Intercessory Prayer: A Prayer Life of a Christian”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 24, 2019

Title: “Intercessory Prayer: A Prayer of Life of a Christian.”

Text: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:2-5).

Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13.

The story is told of Hudson Taylor sailing to China to begin his missionary work. His ship was in great danger. The wind had died, and the current was carrying them toward sunken reefs which were close to islands inhabited by cannibals—so close they could see them building fires on the shore. Everything they tried was to no avail. In his journal Taylor recorded what happened next: The Captain said to me, “Well, we have done everything that can be done.” A thought occurred to me, and I replied, “No, there is one thing we have not done yet.” “What is that?” he queried. “Four of us on board are Christians. Let us each retire to his own cabin, and in agreed prayer ask the Lord to give us immediately a breeze.”

Taylor prayed briefly and then, certain that the answer was coming, went up on the deck and asked the first officer to let down the sails. “What would be the good of that?” he answered roughly. I told him we had been asking a wind from God; that it was coming immediately. Within minutes the wind did began to blow, and it carried them safely past the reefs. Taylor wrote: “Thus God encouraged me ere landing on China’s shores to bring every variety of need to Him in prayer, and to expect that He would honour the name of the Lord Jesus and give the help each emergency required.”

Knowing from this story that our prayers touch the heart of our loving Father in Heaven and that He can meet any need, we should be confident that He will hear and answer when we cry out to Him.

Jesus gave many instructions concerning the fact that his disciples would give themselves to the habit of prayer.  He gave them instructions concerning errors to avoid and procedures to follow in the practice of prayer. He warned them against praying like the hypocrites who looked upon prayer as a speech to be made to impress God and others.  He also warned them against praying like the pagans who repeated many empty phrases in an effort to impress their helpless and reluctant deities to hear their pious phrases. Jesus declared that such repetition is unnecessary because of the nature and character of the God they were worshipping.

Paul in our text this morning gave a great instruction about prayer.  Paul urges the church at Colossae and Christians everywhere to devote themselves to prayer.  But Paul also emphasize that prayers should be made for him and other believers. Praying for others is what we called intercessory praying.  It is important for us to let these words on prayers dwell on our hearts and encourage us as we give ourselves in the practice of prayers. Let us consider the reason why we should make intercessions.

It is important to give ourselves to prayer because, Jesus as the Son of God gave himself to prayer.  Jesus hungered for fellowship and for the strength that came through dialogue with the heavenly Father.  He assumed that, as the children of God, we would hunger and thirst for fellowship and would dialogue with the heavenly Father.

Jesus taught his disciples to think of God not as the eternal almighty exalted, but as “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Jesus did not teach his disciples to approach the throne of God as beggars for a castoff; he encouraged them to come into the presence of the eternal God as needy children approaching a wise and generous father.  

Jesus gave the command for each of us to pray because each of us has a violent and evil enemy in the devil.  Jesus had a personal experience with Satan at the beginning of his ministry (Matt. 41-11). Satan was his foe. Jesus describes the devil as his enemy and our enemy (Matt. 13:25, 28, 39).

Peter warned his readers about our enemy the devil (1 Peter 5:8).  James gave advice on how we can overcome the devil (James 4:7-8). John assured his readers that victory could be found through him who dwells within us (1 John 4:4).

Jesus knew that life would bring many troubles and hardships so he wanted us to be in the attitude of prayerful intercession.  Many of us never make any allowance for the possibility of the tragic and catastrophic happening in life. Suffering is in the pathway of each of us sooner or later.  Peter encourages us to bring our anxieties and burdens to the Lord because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Paul declared to the Philippians that by faith he had learned to be the master of the diverse circumstances that befell him (Phil. 4:11-13).

The future is a mystery for all of us.  Because we do not know what tomorrow holds, many of us feel the need to go into the closet of prayer to receive the strength we need and the assurance of the guidance of him who is the Light of the World (John 8:12). This is why we need to pray for each other.

It is important to pray because intercessory prayer brings the strength and the help of the Lord to those who wait on him in faith and faithfulness (Isaiah 40:31).  Our Lord gave himself continuously to the practice of praying for everyone. It restored the vital energies of God to his life as he faced life’s burdens and responsibilities.  It brought the freshness of God’s grace into his life continually. It is the testimony of saints of the past and present that, when we neglect the private place of prayer, we do so to our own impoverishment.

Intercessory prayer is basically praying for others, it is praying for God’s will to be done in the lives of other people. Intercessory prayers characterized the prayer life of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:12 the Bible says, He Himself bore the sins of many and, interceded for the transgressors.”

Luke 22:23 Jesus tells Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail;” Luke 23:34 on the cross, Jesus was praying for others when He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 14:15 Jesus interceded for us, asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit

John 17:19 He prayed for us, the church, in His High Priestly prayer. Listen to the intercessory nature of this prayer, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou has given Me . . . “

Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us.And Hebrews 7:25 says, “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus prayed intercessory prayers, He was ever praying for others.

