

As the One who has conquered death and who is alive forevermore, Jesus serves as our advocate, making intercession for us (Hebrew 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2).  It is not enough for us to sing beautiful Christmas carols and rejoice in a baby who was born long ago. Let us listen to what he has to say about God and let us respond to what he has to say about humankind’s deepest need.

Jesus Christ was born to be our King.  He merits the place of lordship in our hearts and lives.  Jesus Christ alone can be our Savior from sin. He has come offering forgiveness and a new life.  Have you heard his invitation “Come unto me” and respond by making him the Lord of your life? Jesus is a worthy and competent leader who says, “follow me.” Have you listened and heard him as he invites you to become acquainted with God?

How do you listen to what God has to say through Jesus Christ? Are you in some pain that makes you too uncomfortable to listen? Have you been too injured or have you become too angry to listen? Are you a fool who is too stupid to listen?  Are you a self-sufficient, sophisticated, conceited person who feels no need to listen? Are you preoccupied with things that you are too busy to listen? Are you too fearful and uncertain to listen? Or are you willing to listen to Christ now as he speaks words of assurance concerning the greatness of God’s love for you and the wonder of God’s plan for your life?  Let the Christ of Bethlehem become your King and Lord of your empire. Make him Lord so that you can experience the joy of being what God meant for you to be. I wish you a Merry Christmas. Happy Holiday. God bless you!

 

  

 

“The Hinge of History”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

DECEMBER 16,2018

Title: “The Hinge of History”

Text: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Scripture Reading Luke 2:1-10

 

The story is told how two friends had an argument that it was unfair that atheists had no recognized days for their religion as other religions did. The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, “Case dismissed.” The lawyer immediately stood and objected to the ruling saying, “Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter, etc. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah. Yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.” The judge leaned forward in his chair and said, “But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.”

The lawyer said, “Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.”

The judge said, “The calendar shows April 1st is April Fools Day, and Psalm 14:1 states: ‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.’Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.” This story brings to the fold similar beliefs by many that Christmas is not the birth of Jesus Christ, and Christmas is of no significance because Christ was not born on December 25.  The Bible however explains the opposite. Jesus Christ’s birth was foretold. He was born on a specific day and time. He was born at a specific place. Our text today tells us about the angelic announcement about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It tells us that His birth is the hinge of past and present events. It tells us that Christ’s birth is the hinge of history (Luke 2:10-11).

How remarkable is heaven’s announcement of the birth of Christ.  Not to Caesar Augustus in the city of Rome did the news come. Not to Herod the Great, nor to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was the announcement made, but “to certain poor shepherds in the fields as they lay” (Luke 2:8-9)  The angel’s announcement is the heart of the Christmas story.

Christ’s birth is the hinge of history, the dividing line. Every date affixed to a check or legal document is witness that the central events in history was the birth of Christ.  Our thinking is in term of either BC, “before Christ” or AD, anno domini, meaning the year of the Lord. this tells that Christ birth is true.

In this annunciation the angel tells us that Jesus’ coming may be regarded from different points of view.  These points of view authenticate the birth of the Savior.

Jesus’s coming has a universal dimension.  “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people” (Luke 2:10).  Christianity is for all people of all time. Jesus was born a world Savior. He so understood his mission.  Jesus Christ coming is the hinge of history in that the coming of Christ provides joint upon which everything binds. Thus Paul interpreted it.  In one of the most breathtaking passages of Scripture which appears in the opening of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle literally starts at the very beginning when he writes, “In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (1:4–5). As Paul unfolds all of the blessings that believers receive, he anchors salvation in Christ with the repetition of a phrase: “In him …” Paul writes, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses … to unite all things in him…. In him we have obtained an inheritance…. In him you also … were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (vv. 7–13, emphasis mine). Paul repeats the refrain “in him,” which points us to the doctrine of union with Christ.

 And thus his early followers.preached. They preached that through Christ everything else is possible, just ask (Matthew 7:7). Most of the world’s religions-Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism have a limited appeal, but Christianity has followers in all countries .  People everywhere need a Savior from sin and a hope for eternal life. Christ came to meet these needs.

As we come together today, we are conscious of being part of a great company, a worldwide fellowship.  Though in many lands Christ’s followers differ in language, in custom, in manner of celebrating his birth, the joy in the hearts of all Christians is the same.

Christ coming has a historical dimension.  

