A gift from Jesus

Prayer, heavens open, bread of life

 

This sermon from retired pastor Jacques Morris is based on Luke 11:5-9

Inspiration for the message came form a book by Helmut Haubeil called Steps to Personal Revival 

The lack of the Holy Spirit

What do we most lack, what would make a real difference in the church and each of our lives?  Why is it that we have spiritual problems?  Is it the lack of the Holy Spirit?

Leroy Froom wrote, “I am convinced that the lack of the Holy Spirit is our worst problem.”

This next quote by E. W. Tozer is more to the point: “If the the Holy Spirit were taken from our churches today 95% of what we do would continue and no one would notice a difference.  If the Holy Spirit had withdrawn from the early church, then 95% of what they were doing would have stopped and everyone would have noticed the difference.”

Now let’s turn to the parable that Jesus gave to His disciples in Luke 11

Lord teach us to pray

Luke 11 begins with a question, what is that question?  “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Don’t you think that the disciples notice how Jesus had so much influence in the lives of people?  That’s why they asked Jesus, Lord,  teach us to pray.  Do you think that this is a good question? One that Jesus would be pleased to answer in detail?

We may not have noticed this in Luke 11:1-13, Jesus answers this question  in three parts.  The Lord’s prayer, the parable of the friend coming at midnight and as he climax we have the continual asking in prayer for the Holy Spirit.

The parable is in verses, 5-8.  Visitor’s arrive at a man’s house late in the evening and he has nothing to give them. Now he is in need ans goes to his neighbour .  He explains to him that he has nothing and ask for bread.  He continues to ask until finally he receives bread.  Now he has bread – the bread of life – for himself and now he is in a position to  where he can share with his visitors.

Now this is where Jesus leads us in to the climax of the answer about the prayer in verse 9 (we have a problem, we have nothing), therefore, we need the Holy Spirit.

This part of the answer to his disciples  about prayer is found in Luke 11: 9-13.  There is no other place in the Bible where you can find Jesus so lovely inviting us to take something to heart. In these verse Jesus tells us many times that we should ask for the Holy Spirit.  Let’s read verses 9-13. Count how many times you read the word ask?  Did you find 6 times?  Did you notice Jesus also uses the word seek 2 times and the word knock 2 times.  All action words.

Are you beginning to notice that Jesus is telling us that we need to take action if we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?  The last “ask” is in the continuous tense in the Greek.  That means that we aren’t to ask only once in case of emergency, but to continually ask.  Why is this?  Because we absolutely need the Holy Spirit.  We will be missing something very important in our Christian life, if we do not ask continually. Why is He calling our attention to this fact?  Because He wants us to continually receive the rich blessings of the Holy Spirit.

The example of the sinful father

Jesus gives us three examples of how a sinful human father would behave (verse 11). Why does Jesus give us these examples?  He wants us to know how unimaginable it is that our Heavenly Father wouldn’t give us the Holy Spirit when we ask in the right attitude.  Jesus is telling us that something is missing when we are not persistent in asking for the Holy Spirit. He also is telling us that we absolutely need the Holy Spirit and He wants us to continually experience the rich blessings from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is telling us that the Father is so willing to give the Holy Spirit, that this is the best gift from heaven and the climax of the request is in verse 1, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

The gift from Jesus

We value this gift, but it is only given to those who have a desire for this gift and appreciate it.

John 7:37 – “those who thirsts”    yearning desire for a relationship with God

John 7:38 – Trust in God

Romans 12:1 – Complete surrender

Acts 5:32 – Those who obey Him

Psalms 66:18 –  Do  not plan anything wrong

Luke 11:6 – Realize our great need (I have nothing)

Luke 11:9 -13 – Continually ask for the Holy Spirit

Can you see in these expectations how valuable the gift is?  Can you also see how  inadequate we really are?

In the book Desire of Ages p. 672 we read these words: “They talk about Christ and about the Holy Spirit, yet they receive no benefit.  They do not surrender the soul to be guided and controlled by the divine agencies.”

Why don’t we hunger and thirst for the gift of the Holy Spirit since this is how we will receive it?

Romans 8:5-11 How is the true Christian described?  He has a growing relationship with the Holy Spirit.

I Corinthians 3:1-4  Notice what the apostle Paul calls them in verse 1. This shows that he is dealing with church members.  What is he saying, not spiritual people, fed on milk.

This shows they haven’t grown in faith, for they are asking God to “increase our faith”.

Spiritual growth has to do with a continual surrender of ourselves in dedication to Jesus and living a life guided by the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual christian

Carnal Christians can be active Christians who are trying to grow spiritually by their efforts, or they can be satisfied with their condition as sinners, Look at Matthew 7:22, 23

They are active, but they do not have a real relationship with Jesus.  Jesus is not living in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

The book Desire of  Ages p. 623 says: “Only those who will become co-workers with Christ, only those who will say, Lord, all I have, all I am is Thine, will be acknowledged as sons and daughters of God.”  How tragic that we can be in church and be lost. This is what the parable of the tern virgins teaches in Matthew 25:1-11.

All  the 10 were virgins

All had the same doctrine

All had lamps

All had the Bible

All of them wanted to be ready to meet the bridegroom

All of them looked for the 2nd coming

All of them went to sleep

All of them heard the call to wake up

All prepared their lamps

All the lamps were burning

Half of them had oil to refill their lamps.

To the other half Jesus says, “I don’t know you.” Five were spiritual, five were carnal.

