“Better Together” by Pastor Andy Braams

Just over a week ago, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted that Samaritan’s Purse must leave the city over its biblical views on homosexuality.

“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC. This group, led by the notoriously bigoted, hate-spewing Franklin Graham, came at a time when our city couldn’t in good conscience turn away any offer of help. That time has passed,” Johnson wrote on Twitter last Saturday. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.” (1)

The councilman used the word inclusion. I have a simple question. How inclusive is his statement?

Now, the reality is that we all have biases. We all have favorites. And we can all be discriminatory. For instance, if nothing else, most people would help their family members before helping a complete stranger.

We might be concerned about most people or even everybody. But, do we act? Most often not, because we tend to think about the world through our own eyes, rather than from a larger perspective.

But, if we all did act in our own way, all needs could be met. Unfortunately, most all of us know the good we can do – the good we should do – but we choose to ignore the impulse because it would be uncomfortable in some way. But we all have a part to play, and our part is really rather minimal if we will just do what is asked of us.

That is the purpose for this brief series – Better Together. And it is the title of today’s message as well. Because we are better together, but we must all do our part to make that happen.

Jesus could have chosen one person, but He chose twelve. Paul included other companions when he travelled. Peter and John wrote to churches to encourage them to share life with one another. Why? Because being together is better and we are better together.

But our question for today is how does this apply to our church in the 21st Century?

OUR MISSION – EEE – Exalt, Equip, Evangelize

Our church’s Mission is to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner. Our Strategy to make that happen is based upon the acronym JOURNEY. And then we have our STEPS – Learn, Live, Love, Lead. We will look at the Steps next week, but for now, I want to talk about our Mission and Strategy in the context of serving together.

In Romans 12, Paul transitions from his theological explanation to practical application. We will cover this chapter in detail next year when we get to it during our study of Romans, but for now, take a moment to read verses 4 and 5.

The purpose of Paul’s writing, as we will see in a couple of weeks when we start our in depth study of Romans, is to get Christians with different mindsets on the same page. Specifically, he is writing to Gentile and Jewish believers to stop being at odds with one another and uniting for a common purpose.

That purpose would be similar to ours – to exalt Jesus, to equip each other, and to share the message of Jesus with others. These are all aspects of living out our faith. And each one of us should be involved with each part of that. But we should not seek to only do these things alone – we should desire to do them together. That is, we should serve together.

For most of 2019, we discussed the various ways the metaphor of body of Christ related to a healthy human body. Paul uses the term body of Christ in Romans 12.5 and links the part to the whole (notice the phrase, “and individually members one of another”). That is, we all have a part to play and if we do not do our part, then we can not function as well as a church as we otherwise might.

It is as Mother Teresa once said, “I cannot do what you can do. You cannot do what I can do. Together we can do great things.”

We all have certain gifts and aptitudes and life experiences that make us unique from everyone else. If we were all the same, then God would have no need of creating each of us. But we are unique. And He did create us. Therefore, we must all choose to do something. We need to find our purpose (our “why”) and fulfill our calling for Jesus. (I encourage you to watch my Signposts videos from this last week – May 11-15 – on YouTube if you have not done so.)

So find your purpose – your mission, if you will – and then use what God has given to you in order to help the church, and specifically this church, to fulfill our mission to Exalt the Savior, Equip the Saint, and Evangelize the Sinner.

OUR STRATEGY – JOURNEY

It is one thing to have a mission, it is another to think about how to execute that mission. For us, we use the acronym JOURNEY. The first letter is for Jesus. The last letter is for You. The other letters are the parts of the path (journey) we must take to move from ourselves (You) to Jesus. Each letter represents one component of a church that is focused on God’s Kingdom.