Understanding the power of Prayer, Paul wanted to be sure the Colossian Christians understood what it was they were to pray for. He wanted them to pray with a specific purpose. He wanted them to pray for him, asking God to open a door so that they could speak the gospel. It was the gospel that Paul lived for, it was the preaching of the gospel that had landed Paul in prison, it was the preaching of the gospel that was ever on the forefront of Paul’s mind. You see, Paul wanted God’s kingdom to expand. Like Jesus, he was concerned about others, about their souls, their salvation and their sanctification.

It is instructive to note that Paul is not asking them to pray for his legal situation or that he would be released from prison. He is asking them to pray that he will have the opportunity to lead someone to Christ.

Paul wanted their prayers to be in accordance with God’s will not simply after the greedy desires of someone living for this world.

Paul was always concerned with doing the will of God. How many of our prayers are directed at the expansion of His eternal kingdom rather than the expansion of our petty kingdoms? If you were able to chronicle your prayers, knowing how much time you spent praying for different things, how much of your time would be spent praying for your family, for their health, for the health and well being of your loved ones, compared to how much time you were praying for the lost who are headed to hell?

Intercessory prayer changes things.

You see, when you pray for others, when you pray for God’s work to be done, for His will to be accomplished, He will begin to use you and grow you in ways that will astonish those around you. Sometimes I think we do not become what God wants us to become, because we are too focused on ourselves and not on others. It is when we pray for others that we will become more like Jesus, and as we become more like Jesus God will grow us more, show us more, and use us more.

We must pray for others. What does your prayer life look like this morning? Are you persistent in prayer? Are your prayers passionate or are they perfunctory? Are they filled with intensity and fervor or are they weak, timid and lacking faith? What about gratitude? How much time have you spent thanking God for all He has done for you? And who are you praying for? Is there anyone in your life that you are praying will get saved? Is there a burden on your heart to see God’s kingdom expand, to see His will done? Pray today and god will answer.  God bless you.

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 24, 2019

Title: “Intercessory Prayer: A Prayer of Life of a Christian.”

Text: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:2-5).

Scripture Reading: Luke 11:1-13.

The story is told of Hudson Taylor sailing to China to begin his missionary work. His ship was in great danger. The wind had died, and the current was carrying them toward sunken reefs which were close to islands inhabited by cannibals—so close they could see them building fires on the shore. Everything they tried was to no avail. In his journal Taylor recorded what happened next: The Captain said to me, “Well, we have done everything that can be done.” A thought occurred to me, and I replied, “No, there is one thing we have not done yet.” “What is that?” he queried. “Four of us on board are Christians. Let us each retire to his own cabin, and in agreed prayer ask the Lord to give us immediately a breeze.”

Taylor prayed briefly and then, certain that the answer was coming, went up on the deck and asked the first officer to let down the sails. “What would be the good of that?” he answered roughly. I told him we had been asking a wind from God; that it was coming immediately. Within minutes the wind did began to blow, and it carried them safely past the reefs. Taylor wrote: “Thus God encouraged me ere landing on China’s shores to bring every variety of need to Him in prayer, and to expect that He would honour the name of the Lord Jesus and give the help each emergency required.”

Knowing from this story that our prayers touch the heart of our loving Father in Heaven and that He can meet any need, we should be confident that He will hear and answer when we cry out to Him.

Jesus gave many instructions concerning the fact that his disciples would give themselves to the habit of prayer.  He gave them instructions concerning errors to avoid and procedures to follow in the practice of prayer. He warned them against praying like the hypocrites who looked upon prayer as a speech to be made to impress God and others.  He also warned them against praying like the pagans who repeated many empty phrases in an effort to impress their helpless and reluctant deities to hear their pious phrases. Jesus declared that such repetition is unnecessary because of the nature and character of the God they were worshipping.

Paul in our text this morning gave a great instruction about prayer.  Paul urges the church at Colossae and Christians everywhere to devote themselves to prayer.  But Paul also emphasize that prayers should be made for him and other believers. Praying for others is what we called intercessory praying.  It is important for us to let these words on prayers dwell on our hearts and encourage us as we give ourselves in the practice of prayers. Let us consider the reason why we should make intercessions.

It is important to give ourselves to prayer because, Jesus as the Son of God gave himself to prayer.  Jesus hungered for fellowship and for the strength that came through dialogue with the heavenly Father.  He assumed that, as the children of God, we would hunger and thirst for fellowship and would dialogue with the heavenly Father.

Jesus taught his disciples to think of God not as the eternal almighty exalted, but as “Our Father who art in heaven.”  Jesus did not teach his disciples to approach the throne of God as beggars for a castoff; he encouraged them to come into the presence of the eternal God as needy children approaching a wise and generous father.  

Jesus gave the command for each of us to pray because each of us has a violent and evil enemy in the devil.  Jesus had a personal experience with Satan at the beginning of his ministry (Matt. 41-11). Satan was his foe. Jesus describes the devil as his enemy and our enemy (Matt. 13:25, 28, 39).