Jesus is saying to us that a relationship with Him has something to do with the Holy Spirit. Whoever is not led by the Holy Spirit won’t be acknowledged by Jesus (Romans 8:8, 9).   This means that we can have the assurance that Jesus live in us through the Holy Spirit (1John 3:24).

Our solution

Matthew 6:33 and Luke 9:23

What is the Christian experience?  The Bible gives us the answer in Ephesians 3:16 -21

We all need a daily baptism of the Holy Spirit, if we want the righteousness of Christ.

What is our response to the invitation given by Jesus in Luke 11:1-13?

Will we continually ask, will we knock, will we seek. This is your personal choice, only you can decide to do this.

To the extreme

Three crosses on mount with glorious sky

This sermon is based on the bible text as found in Isaiah 49:5,6

It speaks of the extreme love of God for us.  It was given on a Sabbath when the congregation was to celebrate the Lord’s Supper (Communion service).

You are invited to listen to this sermon by pastor Lacourse.

Building with wisdom

Team meeting looking at building plans

This sermon builds on the bible text as found in Proverbs 24.3,4 (NKJV) and is titled Building with wisdom.

When one looks at the various words possible for this verse, we can assume that it would be possible to translate the verses in different ways to make them say different but similar truths. Truths that could be applied to different aspects of our lives.

And this is what I propose myself to do today: look at these verses and apply them to three different aspects of our existence and propose therefore one possible translation for each of them. Translations that will make use of the different synonyms for the hebrew words as we have them here.

Sermon building with wisdom slide 1

Explanation in the physical, the visible realm: the building of God’s church

Neh 10:39 For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the grain, of the new wine and the oil, to the storerooms where the articles of the sanctuary are, where the priests who minister and the gatekeepers and the singers are; and we will not neglect the house of our God.

Mathew Henry: What we are recommended here to have the best influence on external prosperity is wisdom, intelligence and knowledge; i. e. piety to God (because it is true wisdom) and prudence in the management of our external affairs. Those who manage their affairs with wisdom and fairness, who are diligent in the use of legal means to increase what they have, spending little for luxury but spending for charity, are in good disposition to have their stores, warehouses, rooms, filled with all the precious and pleasing riches, precious because obtained.

The best investment is always that which is made with wisdom and understanding; it is that which brings to the house of God gifts for building; it is that which invests in the LORD. To have wisdom and intelligence is to know that in God alone lies what is truly beautiful, pleasing and precious.

Suggested translation:

It is through wisdom that construction is established, and through intelligence that it becomes solid. It is through knowledge that the rooms abound in what is truly valuable and pleasing.”

Explanation in the field of the human soul: we talk about our innermost, about what we are made of.

Pro 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.

Why the woman? Because she is responsible for the education of young children: to transmit to them the important values of life and religion.

Rabbi. Elazar said,”Every house in which the words of the Torah are not heard in the evening will ultimately be burned. (Rodkinson, The babylonian Talmud, p. 277)

Here it is both the father and mother who have this responsibility.

The Word of God is the bearer of wealth and wisdom that makes the human being build himself on a secure basis when he allows the Word to enter into him. The mother builds her child and family by educating her children through the values found in the Bible. And the father of the family reinforces it all through family worship and religious education.

It is of paramount importance that both the mother and the father respect each other’s roles. Neither the mother, nor the father should do it all. The husband, after all, is the house-band: he is the one responsible to make the house-hold!

So fathers, take up your role. Be courageous and don’t leave it all to your wife when it comes to family worship. And sisters, leave that role to your husband. They may not always do things the way you would want them to be done, but it is not your role to be the house-band! Your role, as a mother, is to be the modeler of the children’s character. You are not the priest of the household.

Now, since we have so many single parents in our churches – and many a times it is single mothers – a double burden falls on you. For you are be default the priest of your household. Be courageous and build your family with what precious and prized spiritual goods that God has bestowed you with. God himself will act as your house-band.

Speaking now on a more personal level:

Matthew Henry: “Some people think that this text should be understood primarily as speaking of spiritual riches. Through knowledge, the chambers of the soul are filled with graces and comfort coming from the Holy Spirit, these precious and pleasing riches; for the Spirit, by enlightening the mind, accomplishes all his other operations on the soul, on the inner being.”

Our inner being is also built, either with gold – precious things or with straw – worthless things.

1Co 3.11-13For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

The fire of adversity, persecution, trial and temptation always tests our spiritual construction. If it is with the precious things of God that we build ourselves, we will resist. But if it is with things without real values, those of this sinful world that we build ourselves, the trials of temptation and hardship will make us abandon God: for our spiritual construction was not strong enough to resist.

The eternal values we can count on are those that come from God. God gives humanity values for all of us to live in peace and happiness. God gives us two foundations on which our character must be built: love your God and love your neighbour.

What is most valuable is knowing God. And knowing God is having a loving relationship with Him. The beginning of wisdom is to have great respect and love for God.

So wether we speak of building our family or building ourselves as a person, we can suggest this translation for our text:

It is through wisdom that the family is built, it is through the understanding of things that it is established. It is through knowledge that the inner being becomes filled with all that has value and is delightful.”

Explanation in the field of social/religious values: what makes the Church valuable

Matthew 13:52 Then [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

Being educated concerning the kingdom of heaven makes us a treasure trove of riches. From this treasure we take out things to give to others: good things, whether new or old.

Pro 9:1 Wisdom has built her house, and has hewn out her seven pillars.

Wisdom, true knowledge, makes it possible to put in place the foundations on which the Church can then be built. If we build on rock, on Christ, then the foundation is true and solid. Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep thecommandments of God and the faith of Jesus. [Rev 14.12] Jesus’ witness, faith, fidelity, love, perseverance, self-sacrificing and generosity are at the foundation of the kingdom of heaven and are the seven pillars of God’s house.