O – Obey (Discipleship)

U – Unite (Fellowship)

R – Revere (Worship)

N – Nurture (Ministry)

E – Engage (Evangelism)

The idea is that we are each on a journey. Some of us may be further along than others, but we are all on a journey of some kind. But we are not meant to travel the journey alone. An old African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Frankly, sometimes I want to go fast. But if I get out too far ahead, then I end up waiting. Sometimes it is good to go fast, but oftentimes, it is more important to go far than it is to go fast. And perhaps, it is good to find a balanced approach between going far and fast. But either way, the goal should be to go together.

For instance, the reason we can go farther together is because we can support one another. Peter’s words relate to this type of support – not just for the benefit of one another, but ultimately that God might be glorified. Read 1 Peter 4.10-11.

Like Paul’s words to the Romans, Peter wants his readers to understand that we all have a place – and that place is alongside others in order to provide strength where it is needed. We all have something God has given us that makes it necessary to work together. I am thinking back to making the mats we took to Kenya. Everyone brought bags. Some cut them with scissors. Some tied bags together. Some did crochet. Some cleaned up. Some brought food. Some donated suitcases. Some gave money that was used to help pay the extra luggage fee. Some prayed. Etc. Sure, only a few of us went to Kenya. But it took many to make possible what happened. And it all started with one simple idea.

That’s what I want our church to consider as we move forward. What ideas do you have? What opportunities do we have to serve – one another, this community, this region, this world? We may be a from a small town, but we serve a big God. And He not only has a purpose for each one of us individually, He has a plan for us collectively as Fairfax Baptist Church. How do I know? Because God knows that we may be good enough to accomplish some things on our own, but He also knows that we can do much more if we work as a team. Why? Because we are better together!

CONCLUSION

Paul and Peter knew God wanted us to serve together. They exhorted us to use the gifts God has given to each of His followers to do so. But those are ancient words? Do they still resonate today? I say, “Yes!”

And I am not alone. Many of you know that I try to glean all I can from John Maxwell, one of the foremost leaders in our world today. Maxwell says it this way, “Nothing is more rewarding than a common mission being achieved by people with complimentary gifts working together in harmony.” (2)

I have experienced that truth time and time again. To make that a reality, each one of us needs to realize that God has made us for a reason. And then we encourage one another to not only find that reason, but to use what He has given us to fulfill our purpose. When we do those two things – and we do them together and do them for the Lord, we will find immense satisfaction. As Maxwell says, nothing is more rewarding. Nothing. Why? Because we will be doing what we are made to do and doing it together.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is NNURTURE.

Nurture is our word for serving within the church. We are to serve both within and without the church. But as we serve, we need to nurture one another. We must encourage and sometime exhort one another. We need to stand together in order to work together. We may choose to serve by ourselves at times, but we must realize that we are better when we are together. But it all begins with committing to serve. As we do, we will discover who we are, and who we were made to be, both individually and collectively. But to truly become be who we are meant to be (individually and collectively), we must serve. Why? Because God made us to serve (c.f. Gen 1.28; 2.15; Eph 2.10; Col 3.23; etc.)

NEXT STEP(S):

LIVE  To serve is to truly live. We may choose to live for ourselves and think life is ok. But when we give of ourselves to others, we find out what it truly means to live. So, find some way to serve someone this week.

One way would be to join us for the prayer walk tonight as we pray over each home and family within Fairfax.

(1) https://twitter.com/NYCSpeakerCoJo/status/1256349197407866880

(2) John Maxwell, Intentional Living: Choosing a Life That Matters. New York (Center Street, 2015), 195.

“Back to the Basics” by Pastor Andy Braams

For eight weeks we did not meet in our church’s building. Before today, March 15, 2020 was the last time most were in the church’s facility. Besides dropping off mail, watering a plant, and a few odds and ends, I have not been in the church much over the past eight weeks either. It has been weird.

Now today, we are back. But things are different. We only have a few people here at a time. And we have two services. And we don’t have Sunday School. And a lot of confusion persists about how to move forward as individuals…as a church…as a society.