Peter warned his readers about our enemy the devil (1 Peter 5:8).  James gave advice on how we can overcome the devil (James 4:7-8). John assured his readers that victory could be found through him who dwells within us (1 John 4:4).

Jesus knew that life would bring many troubles and hardships so he wanted us to be in the attitude of prayerful intercession.  Many of us never make any allowance for the possibility of the tragic and catastrophic happening in life. Suffering is in the pathway of each of us sooner or later.  Peter encourages us to bring our anxieties and burdens to the Lord because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Paul declared to the Philippians that by faith he had learned to be the master of the diverse circumstances that befell him (Phil. 4:11-13).

The future is a mystery for all of us.  Because we do not know what tomorrow holds, many of us feel the need to go into the closet of prayer to receive the strength we need and the assurance of the guidance of him who is the Light of the World (John 8:12). This is why we need to pray for each other.

It is important to pray because intercessory prayer brings the strength and the help of the Lord to those who wait on him in faith and faithfulness (Isaiah 40:31).  Our Lord gave himself continuously to the practice of praying for everyone. It restored the vital energies of God to his life as he faced life’s burdens and responsibilities.  It brought the freshness of God’s grace into his life continually. It is the testimony of saints of the past and present that, when we neglect the private place of prayer, we do so to our own impoverishment.

Intercessory prayer is basically praying for others, it is praying for God’s will to be done in the lives of other people. Intercessory prayers characterized the prayer life of Jesus. In Isaiah 53:12 the Bible says, He Himself bore the sins of many and, interceded for the transgressors.”

Luke 22:23 Jesus tells Peter, “I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail;” Luke 23:34 on the cross, Jesus was praying for others when He said, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 14:15 Jesus interceded for us, asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit

John 17:19 He prayed for us, the church, in His High Priestly prayer. Listen to the intercessory nature of this prayer, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom Thou has given Me . . . “

Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us.And Hebrews 7:25 says, “Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus prayed intercessory prayers, He was ever praying for others.

Understanding the power of Prayer, Paul wanted to be sure the Colossian Christians understood what it was they were to pray for. He wanted them to pray with a specific purpose. He wanted them to pray for him, asking God to open a door so that they could speak the gospel. It was the gospel that Paul lived for, it was the preaching of the gospel that had landed Paul in prison, it was the preaching of the gospel that was ever on the forefront of Paul’s mind. You see, Paul wanted God’s kingdom to expand. Like Jesus, he was concerned about others, about their souls, their salvation and their sanctification.

It is instructive to note that Paul is not asking them to pray for his legal situation or that he would be released from prison. He is asking them to pray that he will have the opportunity to lead someone to Christ.

Paul wanted their prayers to be in accordance with God’s will not simply after the greedy desires of someone living for this world.

Paul was always concerned with doing the will of God. How many of our prayers are directed at the expansion of His eternal kingdom rather than the expansion of our petty kingdoms? If you were able to chronicle your prayers, knowing how much time you spent praying for different things, how much of your time would be spent praying for your family, for their health, for the health and well being of your loved ones, compared to how much time you were praying for the lost who are headed to hell?

Intercessory prayer changes things.

You see, when you pray for others, when you pray for God’s work to be done, for His will to be accomplished, He will begin to use you and grow you in ways that will astonish those around you. Sometimes I think we do not become what God wants us to become, because we are too focused on ourselves and not on others. It is when we pray for others that we will become more like Jesus, and as we become more like Jesus God will grow us more, show us more, and use us more.

We must pray for others. What does your prayer life look like this morning? Are you persistent in prayer? Are your prayers passionate or are they perfunctory? Are they filled with intensity and fervor or are they weak, timid and lacking faith? What about gratitude? How much time have you spent thanking God for all He has done for you? And who are you praying for? Is there anyone in your life that you are praying will get saved? Is there a burden on your heart to see God’s kingdom expand, to see His will done? Pray today and god will answer.  God bless you.

“The Prayer Life of a Christian”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

2nd SUNDAY IN LENT

MARCH 17, 2019

Title: “The Prayer Life of a Christian”

Text: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.  And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.  Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, o that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:2-6 NIV).

Scripture Reading: Colossians 4:2-6

D. L Moody used to tell the story on radio of a man who came to him and said, “When the Mexican war began I wanted to enlist. My mother, seeing I was resolved, said if I became a Christian I might go. She pleaded and prayed that I might become a Christian, but I wouldn’t. I said when the war was over I would become a Christian, but not till then.

“All her pleading was in vain, and at last, when I was going away, she took out a watch and said: My son, your father left this to me when he died. Take it, and I want you to remember that every day at 12 o’clock your mother will be praying for you. Then she gave me her Bible, and marked out passages, and put a few different references in the leaflets. I took the watch and the Bible just because my mother gave them. I never intended to read the Bible.

“I went off to Mexico, and one day while on a long, weary march, I took out my watch, and it was 12 o’clock. I had been gone four months, but I remembered that my mother at that hour was praying for me. Something prompted me to ask the officer to relieve me for a little while, and I stepped behind a tree away out on those plains of Mexico, and cried to the God of my mother to save me.”  God saved him, and after the Mexican war was ended, he said, “I have enlisted again to see if I can do any good for my Master’s cause.”