1-witness,

2- faith,

3- fidelity,

4- love,

5- perseverance,

6- self-sacrificing and

7- generosity

God’s church, if it is built on the true and immutable witness of Jesus – God the Son; if it is built in the knowledge and love of the One who gave his life for it; if it remains faithful to the Word and the commandment, then its greatest riches will be Jesus himself!

Such a church, such a spiritual family of God’s children, has nothing to fear from this sinful world. Such a church will endure, even under the most fearsome adversity.

And so we can write our proverbial text today, expressing this reality, with the following words:

It is through wisdom that the Temple, the Church, the spiritual house of God is built and continues to exist, it is through intelligence, the understanding of things that it remains firm and stable. It is through knowledge that all parts (of the Church) become filled with the One who is sweet and precious: Jesus”

God is the builder:

Jer 10:12 He created the earth by his power, He founded the world by his wisdom, He stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

God’s work is not random. God has a plan and he uses his wisdom to accomplish it. God has a plan for each and every one of us – our life with Him is built according to the plan of our salvation. God does not play dice with us!

Zac 4:6 This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying,”It is not by power or by force, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

Even though the strength of our hands helps to build the Church, whether it is the physical building or the family of God’s children, it is not so much through our strength that the construction takes shape and becomes beautiful and filled with all that is splendid and pleasing. It is through the Spirit of God that what is beautiful, pure and good is built up to become a secure place with solid foundations.

Whether it is our personal life, our couple or our family, whether it is some brother or sister in the Church, whether it is the church as a body built-up and equipped for mission, or whether it is the physical building where we go to meet with the Lord – God is the architect and the builder. And his work is perfect!

Here is the perseverance of the saints, who build themselves in the Lord, who follow the instructions of God’s Spirit who have genuine love for Jesus and live faithfully with Him.

May this be our personal goal for this week.

Amen!

The armour of God

Armor with sword

Armor with sword

Sermon – The Armour of God

This sermon is based on apostle Paul’s text as found in Ep 6.10-18.  Paul talks about the armour that the sincere christian is called to wear in his battle against the evil forces of this world.  Get ready to learn a great deal on how to become a powerful force in Jesus by wearing the armour of God.

Intro:

We are in the year 63 AD.

The Roman empire is in power and extends its tentacles ever further, ever conquering new territories and submitting new populations not yet under the Pax Romana.  In Rome, being detained there, is a man whose reputation will increase, to the point of equaling, if it may be, even that of the empire in whose hands he is a prisoner.

Churches will be dedicated to his name.  Copies of letters written by his hand or under his dictation will reach us even after millennia.  He was one of the pioneers of Christendom.  His name is Paul.

We are in the year 63 after Jesus Christ and Paul, from his place of detention in Rome, will write what will perhaps be one of the last letter he will leave for the benefit of the Church: The letter, called to the Ephesians.

Why such a letter?

Why did he write it?

What does it contain?

What does Paul want to leave after him, that he feels is so important to those believers and communities who will continue to carry the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Advices. Exhortations. Even a call. That’s what Paul wants to leave.

So Paul will write about:

– The hope that is in Jesus.

– Salvation which is possible by the grace of God manifested in Christ.

– He will stress again that Jews and non-Jews are united in Jesus, both forming a single spiritual body.

– He will exhort the believers to allow Christ, his Spirit to abound in them, to have their hearts filled with the love of God.

– He will exhort all to be active in the building up of the body of Christ, i.e.: of the Church.

– Exhorting us to build the Church in love, respect and peace.

– He will exhort everyone to put to God’s service the gifts and talents that God has given to each.

– He will invite everyone to be imitators of God, to live in love and to sacrifice themselves as Christ has given himself for the benefit of others.

– He will remind each believer that in the past they were sons and daughters of darkness but that thanks to God, to Christ, to the Spirit, to the truth that comes from God, they are now citizens of light.

– He will remind spouses not to abuse each other.

– He will remind children to have respect for their parents and obey them.

– He will remind parents not to irritate their children but to raise them in Christ.

– He will remind employees to respect their superiors and employers to treat their employees with respect.

Then Paul will end his letter with what will be the great call, the great exhortation that he wishes to leave the believers with:  “Be strong in the Lord…  put on the whole armor of God… pray always in the Spirit”

A discussion on the text:

I would like to look at this last and important exhortation. There is something grandiose for us if we want to open our eyes and take a closer look at this text.

Eph 6:10 “Brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might”

This text is interesting because Paul uses 3 synonyms for the word power as we find them in this translation (New King James).  The first word is most interesting: be strong.

In fact, Paul uses a verb, an imperative, which in Greek says “endunamousté”. It probably doesn’t help you much and it’s normal!  But there is a beautiful thing hidden in this word, in this verb, in this imperative. For we find there the Greek word “dunamis”.  This word, in english, will give us nouns such as “dynamo” and also “Dynamite”

What Paul says to the believers, what he tells me, what he tells you is : “Be dynamite in the Lord!”  Notice that he does not say that the Lord is going to be dynamite in you. He says YOU are to be dynamite in the Lord!

But how?  How can I be dynamite, I who is such a weak creature?  The rest of the sentence tells us: in the power of his might”

Be dynamite in the Lord, and in the power of his might”

The three greek words found here are Dunamis, Kratos, Iskuos – they cary the idea of power, force, might, or capability.  It is in the might of the power of God that I, weak as I am, can be dynamite.  Two important thoughts come to mind here:

1- Is the believer always aware that he/she can be such a power?