But I once heard a young lady provide the few people around her with a great piece of advice. The advice was basically to start with the basics. It went something like this – “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you sing, you begin with Do-Re-Mi.” (For those who are unaware, the reference is to Julie Andrews’s character in the movie The Sound of Music.)

Well, we are not learning to read or sing today, but we can go back to the basics of our faith as we look to adapt and move forward from this disruption known as COVID-19.

As I have mentioned many times on the videos I have been doing each weekday now for the last seven weeks, the disruption in our lives is paralleled by the disruption in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. (You can find the videos on by searching “Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri” on youtube.com.) The reasons for that disruption may be very different, but the more I think about it, the magnitude of the adjustment for them was every bit as big, and maybe moreso, than it has been, and is, for us.

So, for the next few weeks, I want to talk about what it means to be back together. Because not only is it better for us to be together, it is also true that we are better together.

And that is why God calls us. It is why we are commanded to love. And it is why we are commissioned to serve. All of which are meant to be done together.

But these aren’t my words or my plan. The ideas were God’s as spoken and carried out by Jesus. But do they still apply to us today? I believe so. Let’s find out how Jesus words still apply in a COVID-19 world.

Called to Follow (Matthew 4.19) – “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

Those ten words have changed the world for so many people. It was true of the disciples. It is still true today. Many people have misperceptions about these words. Let me briefly speak to two of those misunderstandings.

1) Being a Christian Is As Simple As Saying a Prayer and/or Getting Wet in the Water

First, we must understand that becoming and being are two different things. The steps to become a Christian and living as a Christian are quite different. Or are they? Jesus not only demonstrated baptism, He commanded it as well. And praying to God, even informally to repent of our sinfulness is critical. But saying a prayer and getting baptized are not boxes to be checked. They are a part of what it means to follow Jesus. Why? Again, Jesus was baptized so we follow His example and He said to be baptized so we follow His teachings.

But to be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. It is to make the decision with our head to follow, so He can change our hearts in order for us to live by faith with our hands and feet. That is what Jesus said to those whom He first called.

      • Follow Me – literally and figuratively.
      • I will make you – I will change you…from the inside out.
      • Fishers of men – you will do things differently for different purposes.

So, being a Christian may have some initial steps, but a true follower keeps following in Jesus’ footsteps for the rest of their lives.

2) God Only Calls Extra Spiritual People to Serve Him

Many people look at pastors and missionaries as people especially called and equipped by God. And yes, many pastors and missionaries do have specific training, but realize that God calls everyone to follow, to be changed, and to serve.

Some people are called to specifically fill a call to vocational ministry, but all are called to serve. I was a businessman before He called me. One of my good pastor friends was a marine. Another was a computer specialist. I know a man who is preparing to be a missionary who worked at HyVee before He was called to ministry.

Biblically, Peter and Andrew and James and John were fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector. Paul made tents. In the Old Testament, Moses and David were shepherds. Elisha was a farmer. Daniel was a teenager. And yes, all of them were especially called to do something great. But they were ordinary people by the day’s standards until they heeded God’s call.

But not everyone who follows becomes prominent. Other followers are Priscilla and Aquilla were simply faithful tent-makers who also shared their faith. Onesimus was a not-so-dutiful slave who became deeply connected to Paul and thus learned to serve God. The list goes on.

Here in our church, many of you have served in ways great and small. Just in the last couple of years we have had a farmer, and road-crew supervisor, and a police officer go to Kenya to serve on mission. But others have worked the local food pantry, taught Sunday School, purchased food and drink for the youth group or children’s church. Others have made phone calls or made visits or perhaps even made food for people who were hurting, or ill, or grieving.

My point is that God calls everyone to serve. But that serving begins with a call to follow.

Commanded to Love (Matthew 22.37-40)

Besides a call to follow. We have a command to love. When challenged about which command was greatest, Jesus responded that we are to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” He said, “this is the great and first commandment.” Well, that’s not easy. But then, he added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Ok, now He’s meddling! Later Jesus gave His followers a new commandment to “love one another” (John 13.34).