Prayer is, for the most part, a resources that is not tapped. It is an unexplored continent where untold treasure remains to be unearthed. It is talked about more than anything else , and practiced less than anything else. And yet, for the believer it remains one of the greatest gift our Lord has given us outside of salvation.

In 1952, Albert Einstein was delivering a lecture on the campus of Princeton University. A doctoral student asked the famous scientist “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” With considerate thought and profundity Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.”

Paul was somebody who understood prayer and its power. Prayer was a part of Paul’s life, and he took it for granted that it would be a part of the life of every Christian. You cannot really be a good Christian and not pray, just like you cannot have a good marriage if you don’t talk to your wife. You can be a Christian and not pray, just like you can be married and not talk to your wife. But in both circumstances you will be miserable. Prayer is the pipeline of communication between God and His people, between God and those who love Him.

The first thing we ought do is to always pray with persistence

Paul begins by saying, “Devote yourselves to prayer,” (NASB) or “Continue earnestly in prayer,” (NKJV). In the original language it says, “continue steadfastly in prayer.” The word translated, “continue steadfastly,” is one word in the original language. It can be translated, “persist in, adhere firmly to, or remain devoted to or to give unremitting care to.” It carries with it the idea of dedication. Of the ten times it is used in the New Testament four of them have to do with being devoted to prayer. It is a very powerful word and in this verse is given as an imperative, or a command. In other words, persistence in prayer is not an option for the Christian it is an order from the Lord Himself.

Two of the most instructive parables Jesus ever told on prayer, one in Luke 18 and the other in Luke 11, both have to do with being persistent and not giving up in prayer.  Luke 18:1 says, “Now He was telling them a parable to show them that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.” Luke 11:9 is where we find the promise that says, “ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you.” Each of those verbs are in the present tense, active voice and could be translated, “keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking.” Jesus does not want us to give up in prayer, He instructs us to be persistent.

Now there is a difference between a persistent prayer and a long prayer. A person who is persistent in prayer does not necessarily have to pray for a long time. Persistence means not giving up.

Some people give up easy, they quit because they say they don’t feel like praying, the joy is gone, the feeling is gone. But we are not to live by our feelings but to live by the commandments of our Lord who tells us to pray without ceasing.

George Muller, known as one of the greatest prayer warriors of all times had this to say about persistence in prayer: Do not give Satan the chance to steal your joy in reading the Word and praying.  Because he is persistent, be persistent also.

Be persistent in prayer.

The second important mark of a Christian prayer life is to pray with passion.

If you are persistent in something, it stands to reason that you are to be passionate about it. In fact, Paul says we should be vigilant or be watchful; it is the opposite of slothfulness. This describes passionate prayer.

Jesus was passionate about His prayer life, it was something He was always doing.

S.D. Gordon in his book, Quiet Talks on Prayer, says,  “How much prayer meant to Jesus! It was not only his regular habit, but his resort in every emergency, however slight or serious. When perplexed he prayed. When hard pressed by work he prayed. When hungry for fellowship he found it in prayer. He chose his associates and received his messages upon his knees. If tempted, he prayed. If criticized, he prayed. If fatigued in body or wearied in spirit, he had recourse to his one unfailing habit of prayer. Prayer brought him unmeasured power at the beginning, and kept the flow unbroken and undiminished. There was no emergency, no difficulty, no necessity, no temptation that would not yield to prayer.”

And every time we see Jesus praying He was praying with passion. In Luke 3:1 at His Baptism – while He was praying the heaven was opened. Passionate prayer opens Heaven. In Luke 6:12 before He called His disciples – He spent the whole night in prayer. Passionate prayer gives direction. In Luke 9:29 at His transfiguration – And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. Passionate prayer enables us to experience the glory of the Father. In John 17 in His high priestly prayer – Passionate prayer impacts the lives of others. In Matthew 26:39 in the Garden of Gethsemane – It is only through passionate prayer that we can pour out our hearts to God. In Luke 23:24 as He hung on the cross – a life that is lived in passionate prayer will enable us to maintain that spirit, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Jesus always prayed with passion, because He knew Who it was He was talking to and He knew that prayer to the Father is a powerful thing and not something to take lightly and glibly.

Prayer from the heart, that’s what passionate prayer is, it is prayer from the heart not just from the head. That is how He taught us to pray, not only through His example, but specifically through His teaching Look in Matthew 6:7, in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus instructs on prayer. It is here that we find the Lord’s prayer. But just before the Lord’s prayer what does He say? “When you pray, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do.”

What has happened to the Lord’s Prayer? People repeat it as if it were some kind of magic mantra that will bless them or move God to hear them. They are doing with it is exactly what He was instructing us not to do with it. The gentiles, when they prayed tried, through their religious repetitions, with their chants and their mantras to call forth or impress their Gods. That is not what you do when you are in a relationship.