2- (Eph. 1:20) The sacrifice of Christ, his victory on the cross, my faith in him – are the sources of my dynamite power.

Eph 6:11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles (maneuvers, the schemings) of the devil”

The text says: “Wear the “ panoply ”of God i.e.: the complete armor of God” The greek word “panoplia” means the complete panoply.  The panoplia will be efficient if it is complete, If I wear only part of it, it’s useless!

Then the text goes on saying: “Wear it, so that you may be able to…”

So there’s a reason why I’m invited to put on the whole armor, the panoplia.  This reason is linked with the “dynamite” power that I am called to be.  Paul will say that it is to “stand against, to resist, to hold fast” and he will use a verb derived from the word dynamite to speak of this call to resist: “dunasthai”.  I am called to put on the armor of God to be dynamite, to exercise dynamite power – to resist “powerfully”.

But resist to what?  … the maneuvers, the wiles, the schemings of the devil”  Here Paul uses the word “methods, schemings” of the devil to speak of the action against which I am to resist.

Put on the whole armor of God to resist the methods/schemings of the devil.”

What are his methods Mr. the devil?  What is its mode of operation “par excellence”?  It is deceit, cunning, lying, manipulation, dissimulation, temptation. Every kind of falsehood.

Eph 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

We are at the heart of a great battle, whether we like it or not.  A battle that is here in our world but which originates in the world of beings who are not made of flesh and blood. This is the Great Controversy. If you have not read that book from Ellen G. White, I strongly encourage you to do so. (Read it online here)

These beings have strength, they have a certain power.  But the good news is that they do not have the dynamite power!  The apostle Paul makes use of a different word in his text to speak of the power of the evil spirits: we are dynamite in the Lord but they, the evil spirits, have only strength/force (greek : kratos).  They, the evil angels, do not have the ability to be more powerful than someone who is dynamite in the Lord! They can attack you but they cannot overcome you if you are wholly, totally in Jesus-Christ!  

When the disciples went two by two to evangelize and heal people in the towns and villages while Jesus waited for their return, they said that even the demons were subject to them!  There is dynamite in the Lord and in the power of his might!  But… we must put on the whole armor of God.

Eph 6:13 “Therefore take the “panoply” of God, that ye may be able to resist by showing the power of dynamite in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

Question: What evil day?

Is not the evil day the day when the evil one comes to attack you?  Is not the evil day the one in which he aims at you, where he exerts his strength against you?  When he sends you:

– doubt

– despair

– some strong temptation

– adversity in your ministry

– time unwisely spent for entertainment with whatever the evil one offers you to do

– people who, by their words, cause you harm or pain

– a desire not to be in communion with your brothers and sisters

– a desire to end it all…

Question: Having done all, yes but what?

Put on the different parts of God’s armor.  What for? To resist, to stand firm, not to leave to Satan any advantage over you, for you are not ignorant of his cunning designs. (2Co 2.11).  Standing victorious after having resisted the schemings of Satan for he wants you to leave God, leave the faith, leave the truth, leave your savior, leave Jesus.

Eph 6:14 “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness”

The breastplate of righteousness is what protects the vital organs, including the heart.  Our heart, the seat of our emotions, our love for God and for our neighbor are what the evil one aims at.  How would Satan love to make us insensitive and independent.  How would he love to make us bitter and quarrelsome.  How would he love to kindle a fire in us that would devour us, a fire of hatred and violence.

Then there is the belt of truth.  It is the belt that keeps all the armor in place.  The breastplate of righteousness can not remain in its place without the belt of truth.  Truth guarantees righteousness.  Without the truth, any attempt to fight against the stratagems, the methods, the schemings of the devil will be in vain.

We can not be dynamite in the Lord if we do not put on the belt of the armor : God’s truth. Answering Satan with a loud and mighty “No Satan, for in God’s Word It is written…”!

Eph 6:15 “and having shod your feet with the “sandals”, the zeal of the gospel of peace”

It is not the zeal for peace.  It is a zeal for the gospel – the good news of God who makes peace with humanity, who forgives their sins to all humans.  It is the peace made between God and man by the sacrifice of Jesus.

How many Christians stand up as valiant soldiers and go to war to defend their ideology, their beliefs, their very personal vision of things?  And it is often against the Church itself that they do so.  It is not this zeal that Paul calls us to show. But a zeal for the spreading out of the gospel of God making peace with humankind: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son…” (Jn 3.16)

Please note, and this is paramount for any christian : part of the armor to resist Satan is to be personally engaged in spreading the Gospel! You cannot be dynamite in Christ if you refuse to get personally involved in spreading the Gospel of God, in giving your personal testimony to people around you.

And that is understandable because to be in Christ means that you are with Him on the battlefield. One cannot be in Christ and not be with Christ on the battlefield, spreading the Gospel and saving perishing souls, because this is where Christ is himself.  So take courage, don’t be afraid, for in Christ you are Dynamite – don’t be afraid of what men can do to you.

Eph 6:16 “above all take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one”

Above all. Why?  A shield to stop and quench the fiery darts or arrows thrown at us by the devil. How does it work?  Well, they are arrows, flaming arrows. So they burn!  Why is it that faith can serve us as a stoping gate, a shield against these arrows? It is because the shield in question is large enough to hide myself completely behind it!  Faith is a refuge, a safe place.