“Unto you is born this day,” the angel said.  “This day.” Jesus was born at a point in time.  Something happened, and that event is dated .This is not an abstract proposition; it is a historical fact.This is not an ancient legend or a bit of Jewish folklore; this is the record of a historical event, an event by which all others are dated.  The faith of Christendom is that at one point in history, God broke directly into this world. Our faith centers in what God has done. Seeing or failing to see this will shape our whole philosophy of history.

The Greek defined history as a series of non-unique, ever-recurring events.  They were saying that history repeats itself. Their cynical attitude was, “That which shall be has already been.”  But the birth of God’s Son assures us that they were wrong. History does repeat itself. History does repeats itself, it does recur in cycles, but nonetheless it is moving toward a goal, a consummation; and along the way there are great towering mountain peak.The highest of them is this, “Unto you is born this day.”  Isaiah the prophet also foretold it (Isaiah 9:6).

Jesus’s coming has a geographic dimension.

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David,” was the angel’s tiding “In the city of David.”  Jesus was born at a place on the earth, at a spot on the map you can pinpoint. Humanity has always wanted to believe that the universe has meaning, that something more than human power makes for righteousness, and that the world operates out of the framework of moral law.  In the historical appearance of Jesus, born at a certain time in a certain place, God assures us that this is true. Jesus was not born in some hypothetical place, in a dim and distant never-never land, but at a definite place, “the city of David.” Not only was Jesus born at a definite point in time, he was born at a definite place on the world’s surface.  The third fact confirms and support the second.

Jesus’s coming has a redemptive dimension.

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior.”  How joyous was the good tidings of the angel messenger! There is born… a Saviour.”  Not only was he born at a specific time and place, but for a specific purpose, announced by God’s angelic message before his birth: “And thou shall call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from sins” (Matthew 1:21).  Always God is the initiator in the redemptive drama. In a way people did not suspect, God was invading human life.

The consciousness of Jesus’ redemptive mission bore heavily on his mind and heart and drove him on with an imperious sense of urgency never before known to mortal man (John 9:4).  Jesus said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

Jesus’s coming has a prophetic dimension.

“Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  This was “good tidings of great joy” indeed. None of the shepherds could have understood.  No devout Jew of that day, steeped in the religion of his fathers, could have misunderstood the phrase “which is Christ the Lord.”  This was the glad announcement that the promised Messiah and “King of David’s line had been born.

This was the hope that enabled the Jews to survive the shock of national destruction and to preserve their national identity during seventy years of exile and return to their own land.  This was the hope that enabled them to survive the persecution of the inter-biblical period and to throw of the yoke of the Greek oppressor, This was the hope that strengthened them in Jesus’s day and enabled them to endure the iron heel of Rome upon their necks.  The angel said, “This day that hope is fulfilled. The one born is “Christ the Lord.” God’s prophets had promised, and God kept the promise made through his prophets.

Beloved, that promise is to all, even to us.  This event at Bethlehem is no private matter. Let me emphasize in closing a phrase of the text that is near its beginning.  “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Hear him. That herald angel is speaking “unto you.”  God bless you.

“The Miracles of Christmas”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

DECEMBER 9, 2018

Title: “The Miracles of Christmas

Text: “Now the birth of Jesus was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 1:18).

Scripture Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today.

When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today.

It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born. Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the person whose birth we celebrate.

The real story of Christmas abounds with miracles.  The star we talked about last Sunday, the Magi; the angelic appearances; the annunciation by Gabriel to Zechariah of the birth of John the Baptist; the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary, to Joseph, and to the shepherds; the anthem of praise sang by the angelic choir; the magi warned in a dream not to return to Herod; Joseph directed by an angel into the land of Egypt and told to depart from Egypt, and warned in a dream about Archelaus, Herod’s wicked son and successor; the birth of John the Baptist when his parents were advance in age; the birth of Jesus, who had a human mother and not a human father.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the most meaningful and unique birth in the annals of time.  Christ existed from all eternity; he was in the beginning with God (John 1:1). He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).  The miracles of Christmas are manifold, and they have a message for us.  Let us hear what they have to say to us.

The miracles of Christmas speak of the miraculous conception.  There are many Scriptures to support the miraculous conception of Jesus’ birth: (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26-27;  Galatians 4:4,5). Galatians 4:4 tells us, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…”

The angel Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come on her and the “power of the Highest” would overshadow her (Luke 1:35).  The figure is that of a cloud. The cloud of glory represents God’s power. The miraculous conception is plainly set forth in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.  The fact that Luke was a physician gives added meaning to the miraculous conception of Mary by the Holy Spirit. It is a miracle. It is the power of God acting in ascend with his laws.  “For with God nothing is impossible.”