You don’t tell your wife. “I love you, oh I really love you and I just wanted to tell you today that I love you, I’m so glad that I just have this time to just say I love you. Please feed the children, please clean the house and may all go well with you.” Amen

James 5:16 says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

The third mark of the prayer life of a Christian is to pray with thankfulness

Paul never fails to mention it. Ephesians 5:20 tells us that thanksgiving is the natural result of being filled with and walking under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 4:6 tells us to be anxious for nothing but in everything we should pray, giving thanks as we make our petitions known to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us that giving thanks at all times is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.  Colossians 3:17 says that as believers everything we say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus as we give thanks to Him. 1 Timothy 4:4 – says that food and marriage are good things given to us by God and are to be received with thanksgiving and gratitude.

Be persistent, passionate and thankful in your prayer life.  God bless you.

“A Time for a New Beginning”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 10, 2019

Title: “A Time for a New Beginning.”

Text: “And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20. And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:19-27.

Of the many things that the Lord’s Supper is, it is a time for beginning again.  It can be to the Christian life what a mid-course correction is to a spaceship.

Imagine that it was possible to make a direct shot to the moon without orbiting the earth.  Imagine also that there were no opportunity for an inflight correction. If, in the launching, the calculations were off just one degree, that space vehicle would miss the moon by almost 1.5 million miles!  We can begin to understand the importance of a mid-course correction in space travel. To drift off course in our spiritual lives, the Lord’s Supper can be an opportunity for us to make a mid-course correction and get back on track.  The Lord’s Supper is all of the following.

The Lord’s Supper is a time for a fresh dedication.

It is a fresh dedication to the will of God.  Perhaps some little sin has crept into your life and is causing you to drift off course from God’s will.  You may be only a fraction of a degree from dead center, but the farther you go with the miscalculation, the wider is the ever-increasing distance by which you will miss God’s will for your life.  The observance of this supper can be that time of in-flight correction that gets you back on course.

Jesus was always in the center of the Father’s will, but he used the occasion of the Last Supper to reaffirm his dedication to that will.  “This cup is…my blood, which is shed for you… and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined” (Luke 22:20, 22).

The Lord’s Supper is also a time for fresh dedication to the task of witnessing.  The disciples were about to face the most strenuous period in their ministry. Christ chose to the supper as the climatic moment of his ministry before the cross to impart to them new determination for the trials ahead.

Perhaps someone is here at the very beginning of a spiritual journey. Trying to find your way with God is such an overwhelming task, it’s quite possible you might not know where to start. There’s so much to learn, so many steps of faith to take, so many things to do. Maybe you’ve seen someone in your family, or your circle of friends, or even in this church, who seems to be miles and miles ahead of you in a spiritual walk. Perhaps the whole idea of comfort and hope seems impossible, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances.

In 1847, a boy named Homan Walsh went out to fly a kite. Homan was taking part in a kite-flying contest, so he brought his best kite, and plenty of string.

He stood on the Canadian bank of the Niagara River, letting more and more of that string go out, and his little-boy’s kite kept going higher, and higher, and higher … until it stretched nearly 1,000 feet. When a stranger on the American side of the Niagara Gorge grabbed Homan’s string, the crowd that had gathered let up a mighty roar. For the first time in history, people on opposite sides of this great gorge were holding onto the same string. And Homan won $5, the top prize in the contest.

There was much more than $5 at stake, however. In short order, the string was tied to a tree on the American shoreline, and a light cord tied to the Canadian end of the string. The cord was then pulled across the 800-foot span. A rope was tied to the cord, and pulled safely across. To the rope was attached a wire cable, and to the cable, a thicker cable attached. It was the beginning of an engineering victory over one of the greatest natural barriers that had separated Americans and Canadians.

Fifty-foot towers were built on each side of the river, and more cables became a part of the picture. In time, people rode across the river in buckets, for $1 each, and then they walked on a foot bridge for a quarter. But less than a year after Homan’s kite first flew across the river, people were safely riding their horse-drawn carriages across the Niagara, on a marvelous suspension bridge that hung 220 feet over the rushing water.

Eventually, there were 15 bridges that spanned the Niagara, six of which are in use today. The thousands of passengers that travel across the multi-lane, high-speed bridges today think nothing of the bridge, some of them so familiar with the path, they barely glance at the scenic view. More than likely, it has never occurred to most of those on the great bridges today that somewhere in the past, just to get this modern-day miracle under way, somebody had to fly a kite.

If great bridges can get their start with a boy’s kite and string, then I’ll tell you that great spiritual experiences can get their start with amazingly simple decisions.

The Lord’s Supper is one of the world’s simplest meals. From one vantage point, it might not seem much more significant than a boy flying a kite. It might seem little more than a string of a connection between you and God. My offer to you today is … make that connection. From the smallest beginnings can come great bridges of faith.

The Lord’s Supper is a time for self-examination.

Speaking about the Lord’s Supper in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (! Corinthians 11:28 NIV).

Paul’s emphasis surely must have been on the words “themselves.”  We do not come to this hour to sit in judgment on others. We are not here to examine the lives of our fellow believers.  To partake of this supper in such a manner would be to eat and drink “unworthily” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

A self-examination admits sin, whatever it may be and where it may be in our lives.  It is simply to be honest about ourselves before God.