The assurance that God exists, that he is with me every day, that he loves me, that he wants only good for me, that he protects me.  The conviction also that the Evil One does not want me any good, and that he may be strong but never mightier than my God and Savior.  The certainty that because I am in the Lord I am strong, made dynamite by the blood of Jesus and by his victory on the cross.  That is why faith is for me a refuge that can stop all the devil’s attempts and all the destructive fiery arrows he wants to throw at me.  

This same faith, this same shield, when we use it in the community, can protect us all in our march, our zealous march for the Gospel and the battle against the Evil One.  When one of us feels weaker, he can come in the center of the group and another takes his place on the outskirts, holding the shield of faith, helping to quench the attacks of the devil against the group.

There is power and protection within the group.  Do not stay alone exposing yourself to the attacks of the Evil One. Remain within the group, being part of it.  Do not leave your assembly. By your active presence in the group, you are building up the body of Christ.

Eph 6:17 “Take also the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God”

The helmet of salvation. Why a helmet?  What do we find under the helmet?  We find a head.  The head is where we have the eyes, the ears, the center of thought, logic and learning, and it is also through the mind, through our spirit, that God communicates with us by his Spirit.

In order to be in true communion with God, one must have experienced salvation.  To understand the Word of God, to accept it, to hear it, to live it, we must be connected with the Spirit of God.  The helmet of salvation protects the center of our spiritual communion.

Then there is the sword of the spirit, the Word of God.  Why does Paul speak of the sword as the Word of God?  With what did Jesus defend himself, when tempted by the devil in the desert?  Jesus did it by a loud and clear: “ It is written… ”

Is it important for a believer to know the Word of God?  Is it important to know God’s promises to us?  Is it important to be knowledgeable about the important teachings that can shed light on the methods/schemings of Satan?  Yes, it is of paramount importance.

You know, a sword is not a long-range missile that can cross the sky and fall on a distant continent.  A sword is not a cannon shell that can be fired at a target several kilometers away.  A sword is not a rifle bullet that can reach a person without him even seeing or hearing the shot.  A sword is a weapon that can only be used in close combat.  A sword is used only when the being in front of us can be clearly identified as an adversary.  It is therefore essential to be able to unmask the devil and his schemings to be able to use the Word to answer against his lies.

Notice that our enemy is not a human being.  It is not against flesh and blood, against a believer, that we are called to use the Word as a weapon.  Neither against a believer nor an unbeliever.  At no time should the Word serve as a weapon against a human being.  It is against the cunning lies of Satan that the Word of God comes as a help for us.

So here we have the whole armor of God of which Paul speaks.  Let us understand that it is not our armor, it is God’s panoplia:

– Is salvation coming from you? Therefore it’s not your helmet.

– Is the Word from you? Therefore it’s not your sword.

– Is zeal for the gospel coming from you or is it the Spirit of the Lord that puts it in your heart? Therefore these are not your shoes.

– Is righteousness coming from you? Therefore it’s not your breastplate.

– Does the truth come from you? Therefore it’s not your belt.

It all comes from God. And he makes it available to us. So let us not refuse to wear it, the whole of it.  Have you noticed also that of all the parts of the armor, there are only two items that have an offensive function?  What are these two items?

Of course there is the sword.  The other piece of equipment that is used as an offensive item are the shoes, the sandals.  It would never come to our mind to use our sandals to stop the fiery blows of the enemy!  But the sandals are the very items which help us to march against the enemy.  It is these sandals which are our zeal for bringing the good news of salvation and thus saving souls from the enemy to bring them to Jesus.  Our sandals are a weapon in our battle against the Evil One.

The armor of God. It is indispensable. It is useful to us:

– When Satan presents for truth what in reality is falsehood;

– When Satan wants us to doubt the love of God for us;

– When Satan wants us to fall in temptation;

– When Satan wants to bar the way while we are zealously active for Christ;

– When Satan wants to use us to harm our brothers and sisters;

– When Satan wants to submerge us with work, distractions, troubles of all kinds;

– When Satan wants to play with our health and our emotions to weaken us.

But the armor does not do everything.  In order to be dynamite in the Lord, we must also pray: Eph 6:18 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…”.  It is on this note that the apostle Paul finishes his letter to the believers of whom we are.

Conclusion:

We are in the year 2017 AD.

The empire of the Evil One always extends more and more in this world. Peace and security are his watchwords. Yet war and strife is what we see.  The letter to the Ephesians becomes the letter to “Miramichi”  Paul’s final call is for us today.

An inspired author once wrote this: “I call the Church to wake up.  We must put on all the armor of God.  We have an everyday struggle, for our work is similar to that of John the Baptist – announcing the return of Jesus.  Do not wait until you can see what comes ahead of us before you move forward.  The work at this end of time needs people who are solid, firm and who will not let themselves be dominated by doubt, discouragement, by the Evil One, but will put themselves under the protection of God, for the battle rages.  God wants and can unite his divine nature to our human nature and lead us to the final victory.

Being a Christian is not a fun adventure.  The adversary is constantly at work.  Do not look at yourself but at Christ. Where there is power.  Do not look at our apparent weakness – strength is in Christ.  At all times, in every thing, in every circumstance, you must rely on Christ by faith.

So I say : let’s put on the whole armor of God.  Let us pray in all circumstances.  Let’s put on our sandals and walk against the enemy – saving souls from the depths of darkness.  Let us not have any fear, for we are dynamite in Christ.

Amen.