Over the years, I have continually said that most of the NT commands are in the plural. Jesus words to the lawyer in verse 37 are in answer to a specific question to a specific individual. So, the “you” there is singular. However, if “you” are to love your neighbor and your neighbor is therefore to love you, then we get to a sense of togetherness in the idea of love. Furthermore, the verse in John 13 is obviously plural – love one another. So, our love is to be intentional and reciprocated. We love God because God loves us. We love others because God loved us (1 John 4.19). (John strongly links the love of God and the love of others in 1 John 4.7-21.)

The truth is that we are commanded to love even if the love is not returned. But for those who chose to follow Jesus, that love should be mutual. If we are following Him, we should not need a command – we should seek to love willingly and joyfully. Sure, people show love differently, and some have a much more difficult time expressing love as others might desire, but that doesn’t mean that the love is not there. But if it is not, it needs to be – not because I said so, but because Jesus did. Again, it is a part of our calling. It is what we are to do in response to His words “Follow Me.”

Commissioned to Serve (Matthew 28.18-20)

The final basic is what is commonly referred to as The Great Commission. Jesus commissioned His first followers to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching. That commission has been passed down for generations to us today. Why should we do it? Because it is one way to show that we love God. It is a way to show our love for others. It is a way to show that we are following Jesus.

Why don’t we do this? Because we get so busy with our own passions, our own desires, our own concerns. We would rather accomplish our mission than complete our Lord’s mission for us. We would rather tell others what to do rather than follow the orders of the one we otherwise refer to as Lord to do what He wants.

We are selfish. We are arrogant. We are sinful. Maybe not always, but mostly. It is who we are as humans unless we completely surrender to Jesus.

And that is why we need each other. That is why we are better together.

CONCLUSION:

See we are called for a purpose. We are commanded to love. And we are commission to serve. But left alone, it becomes more and more difficult to submit to another. It becomes more and more difficult to listen to others. It becomes more and more difficult to surrender. But if we are alone, who is there to pick up us when we fall? Who is there to lend an ear when we have troubles? Who is there to care for us when we need a friend? Who is there to point us in the right direction when we lose our way? Who is there to push us to go farther when we feel we have nothing left to give?

That is part of the reason why the writer of Hebrews tells us to not forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10.25). It is why God created an assembly of people to meet together. It is why Jesus is still building His Church.

Why? Because God knows we are better together. And having been separated from one another for the last eight weeks due to stay-at-home orders, many listening today realize that truth as well.

So, today we have looked at some basics of our faith – that we are called to follow, that we are commanded to love, that we are commission to serve. But the calling, the commandment, and the commission are not meant for one – they are meant for all. That is, we are called together. Because God knows we are better together.

And hopefully after this ordeal, we will know that truth better as well.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is UUNITE.

We may not be able to unite physically as we would like. We may be separated by six feet. We may be meeting at two distinct times. But we can still be united in heart, united in purpose, and united in love.

NEXT STEP(S):

LOVE:  Make a call to at least one person you do not see here this week to tell them that you are glad that you are looking forward to being together with them again.

“May It Be So” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of this series last year, I had many topics I was planning to introduce. When we began this series in January, the same was true. These topics related to changes in our culture over the past several years – some good, some not. And many of those changes are still in play, and gaining steam while we focus on this pandemic. But obviously the major change which affected all of us, and seemingly that impact occurred in an instant, is best known as COVID-19.

This virus has come upon us quickly, has disrupted us beyond imagination, caused major illness and tens of thousands of deaths, wrecked our economy, closed businesses, cost millions of people their jobs, closed schools, and much, much more. In other words, to repeat what I said a moment ago, we have experienced major change.