Simon Peter’s failure to make such a self-examination may well explain his claim. “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33) I do not think he was hypocritical, nor was he deliberately telling a falsehood.  He simply failed to see himself as he really was, and a humiliating denial of Christ followed.

We may save ourselves many spiritual defeats if we will pause and examine ourselves.  Self examination should result in turning from our sin. We can accept the encouraging promise that “whosoever confessed and forsaketh (his sins) shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

The Lord’s Supper is a time for meditation on Christ’s death.

One of the main purposes of this ordinance is to meditate on Christ’s death.  Paul continuing to talk about the significance of the Lord’s Supper wrote in First Corinthians 11:26 NIV., “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  Could it be that the reason we do not feel any greater obligation to Christ is that we seldom really meditate on his death? Looking on the broken and bruised body of Christ on the cross will have a sovereign influence on our lives.

It is a time for humility.  We will never admit our need to begin again as long as we are filled with pride.  Only the humble will say, “I am wrong: I have sinned. Forgive me, Lord and let me begin again.”

How soon the disciples returned to pride and littleness after the high hour of the Lord’s Supper! Luke 22:24-27 relates the strife that arose because these grown men, like little children, were arguing over “which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24).  This would be unbelievable if it were not such a common occurrence within the church today.

Christ reminded his disciples that the lost world, “the Gentiles,” were filled with such pride, but that as believers they were to emulate his humility of self-giving, which had just been dramatized through through the Last Supper.  

Would you like to stop right where you are and start all over again? If so, you have come to the right place at the right time, for the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a ime for fresh dedication, self-examination, meditation on the death of Christ, and humility.  If you would begin again, simply bow your head and tell the Lord that this is what you want to do.

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT

MARCH 10, 2019

Title: “A Time for a New Beginning.”

Text: “And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘this is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20. And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20).

Scripture Reading: Luke 22:19-27.

Of the many things that the Lord’s Supper is, it is a time for beginning again.  It can be to the Christian life what a midcourse correction is to a spaceship.

Imagine that it was possible to make a direct shot to the moon without orbiting the earth.  Imagine also that there were no opportunity for an inflight correction. If, in the launching, the calculations were off just one degree, that space vehicle would miss the moon by almost 1.5 million miles!  We can begin to understand the importance of a midcourse correction in space travel. To drift off course in our spiritual lives, the Lord’s Supper can be an opportunity for us to make a midcourse correction and get back on track.  The Lord’s Supper is all of the following.

The Lord’s Supper is a time for a fresh dedication.

It is a fresh dedication to the will of God.  Perhaps some little sin has crept into your life and is causing you to drift off course from God’s will.  You may be only a fraction of a degree from dead center, but the farther you go with the miscalculation, the wider is the ever-increasing distance by which you will miss God’s will for your life.  The observance of this supper can be that time of in-flight correction that gets you back on course.

Jesus was always in the center of the Father’s will, but he used the occasion of the Last Supper to reaffirm his dedication to that will.  “This cup is…my blood, which is shed for you… and truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined” (Luke 22:20, 22).

The Lord’s Supper is also a time for fresh dedication to the task of witnessing.  The disciples were about to face the most strenuous period in their ministry. Christ chose to the supper as the climatic moment of his ministry before the cross to impart to them new determination for the trials ahead.

Perhaps someone is here at the very beginning of a spiritual journey. Trying to find your way with God is such an overwhelming task, it’s quite possible you might not know where to start. There’s so much to learn, so many steps of faith to take, so many things to do. Maybe you’ve seen someone in your family, or your circle of friends, or even in this church, who seems to be miles and miles ahead of you in a spiritual walk. Perhaps the whole idea of comfort and hope seems impossible, especially in the midst of difficult circumstances.

In 1847, a boy named Homan Walsh went out to fly a kite. Homan was taking part in a kite-flying contest, so he brought his best kite, and plenty of string.

He stood on the Canadian bank of the Niagara River, letting more and more of that string go out, and his little-boy’s kite kept going higher, and higher, and higher … until it stretched nearly 1,000 feet. When a stranger on the American side of the Niagara Gorge grabbed Homan’s string, the crowd that had gathered let up a mighty roar. For the first time in history, people on opposite sides of this great gorge were holding onto the same string. And Homan won $5, the top prize in the contest.

There was much more than $5 at stake, however. In short order, the string was tied to a tree on the American shoreline, and a light cord tied to the Canadian end of the string. The cord was then pulled across the 800-foot span. A rope was tied to the cord, and pulled safely across. To the rope was attached a wire cable, and to the cable, a thicker cable attached. It was the beginning of an engineering victory over one of the greatest natural barriers that had separated Americans and Canadians.

Fifty-foot towers were built on each side of the river, and more cables became a part of the picture. In time, people rode across the river in buckets, for $1 each, and then they walked on a foot bridge for a quarter. But less than a year after Homan’s kite first flew across the river, people were safely riding their horse-drawn carriages across the Niagara, on a marvelous suspension bridge that hung 220 feet over the rushing water.