The household code

Joyful family

Joyful family

Sermon – The household codes

Bible text (from NIRV) 1P 3.1-4,7  Wives  follow the lead of your own husbands. Suppose some of them don’t believe God’s word. Then let them be won to Christ without words by seeing how their wives behave. Let them see how pure you are. Let them see that your lives are full of respect for God. Fancy hairstyles don’t make you beautiful. Wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes doesn’t make you beautiful. Instead, your beauty comes from inside you. It is the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Beauty like this doesn’t fade away. God places great value on it… Husbands, consider the needs of your wives, be understanding. They are weaker than you. So treat them with respect. Honor them as those who will share with you the gracious gift of life. Then nothing will stand in the way of your prayers.

Intro

As far back as the fourth century BC, philosophers considered the household to be a microcosm, designed to reflect the hierarchal structure of the society, the gods, and ultimately the universe. Aristotle wrote that “the smallest and primary parts of the household are master and slave, husband and wife, father and children.” First-century philosophers Philo and Josephus included the household codes in their writings as well, arguing that a man’s authority over his household was critical to the success of a society. Many Roman officials believed the household codes to be such an important part of Pax Romana that they passed laws ensuring its protection. 

Biblical passages about wives submitting to their husbands are not, as many Christians assume, rooted in a culture epitomized by June Cleaver’s kitchen, but in a culture epitomized by the Greco-Roman household codes, which gave men unilateral authority over their wives, slaves, and adult children. These same household codes were used by many Americans during the Civil War era to justify their owning of slaves.

Where typical Greco-Roman household codes required nothing of the head of household regarding fair treatment of subordinates, Peter and Paul encouraged men to be kind to their slaves, to be gentle with their children, and, shockingly, to love their wives as they love themselves.

But in the Biblical teachings of Paul and Peter on the subject, if you look close enough, you can detect the rumblings of subversion beneath the seemingly acquiescent text. It is no accident that Peter introduced his version of the household codes with a riddle—“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16 UPDATED NIV)—or that Paul began his, with the general admonition that Christians are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21; emphasis added). It is hard for us to recognize it now, but Peter and Paul were introducing the first Christian family to an entirely new community, a community that transcends the rigid hierarchy of human institutions, a community in which submission is mutual and all are free.

For Christians, the presence of the Household Codes in Scripture must be considered in light of Jesus, who made a habit of turning hierarchy on its head. 

When his disciples argued amongst themselves about who would be greatest in the kingdom, Jesus told them that “anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). 

In speaking to them about authority he said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25–28). 

Let us consider the first part of our Bible text:

1P 3.1-4 (NIRV) Wives, follow the lead of your own husbands. Suppose some of them don’t believe God’s word. Then let them be won to Christ without words by seeing how their wives behave. 2 Let them see how pure you are. Let them see that your lives are full of respect for God. 3 Fancy hairstyles don’t make you beautiful. Wearing gold jewelry or fine clothes doesn’t make you beautiful. 4 Instead, your beauty comes from inside you. It is the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. Beauty like this doesn’t fade away. God places great value on it.”

Peter speaks of 2 models of family, one is greco-roman and was very paternalistic where men were rulers in all possible sense of the word. It was even abusive in many ways.

Peter was trying to present another model of family. Peter does not define exactly what he means for women to be submissive, unless you look at the two words he uses down the text, where you see chaste/pure and respectful (fear, respect).

Why chaste, or pure? Simply because women need to feel that they are loved. And if in their marital relationship they don’t find such love, if a man comes to her with kind and considerate words, shows respect to her, shows interest in who she is, acting with gentleness and being kindhearted, she may be severely tempted to seek the love she needs in such a gentle man. Lack of love and tender consideration in a couple, in a marriage, can lead to separation, divorce, breakage of the marital bond.

Why respectful? Being respectful does not mean that you allow yourself to be a door mat and allow your husband to abuse of his leadership rôle. Being respectful means that you accept for your husband to be a person with faults and even unresolved issues. You accept that your marriage may not be perfect as of today. You accept to show a christ-like attitude even if your husband does not. You are respectful towards God’s call for you to be your husband’s partner in life.

As for the inward beauty, well you understand that it comes from the heart. It does not mean that you should be careless with yourself, with your body, with your appearance. Some people, because they have been abused, they tend to want to look as unattractive as they can in order not to get any attention from the opposite sex anymore. I met one when I was in France.

The inward beauty, is not for the wife only. Men, husbands, need to be beautiful inside too!

Let us now consider the second part of our Bible text:

1P 3.7  “Husbands, consider the needs of your wives, be understanding. They are weaker than you. So treat them with respect. Honor them as those who will share with you the gracious gift of life. Then nothing will stand in the way of your prayers.”

Husbands, you are called to be understanding. Now that was not part of a greco-roman household code. To be under-standing, is to stand under. Standing under as to give a stable base to the marriage. Standing under as to hold up those that are part of the buildup of your household. By properly standing under, your house holds. Under-standing is the very opposite of lording over.

If you are a single mother or a single father, you are called to play that role too. You are called to be the one who stands under and unto which your children will build their life.

The text continues to say that the wife is as someone weaker. This does not mean that she is a person with less capabilities or of lesser value. On the contrary, it means someone who is fine and precious, like fine gold. Someone who is fragile in the sense that an unforgiving husband can easily break her. A woman can be quite strong-minded, strong-headed. Yet her heart is fragile and precious.

So Peter is asking husbands to show her what? Honor. For in the eyes of God she is just as much a precious soul in need of salvation as we men are. Therefore she deserves honor for she is God’s precious soul.

All that is possible only if we understand and accept what Paul will call christians to do: Ep 5.21 Submit to one another. (c.f. Mt 20.25-28)

This is the God-given model for all relationships, especially in marriage. Without submission, abuse arise. Because the opposite of submission is lording over.