We could not have conceived any of this six months ago. But none of this caught God off guard. The world has changed drastically, but God has not changed at all. The title of this series is Constant in a World of Change. That was true about God when I conceived of the series. It was true of God when the novel coronavirus began to impact the lives of millions. That fact remains true today. And God will still be the same tomorrow and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

Two verses make this truth known to us as plainly as can be. Malachi 3.6 says, “For I the Lord do not change.” And Hebrews 13.8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Whether your primary concern right now is COVID-19 or some other matter, two things are certain – life constantly changes and God does not.

And that brings us to the Apostles’ Creed. As I have said from the first message, the Creed is not what we worship. The Creed is not what is most dear. God is to be the focus of our lives and our worship. The Creed is not even the most important writing about God – the Bible is. But the Creed is a way to capture the fundamental beliefs of our faith, particularly of the New Testament, in a short, and relatively simple approach.

The Apostles’ Creed is not the only creed. Many creeds and catechisms have been developed over the centuries. Others have developed articles of confession and statements of faith. But most every orthodox creed, catechism, confession, or statement has core elements in common. And those elements are found in the Apostles’ Creed.

The Apostles’ Creed is the most commonly confessed creed. It was named for the apostles because content can be traced back to what the apostles learned from Jesus and saw for themselves. The Reformers showed their respect for the Creed. Orthodox Christians down through the centuries have held these beliefs to be true, as do we today.

As I have mentioned before, the beliefs expressed in the Creed do not encapsulate everything a Christian believes. I also shared this quote from Albert Mohler’s book about the creed:

“All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.” (1)

But it is one thing to express a belief. It is another to live by it. And that is what this series was meant to be. It was meant to help us understand how each phrase in the Creed applies to our lives today so that we can not only have faith in the truth of the statements, but so that we can act on those truths in living our lives day by day.

In other words, to understand the Apostles’ Creed correctly, is to acknowledge the insufficiency of our faith until we are ready to cry out like the father in Mark 9, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9.23-24).

So, let me conclude this series with the same basic thoughts I shared to introduce it. I will do that by reminding us of two answers to the question:

Why Do We Need A Creed?

Read Jude 3-4

A Creed Allows Us to Hold on to SOMETHING

We all cling to something. Just as a small child has a favorite stuffed animal or maybe a blanket, or even a pacifier, we all have something or perhaps someone. Having that something or someone close allows us to feel like our world is ok, even when we know it is not. That someone or something is stability. Security.

But most people find that security in items or even people that will soon be gone. The child outgrows the blanket and eventually the stuffed animal and toy as well. As adults, we discard what was once considered worthy – including sometimes our friends and family.

But we never forget. In fact, regardless of your age, you can probably remember an item or two from your childhood that brought you security. You probably remember your best friend whom you swore you would never lose touch. But most of us have and/or will. Why? Because we change. And what is considered valuable and helpful today does not always maintain that value over time.

In Jude 3, Jude implores his readers to contend for the faith. He is saying that they should not only hold onto what they have learned, they also need to fight for it. Others have come in disregard of the truth and perverted the message of hope God has given. What Jude is saying is that there is something worth holding tight. That something is the truth of Jesus. That something is the stories of God that have been passed down for ages. That is worthy of holding. We all will hold onto something, but we need to let the truth of God hold onto us as well.

We need to let God’s truth get deep within us. Sure, a creed is just a series of words. But words have meaning. Again, we cannot place any creed on par with the Bible because the Bible was fully inspired by God. But anything that helps us to know the core truths of the Bible without compromising those truths, is worth holding onto when we need that stability and security. The words do not replace the Bible, but they do point to it, and thus a creed can have great value to point us to the true stability and security we seek.

A Creed Allows US to Hold on to Something

It is one thing to have a belief; it is another to share it with others. Earlier this year, we saw the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. People of all walks of life bonded over watching a football team win a game. People who were young and old, rich or poor, black or white or any other color, professional or a tradesman, etc. rallied together to root for, then celebrate a championship. That shared hope of a championship created bonds for a short time.