Eventually, there were 15 bridges that spanned the Niagara, six of which are in use today. The thousands of passengers that travel across the multi-lane, high-speed bridges today think nothing of the bridge, some of them so familiar with the path, they barely glance at the scenic view. More than likely, it has never occurred to most of those on the great bridges today that somewhere in the past, just to get this modern-day miracle under way, somebody had to fly a kite.

If great bridges can get their start with a boy’s kite and string, then I’ll tell you that great spiritual experiences can get their start with amazingly simple decisions.

The Lord’s Supper is one of the world’s simplest meals. From one vantage point, it might not seem much more significant than a boy flying a kite. It might seem little more than a string of a connection between you and God. My offer to you today is … make that connection. From the smallest beginnings can come great bridges of faith.

The Lord’s Supper is a time for self-examination.

Speaking about the Lord’s Supper in his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote, “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup” (! Corinthians 11:28 NIV).

Paul’s emphasis surely must have been on the words “themselves.”  We do not come to this hour to sit in judgment on others. We are not here to examine the lives of our fellow believers.  To partake of this supper in such a manner would be to eat and drink “unworthily” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

A self-examination admits sin, whatever it may be and where it may be in our lives.  It is simply to be honest about ourselves before God.

Simon Peter’s failure to make such a self-examination may well explain his claim. “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33) I do not think he was hypocritical, nor was he deliberately telling a falsehood.  He simply failed to see himself as he really was, and a humiliating denial of Christ followed.

We may save ourselves many spiritual defeats if we will pause and examine ourselves.  Self examination should result in turning from our sin. We can accept the encouraging promise that “whosoever confessed and forsaketh (his sins) shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

The Lord’s Supper is a time for meditation on Christ’s death.

One of the main purposes of this ordinance is to meditate on Christ’s death.  Paul continuing to talk about the significance of the Lord’s Supper wrote in First Corinthians 11:26 NIV., “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  Could it be that the reason we do not feel any greater obligation to Christ is that we seldom really meditate on his death? Looking on the broken and bruised body of Christ on the cross will have a sovereign influence on our lives.

It is a time for humility.  We will never admit our need to begin again as long as we are filled with pride.  Only the humble will say, “I am wrong: I have sinned. Forgive me, Lord and let me begin again.”

How soon the disciples returned to pride and littleness after the high hour of the Lord’s Supper! Luke 22:24-27 relates the strife that arose because these grown men, like little children, were arguing over “which of them should be accounted the greatest” (Luke 22:24).  This would be unbelievable if it were not such a common occurrence within the church today.

Christ reminded his disciples that the lost world, “the Gentiles,” were filled with such pride, but that as believers they were to emulate his humility of self-giving, which had just been dramatized through through the Last Supper.  

Would you like to stop right where you are and start all over again? If so, you have come to the right place at the right time, for the observance of the Lord’s Supper is a ime for fresh dedication, self-examination, meditation on the death of Christ, and humility.  If you would begin again, simply bow your head and tell the Lord that this is what you want to do.

“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”

SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY

7th SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

Title: “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Text: “ Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:9).

Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:1-9.

The first recorded question from a person to God is, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

What is our responsibility to our fellow human beings? Someone has jokingly said, “Each person has 67 million fourteenth cousins.”

One of the great teachings of the Bible is the responsibility of each human being for others.  Each of us is a brother or sister. God spoke about or regarding our mutual responsibility for each other at the dawn of human history.  In the genesis narratives, an important narrative to live more connected and meaningful lives, God made clear his displeasure with Cain. Cain did not fulfill his responsibility to care for his brother, to love his brother.  “…What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.  Now you are under curse and driven from the ground which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (Genesis 4: 10-11).  The Lord indicated that Cain did indeed have a responsibility toward his brother.  The poet John Donne said it well:

No man is an island; No man is an island; no man lives alone.

No man lives to himself and no man dies to himself.

The Genesis Narratives are most important constructs of first mention: The original Sin, the first Murder. The destruction of our relationship with God, then the destruction of the brotherhood of man. In the same way we understand sin, throughout the rest of the Bible, because of the Gen 3 narrative, in the same way the Cain & Abel narrative provide us with vital clues to what is at the root of the destruction of all relationships between human beings.  It is important for us to raise the interrogative: Am I my wife’s keeper? Yes. Am Ii my husband’s keeper? Yes. Am I my child’s keeper? Yes. Am I my parent’s keeper? Yes. Am I my neighbor’s keeper? And ofcourse the answer is yes. Do we have a responsibility to watch out for each other? When we turn to the New Testament, we find out the answer to this question is in the affirmative.

As commanded by Jesus, we are to love each other (John 13:34-35; 15:12).  Paul taught about love. Paul wrote, “let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt  to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Paul called to the attention of the Romans all the other commandments.  He made it clear that all the other commandments are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul accentuated that “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfilment of the law” (Romans 13:10).