This is something I want us to fully understand.  In Jewish culture, the Spirit of God was specially connected with the works of creation. It was through the Spirit that God perform His creating work.  Genesis 1:2 explains to us that in the beginning, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and Chaos became a world. By the words of the Lord the heavens was made. Psalms 33:6 tells us that all the host of the earth came into being by the breath of God’s mouth.  The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma meaning breath or spirit.  The Psalmist says in Psalms 104:30, “When you send out your Spirit they are created. This is what Job says, “The Spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4).  

The Spirit is the Creator of the world and the giver of life.  So, in Jesus, there came into the world God’s life-giving and creating power.  That power, which reduced the first chaos to order, came to bring order to our disordered lives.That power, which breathed life where there was no life, has come to breathe life into our weaknesses and frustrations. We are really not alive until Jesus enters our lives. The conception of Jesus is a miracle.  What does this miraculous conception tells us?

The miraculous conception declares Jesus to be God.  Matthew 1:23 tells us that “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  Doctor Luke puts it this way, “And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

The miraculous conception declares Jesus to be sinless. Jesus was born without an earthly father.  He lived without experiencing sin. He declared himself to be sinless when he said, “Which of you convicts me of sin” (John 8:46).  They could not lay one sin to his charge. Not one blunder, not one mistake, not one error did he commit, for Jesus was sinless.

The Miracles of Christmas speaks of the glorious incarnation.  The apostle John wrote of this glorious incarnation in John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.  This speaks of the humanity of Jesus. He became flesh and live among us. He became our neighbor. He was God in human flesh. Here, Jesus is God and man combining in one personality the two natures of God and man.  This incarnation of Jesus shows humankind capacity for God. We can know God as he reveals himself through Jesus Christ, the God-man.

The miracles of Christmas speak of wondrous salvation.  Jesus Christ came to save sinners.  In the annunciation of Jesus birth, it is written in Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shall call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall save the world.”

Many of you believe in a physician when you put your case in the physician hands to cure you. You believe in a lawyer when you leave your case in his hands and trust him to plea for you.  You believe in a banker when you put your money in the banker’s hand to keep it for you. It should also be the same when you take Jesus to be your Savior. When you put your helpless case into his hands and trust him to do what you can not do yourself, that is save you from your sin, you should trust Him.

The story is told of one of the most notoriously bad characters that ever lived in New York.  He was Orville Gardner. He was the trainer of prize-fighters and companion of all sorts of hard characters. His reputation was so thoroughly bad that he was called “Awful Gardner.”

He had a little boy, whom he dearly loved, and this boy died. A short time after his boy’s death, he was standing at the bar in a New York saloon, surrounded by a number of his boon companions. The night was sweltering, and he stepped outside the saloon to get a little fresh air. As he stood out there and looked up between the high buildings at the sky above his head, a bright star was shining down upon him, and as he stood looking at the star, he said to himself, “I wonder where my little boy is tonight?” Then the thought came to him quick as a flash, “Wherever he is, you will never see him again unless you change your life.”

Touched by the Spirit of God, he hurried from the saloon to the room where he knew his godly mother was. He went in and asked his mother to pray for him. She did pray for him, and she led him to Christ. He went home to where he kept a jug of whiskey. He did not dare to keep it and did not know what to do with it. Finally he took it down to the river, got into a boat and rowed over to an island. He set the liquor on a rock and knelt down, and as he afterwards said, “Fought that jug of whiskey for a long time,” and God gave him perfect deliverance. But what should he do with the jug? He did not dare break it, lest the fumes set him wild. He did not dare leave it, lest someone else get it. Finally he dug a hole in the ground with his heel and buried it. He left the island a free man. He became a mighty preacher of the gospel. It was through listening to him preach that Jerry McAuley (a convict turned preacher and founder of the McAuley Water Street Mission) was set to thinking, and that thinking afterwards led to his conversion.  Jesus came to save us.

This is one of the most wonderful miracles of Christmas: Jesus Christ came to save (Matthew 18:11).  Jesus Christ came to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:13). Jesus Christ to save bearing away our sins (John 1:29, 1 john 1:17). Jesus Christ came to save by his own blood (Ephesians 1:7; Col 1: 14).  Jesus Christ came to save because no one else could save us (Acts 4:12).

The miracles of Christmas speak of the miraculous conception.  The miracles of Christmas speaks of the glorious incarnation. The miracles of Christmas speak of wondrous salvation. Let the miracles of Christmas speak to your heart.  Let the Christ of Christmas be your Savior and your Lord. God bless you.