In Jude 3, Jude wrote to a group of people about what has been delivered to the saints (which includes his audience). His appeal is not to one, but to many. He needed them to stand strong together, to fight together, to encourage one another in order that they could overcome the crowd trying to disrupt the true message of God. The group of deceivers was united to be disruptive, and Jude was exhorting his readers to be unified to refute the “certain people” as Jude calls this other group in verse 4.

Consider the strength of the bond that could happen if what we believe and what someone else believes about God is coincides. When we ask someone what they believe, we may be looking for a few key words, but we do not have them recite, or even read, the Bible to us. No, we focus on a few key facts to determine if we share the same beliefs. And that is what the Apostles’ Creed does for us. The Creed allows us to know people down the road, across the town, in another city, and around the world who share the same basic beliefs. The same is true of people throughout history. The fact that millions before us, and today believe the same should provide comfort and even assurance that we are not alone in our understanding. The Creed is not about what I believe or you believe. It is about what we believe. Yes, the words are, “I believe,” because a person’s faith is individual in one sense, but the essence of faith is to be understood and lived within community. Faith is about us. Our ability to be in direct community with one another has been challenged during this current pandemic, but holding a common belief in a constant God, has been what has helped many people through this challenging time.

CONCLUSION

As I turn work toward the conclusion of this message, and thus the series, I need to mention one more word in the Apostles’ Creed. The Creed does not just contain a series of belief statements (20 truths depending upon how you count them). It ends with a single word – amen.

Therefore, these statements could be considered more than pithy statements about biblical truths; rather, we could consider it a prayer.

If we think of it as a prayer, we must understand the word amen. The word means “let it be” or “may it be so.” With that thought in mind, consider what our reciting of the Creed means. We confess a series of beliefs and then conclude with Amen, which effectively is saying, “may it be so.” In other words, after stating the truths of the Creed, we are saying “let our confessions be truly representative of what we believe.”

This idea takes me back to the man, the father, in Mark 9 who wants his boy to be healed. When confronted by Jesus about belief, the man cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (See Mark 9.14-29 for the story, and particularly verse 24 for the statement.)

The Apostles’ Creed was not developed yet, but if it had been, we could equate this man’s statement to knowing the Creed in general, maybe even having it memorized. But being able to read or memorize words does not make it real. This man wanted his faith to be real.

You and I should want no less. It is not enough to know. We must believe. And belief is always – ALWAYS – followed by action. We can say a lot of things, but we do what we truly believe to be true and important.

For us, at this time, a part of acting on our belief is to take the words of Jude as a charge to pass on the truths of God to the next generation. We are now the ones who must contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. That faith is, in part, represented by the Apostles’ Creed. That faith has been passed down for centuries, and now it is our turn to pass it onward. People are currently trying to “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). So what will we do?

Well, whatever we do, it must include acting on the belief we have in a God who does not change…a God who is still in control…a God who gave us His Word…and whose message is summarized in what we know as the Apostles’ Creed.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Was crucified, dead, and buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven

And sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

Whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

The holy catholic Church,

The communion of saints,

The forgiveness of sins,

The resurrection of the body,

And the life everlasting.

Amen. (MAY IT BE SO)

 

(1)  Albert Mohler, The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity In An Age Of Counterfeits, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, xvi.

“The Resurrection Life” by Pastor Andy Braams

Do you like your body? I do not know the stats, but I would guess that most people do not. Well, good news – at least for those who follow Christ. One day, we will get a new body – and one that is beyond anything you can imagine.

The truth is that your current body will die – it must die. And when it does, it will decay at a rate even faster than what some of you may think it is decaying today. It will rot. It will be garbage. Even if you are alive when Christ returns, your present body will not be the body you will receive – as Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 – the perishable will be replaced by the imperishable.

So, the body you know…the body you like or dislike…the body that has grown, and aged, and thrived, and/or failed…the body that gets you where you need to go, and the body that slows you down…the body that feels good or the body that aches…however you describe your current body, it will cease. But a new one – a better one – will replace it. At least for those who have their faith in Christ.