Daniel Webster, asked what was the greatest thought that had passed through that wonderful brain, answered “My accountability to God.” Life is a great journey, with wonderful goals which flash through cloud and fog and mist their glorious invitations. But we must travel carefully and live as accountable to God. Not in the sense in which William Henley meant his well-known lines from “Invictus,” but in the high and solemn and scriptural sense,

I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.

How are we to love one another? We are to receive one another (Romans 15:7).  We are to edify one another (Romans 14:19); We are to serve one another (Galatians 5:13); We are to bear one another’s burden (Galatians 6:1-2).

A consecrated Sunday school teacher came to her pastor. She taught a class of young college boys. Twenty-four of them were unsaved. She sat speechless and sobbing before the pastor. “What is the matter?” asked the pastor. She exclaimed, “My boys, twenty-four of them, are standing on my heart like the weight of a lost world. I did not sleep any last night. I cannot eat. I must have them or I cannot live!” Prayer followed, prayer immersed in tears. In less than two weeks, every one of those twenty-four boys gave glowing, personal testimonies about the saving power of the Lord Jesus!  This story from L. R. Scarborough helps us understand how important it is to carry each other’s burden.

We are to forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32); We are to exhort one another (Hebrews 3:12-13); We are to be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:8).

The Ten Commandment reveal that we are responsible to God for each other.  We are responsible to God. We are responsible to our fellowmen: our parents, our family and to our neighbors.  Though it was given to Moses at the time as a code of laws to guide the children of Israel, it is applicable to us in this day and time.  We do not have to read it in special places or at special time, we can practice the Ten Commandment. The Ten Commandment is a guide to our responsibility to watch out for each other.  It helps us serve as watchmen in pointing people to salvation.

A businessman well known for his ruthlessness once announced to writer Mark Twain, “Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the 10 Commandments aloud at the top.” “I have a better idea,” replied Twain. “You could stay in Boston and keep them.” We don’t have to take adventures, but we can watch over those in our communities, churches, and homes.

In the book of Ezekiel, God emphasized the importance of personal responsibility through the prophet Ezekiel.  The prophet was instructed to accept his responsibility for conveying a message to the hearts of the people even though they would not listen and even though they had stubborn rebellious hearts that rejected God’s will for them (Ezekiel 3:6-9;33:1-11).

In Ezekiel 33:1-9, we see God speaking to Ezekiel about his role to his people. Ezekiel was a priest during the time when the Jewish people were removed by God from their homeland because of their sinfulness and idolatry, and were taken captive into the land of the Babylonians. God had called him to a prophetic ministry in Babylon, and to the captive people of Judah during the dark time of their exile from their homeland. And God uses the figure of a “watchman” to describe Ezekiel’s role.

It was the task of the watchman to position himself high on the city wall or on a tower, watch carefully, see if an enemy approached the land, and take up his trumpet and blow the warning to his people. His service to his people was a matter of life-and-death. Important! If he should fail to see the enemy approaching, or if he should–for whatever reason–fail to blow the warning signal, some of his people would perish. But if he was faithful, and if he succeeded in warning them, the lives of many of his people would be spared. The armies of his people would be able to prepare themselves in time, meet the enemy with a sufficient defensive attack, and perhaps save the city or the nation from destruction and loss.

Obviously, the watchman had to be a trustworthy man. He had to be faithful and alert to his task–a man who understood the significance of his purpose, and who gave himself fully to it. It may have been an unwelcome message he had to give at times; but he had to be utterly committed to give it when it was needed–no matter what the cost.

And here, God calls Ezekiel to a most sobering and serious task–a task for which Ezekiel will be held responsible by God to the highest possible degree. He was appointed by God to be a spiritual “watchman” to his people. He was called to “blow” a warning that the people didn’t want to hear.  Ezekiel heard and honor God’s call.

We are to remember that, in mercy, God has placed us as a watchman in the midst of people in whose death He takes no pleasure–but whom He calls to repent while there is still time. We’re to remember that He has entrusted us with the message by which they may be saved—the gospel of Christ. We’re to remember that there is not salvation in anyone else, “for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)–that it is in Him and Him alone that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace . . . ” (Eph. 1:7).

And knowing these truths from the Scriptures–and being convinced of what they say–we need to open our mouths and cry out the alarm—telling the people around us about Jesus; and urging them to flee from the wrath to come by fleeing to Him. It may not be that we are to stand on a street-corner, or shout from a soap-box through a megaphone. It may not be that we are to cry out all the time or in every situation. But the call to be His watchmen is to be the constant basis of our how we look at people and our relationship with them. And when He opens the door and gives us the opportunity, we are to say, “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:20-12).

Dear brother or sister, God has appointed that His saving gospel be proclaimed through no one else but through those of us who have been saved by it! Are you seeing the needs of the people around you? Are you sounding the call? Are you pointing the people that God has placed in your sphere to Christ?

Are we responsible for others? Yes, to the degree that we have the opportunity to minister to them and communicate to them the message that God has entrusted to us for them.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer of God is obvious. God bless you!

“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!