Applying the christian household code to our lives:

In many christian churches, headship theology is what is being preached and practiced within marriages. Headship theology is when one is ruling over another and that other is expected to obey without questioning. In a marriage where headship theology is the model for husband-wife relationship we have one spouse, usually the man, lording over the woman and the children. It is a totalitarian model. A greco-roman model of household codes of conduct, where the children and the wife are not much more than a kind of slave to the man in charge. It is a totalitarian model, not an authoritative model.

A totalitarian model will always produce abuse and rebellion : abuse from the one exercising lordship and rebellion by those that are lorded over. No wonder that we see so many divorces and so many rebellious teens.

An authoritative model is one where the spouse who exercises leadership will strive to give such a good example of love and compassion and under-standing and guidance and positive influence, that the household will have no problem referring to that person as the headship of the family : they will gladly accept for that person to exercise headship. They don’t feel lorded over, they feel loved and respected.

Grace and forgiveness is what makes an authoritative model what it is. Jesus was authoritative with his disciples but not totalitarian: He was not forcefully lording over them. God does not want to forcefully lord over you. God wants to love you and be seen as one that is worthy of being followed.

When we teach the children here at church in our sabbath school class, we need to show them a God that is authoritative and not totalitarian. We need to show them a God who respects people for who they are. We need to show them Jesus as one who gives (love) more than He demands (servile obedience).

When we preach from the pulpit, we need to show God’s grace for his people. Preaching that sinners will burn forever in some hellish place is not from God. For there is no hellish place to start with! Speaking of a God who judges and punishes people when they do wrong, instead of pointing to the matchless charms of the loving God who gives his own life to save the very same sinners, would be presenting a foreign god : not the God of the Bible.

It is so easy to be abusive in our words and in our deeds, even when we preach Jesus-Christ to others. So easy to abuse of our parental position when we want to guide our children. So easy to abuse one another in our marriage, all for lack of forgiveness. So easy to abuse one another at church for lack of grace and brotherly love.

Our world is full of examples of abuse :

1- All the wars are an abuse on people’s freedom to exist

2- Steeling is an abuse on people’s right to enjoy what they have

3- Pornography is an abuse of one’s intimacy and sexuality

The list is endless.  But the good news is that there is a solution.

The godly solution:

Jn 3.16-21 (NIRV) : 16 “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. 17 God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world. He sent his Son to save the world through him. 18 Anyone who believes in him is not judged. But anyone who does not believe is judged already. They have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 Here is the judgment. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light. They loved darkness because what they did was evil. 20 Everyone who does evil deeds hates the light. They will not come into the light. They are afraid that what they do will be seen. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes into the light. They live by the truth with God’s help. They come into the light so that it will be easy to see their good deeds.”

And how does God do it?

Jr 31.33 : ““This is the covenant I will make with Israel after that time,” announces the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds. I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God. And they will be my people.””

The solution to our inward pollution is in God’s begotten son.

A changed heart is no longer capable of being an abusive one. A true christian, one who has had God’s loving law printed, grooved into his or her heart will feel sad and deeply hurt if ever he or she acts abusively. The abuser will fell the hurt because he or she has done something that they don’t want to do. The new heart is estranged to every kind of evil. So that when, unfortunately, we do some evil, we hurt inside, because our new, godly imparted nature, hates sin.

And that is the matchless beauty that Peter is asking a woman to be adorned with. And I say, not women only but men also. The matchless beauty of Christ within us; the majesty of God’s love in our heart.

The household code, in a christian home, is one made up of God’s love commandment. Love God and love thy spouse and children. Don’t lord over them, but be under-standing. Be authoritative, not totalitarian. Don’t be a general giving out orders. Be a christ-like person, showing your household, how a good example God has made you.

And if you fault sometimes, ask for forgiveness; ask your household to give you their love and support.

For in a home where God is supreme, love abounds.

Amen!

Anointing the sick

Hospital emergency sign

Sermon – anointing the sick

Text : James 5.13-16

Introduction

Video : Faith to not be healed – The amazing story of Chanel White.

1) The significance of oil in the Bible

In the Bible, oil is used in many ways. It is used as a southing ointment to relieve skin burns or as a base for topical medication. The good samaritan did use oil to treat the wounds of the sick man before leaving him into the care of the owner of an inn (Lk 10.34). It is also used as a base in purfumery. We know that Moses was instructed by God to prepare a special perfumed oil to be used to anoint and consecrate the sanctuary, the utensils and the priests with it (Ex 30.22-25). It is of course used in baking and cooking. Oil is also the combustible for lamps, it is thus the source of enligtment. Spiritually, oil represents the Holy Spirit as the source of devine enlightment. That is why there was a lamp stand in the Holy Place of God’s Temple. The ten virgins in Jesus’s parable were, for five of them, missing in oil. Their lamp, sign of them being enligted by the Holy Spririt was soon out and they were left in spiritual darkness (Mt 25.8).

2) Different types of anointments and what they mean

– As a mark of distinction and welcoming : Anointing the head with oil or ointment seems to have been a mark of respect sometimes paid by a host to his guests. ( Luke 7:46 ) and Psal 23:5 

As common toiletry : Anointing the body or head with oil was a common practice with the Jews, as with other Oriental nations. (Ruth 3:3)

As a medical act – the good samaritan.