But that is where the idea of resurrection comes into play. Resurrection is not just about coming out of the grave; it is not just coming back to some zombie type of life. It is returning in a body that was meant to truly live. To be resurrected is to be truly restored.

Let me clarify. A restored body is not patched back together, nor is it made “like new.” People can do a lot of cosmetic work on various objects to make something look good, including a body, but it is still not truly new. Of course, “like new” is better, but it is still not new. For instance, I buy a lot of books. And sometimes I will buy used books, and when I do buy a used book, I prefer ones that are “like new.” That is, they are not new, but they are not well-worn. They may have a few markings or they may have a few dog-eared corners, or perhaps the cover is slightly damaged, but for the most part the book is in very, very good shape. But I still prefer new books…because they are new!

But our new bodies will be newer than new. Not only will any decay be gone, the body will be unlike anything we can fathom. Many listening right now will have heard me say this before, but I must say it again in this context. I cannot say what our bodies will be like with any certainty, other than they will be like the body Jesus had after His resurrection. He could eat food and walk through a closed door. Frankly, our mind cannot conceive those two ideas simultaneously. But whether you can conceive it or not, that is the reality of a new body – which can one day be yours. But if we are to be resurrected like Jesus, what is the purpose?

Well, let me quickly give you three ideas. We need a new body to live eternally, to live abundantly, and to live truly.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Eternally (1 Corinthians 15.35-41)

Your current body will not last forever. Very few bodies make it 100 years. Medical advances and sanitation have extended the lifespan, but bones still brake, muscles still pull, illnesses still debilitate, and organs still fail.

However, the promise of God in John 3.16 is that those who place their faith in Jesus will have eternal life – that is, life that does not end. And for a life that will not end, you need a new body. And that body will come one day after the current one expires.

That is the promise of this passage in 1 Corinthians 15. The earth has one kind of body. Heaven will have another. Just as different species have different types of bodies, so too will our physical body be different from a spiritual body (see vv. 45-47).

But I do want to make sure we understand that we do not need to wait for a new body to live eternally. We need a new body to live forever, but living eternally begins the moment you place your faith in Jesus.

That is what “your Kingdom come” means. We are not to wait until after we die to experience the Kingdom of God. No, we are taught to pray for God’s Kingdom to come – to be experienced on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus would not have taught us to pray those words if it was not possible. So, again, we need a body that will allow us to live eternally, but the beginning of that eternal life begins in this body, not after we die.

A New Body Allows Us to Live Abundantly (1 Corinthians 15.42-49)

This point about living abundantly falls perfectly between the other two.

First, our current bodies limit us from abundant living. All of us have experienced needs. We have been hungry and thirsty and tired and sick. We have been frightened and worried. We have needed compassion. We have needed love.

But the abundant living Jesus promises will include a new body built for a new place where hunger and thirst are no more. We will not be tired. We will never grow sick. Our fears will cease and being in the presence of the Lord will remove all worries. But best of all, the presence of love will be unlike anything we can fathom. Sure, the street will be gold, and the gates made of pearl, but those things will mean little to us – which shows what true abundance really is.

Second, abundant living will mean we will be able to fully live. We will not be limited by our bodies. We will not be too short or too tall. We will not be too skinny or too fat. We will not have weak eyesight or weak knees. We will have the perfect amount of strength. The perfect amount of stamina. We will receive a new body that is ideally suited to serve exactly as God desires us to serve.

Consider the idea of living abundantly and living eternal together. We will never have needs – not in 10 years, 100 years, 1000 years, not ever.

Consider the words in this section – raised imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power, made for heaven. The new body is in contrast to our current bodies which are made from dust (v. 49) and will therefore die (v. 42), are dishonorable (v. 43), and weak (v. 43). Yes, the abundant life that God offers us is available now (John 10.10), but not necessarily as we think of abundance. But the fullness of what God has for us will be experienced by those who are called His children (1 John 3.2).