– It was a rite of inauguration into each of the three typical offices of the Jewish commonwealth.

a. Prophets were occasionally anointed to their office, ( Elisha : 1 Kings 19:16 )

b. Priests, at the first institution of the Levitical priesthood, were all anointed to their offices, ( Exodus 40:15 ;  Numbers 3:3 ) but afterwards anointing seems to have been specially reserved for the high priest, ( Exodus 29:29 ;  Leviticus 16:32 )

c. Kings. Anointing was the principal and divinely-appointed ceremony in the inauguration of the Jewish Kings. ( 1 Samuel 9:16 ;  10:1 ;  1 Kings 1:34 ;         1 Kings 1:39 ) David was anointed  (Psalm 89:20).

Inanimate objects also were anointed with oil, in token of their being set apart for religious service. Thus the Temple and its utensils were anointed (Ex 30.26-30)

– In the Old Testament a Deliverer is promised under the title of Messiah, or Anointed, ( Psalms 2:2;  Daniel 9:2526 ) and the nature of his anointing is described to be spiritual, with the Holy Spirit. ( Isaiah 61:1 ) see Luke 4:18 (The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me…) In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth is shown to be the Messiah, or Christ or Anointed ( John 1:41 ;  Acts 9:22 ;  Acts 17:2Acts 17:3 ;  Acts 18:4  Acts 18:28 ) Christ was anointed as prophet, high priest and king.

– Spiritual anointing with the Holy Spirit is also conferred upon Christians, by God. ( 2 Corinthians 1:21,22 “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. ) Anointing “expresses the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit upon Christians who are priests and kings unto God (1P 2.9).

So, one meaning for the word anointed is “chosen one.” The Bible says that Jesus Christ was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit to spread the Good News and free those who have been held captive by sin After Christ left the earth, He gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16). Now all Christians are anointed, chosen for a specific purpose in furthering God’s Kingdom (1 John 2:20). It is only God who can anoint a person for a specific purpose. If we use oil, it is only a symbol of what God is doing.

So anointing, wether it is in the physical realm or in the spiritual realm, is many times an action into which God is present. That can be clearly seen when Samuel the prophet went to annoint David as king : 1S 16.1,13 “Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him [David] in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”

3) The disciples sent to mission (Mk 6:7,12) and the anointment

There is yet one special case of anointment that we have not mentioned, and it is that for healing the sick through prayer and the pouring of oil.

READ : Mk 6.7,12,13

“And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits… So they went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.”

The prayer that accompanies the anointing is animated by a trusting faith (James 1:5-8). Here we see the Christian charism of healing at work (see 1Co 12:9).

If you sufferer for some reason, according to James 5:13a, it is recommended that you pray for yourself (with the intercession of the church if you wish so). But in the act of anointing, one sees a condition which the believer cannot manage alone even in fervent prayer.

However, it is the believer who initiates the request for prayer with anointing. His request is already seen as an act of faith; A faith in the God of deliverance when our own prayers do not seem to have brought the desired relief.

Thus we come to understand that James 5:14-15 testifies to the very living existence of a tradition that came from Jesus (Mark 6:7,12) and the apostles (Mk 16:18). These have seen in the commandment to heal the sick by the laying on of hands and the anointing of oil, an orientation of activity not to be lost.

This is probably why, at the Council of Trent, the Church of Rome proclaimed this anointing of the sick as an act of extreme unction. They understood this act as the anointing that comes at the extreme moment when there is no other hope.

This act of anointing, along with prayer has a clear liturgical aspect – it is more than merely a therapeutic act. For it is the elders who are called (not friends or family, etc.); The elders are the guardians of the local church, they have charge of ensuring the spiritual wellness of God’s people; The fact that the idea of sin and forgiveness is mentioned also points to a liturgical act; So the act of the anointing in itself is one in which God is invoked as a participant – as we see in the various biblical examples of Anointing and for that reason anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment.

Yet there is no magic in such an act. God, also, is not in any obligation to obey man’s prayers and desires – even if we are talking about helping out a soul who suffers. After all, how many times did Paul pray to the Lord to be healed from his sickness and God answered that his condition would not change because it was participating to the glory of God being withnessed through the preaching of the gospel by an enfeabled man.

God remains sovereign in everything and we have to aknowledge that. Yet, we are also called to ask in order to get (Mt 7:7), and insist in asking for what we believe is good (Lk 11:5-13 – the Holy Spirit is finally given).

4) What James recommends and what it means

The book of James is not a book of doctrines but it has to do with other books such as that of Proverbs. James writes about moral issues and gives counsels on moral aspects of our christian behaviour.

Therefore the counsel given to the one suffering and not seeing any possible issue to his or her condition is to not isolate himself or herself but to ask for help. Ask for God’s help through the involvement of those who, in the congregation, are recognized as bearing the load of spiritual help.

The counsel is to seek God through confession and with the special help of the elders of the church, serving as intercessors.

Ideally, such elders should have the gift of healing.

Let us look again at the text : James 5:13-16

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up [resurrect]. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

Conclusion

God is not happy to see us suffer or be so sick that our life is at stake. God wants to make us free from all these things.

In the end, it is peace that God wants to grant us ; peace in our heart. Understanding that no matter what, God is with us. And this is how king David was probably feeling when he wrote this fabulous psalm 23 :

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, [even if my life seems dark and devoid of light ; even if I see no end to my misery]  I will fear no evil; For You are with me; [by faith, I believe that you are with me Lord] Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.   You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; [you chose me and receive me in your presence as an honored guest] My cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
[I will be saved]”

Peace in our heart and faith that God will raise us when He comes to put a definitive end to all suffering is what we are called to have. Being healed, yes, but peace and faith in the God who saves is what is most precious.