A New Body Allows Us to Live Truly (1 Corinthians 15.50-58)

I hinted at this in the previous point. But what do I mean by truly living? Honestly, I don’t know. We can’t fully know on this side of eternity. We cannot fathom what awaits, but our present bodies will not be able to withstand the joy.

Some people have a false understanding of heaven. We will not be floating around on clouds. Certainly, we will sing praises to our King (Revelation 5, 7, 19). But heaven will not be an everlasting worship service or time of preaching. We will serve. In the Parable of the Talents, the master says to the two faithful servants, “You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25.21, 23). That is, those who serve well will be given more responsibility to serve in the presence of the Master.

But the toil will not be burdensome because The Curse will have been lifted. It is as NT Wright says, we will have “Life after life after death.” That is the life I look forward to having. Not just life after death, but truly living in the life that comes after death.

That is the fullness of what Paul means when he quotes from the prophet Hosea, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15.54-55; cf. Hosea 13.14).

We must seek to live our lives as faithfully as we can in this life. But life on the other side of eternity will be a life that we cannot fathom…but it will be a life that will allow us to truly live.

Are you ready?

Well, don’t rush it. But be ready! And be expectant!

CONCLUSION

Perhaps no phrase better captures the idea of what true life is meant to be than Jesus words, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11.25).

Jesus did not just say He would be resurrected and offer life – He said, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” That claim is probably the second most bold claim ever made by anyone. And it is second only to another claim by Jesus – that He was God (just a few verses earlier in John 10.30).

Jesus’ claim about being the epitome of life is followed by a statement about those who believe will live, even though they die (John 11.26). And then He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” (John 11.26).

He is asking us the same question today. The reality is that Jesus has made promises that will be fulfilled one day and one of those promises is our resurrection and our new bodies. It will happen. But He gives us the choice of whether to believe or not. I do not understand the fullness of that statement. I can barely begin to understand any portion of it:

I AM

THE RESURRECTION

AND

THE LIFE

But I believe it. Of course, I have a good grasp of of the word AND, but that’s it. The rest is beyond me. But I believe it. And I want to experience the fullness of whatever Jesus meant by that statement.

Having a resurrected body in the presence of Jesus is my hope. (Biblically, hope is not a wish, it is a certainty that is not yet an experienced reality.)

And for those who believe, Paul wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we who believe are to be pitied above all else – because our Hope would lead to nothing, if His resurrection were not true. But as I have said before, if nothing exists beyond this life, why do we do anything? Why should we do anything? Why do we have fear over a virus? Or the economy? Or whatever? But if something, or Someone, does exist, then our primary concern should be about whether or not we are ready to meet Him!

It goes back to last week’s statement about our need for forgiveness. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Yes, we will die, but it is then that you and I can fully understand what it means to live, in the new body, that God has prepared for each of us.

“Forgiveness” by Pastor Andy Braams

Last week I talked about the church – the first reference in the Apostles’ Creed that was not directly about God. Yes, Mary and Pontius Pilate were mentioned, but they were mentioned in their relationship to the Son – they were not the direct focus.

Last week, the focus did turn to a portion of mankind – the church. On a day when we celebrate the Resurrection (the WHAT), it was good to see a part of the WHY. Without the resurrection, Jesus could not have fulfilled His promise, but because He rose again, His statement, “I will build my church” is still being fulfilled today (Matthew 16.18).

But this week, the Creed moves fully to the place of man – and the description is not favorable. We are sinners. That is, we fail to keep the commands of God. God never fails to keep His promises to us, but apart from the Holy Spirit living in and through us (click here to read post of April 8), we can do nothing good (Romans 3.10).

It is because of this sin that Jesus had to die. It is because of this sin that we are condemned (John 3.17-18, see the post on April 1). We desire forgiveness. We expect forgiveness. We need forgiveness. God grants forgiveness. That is the message for us today.

We Desire Forgiveness (Matthew 6.12, 14)

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6.12). This phrase comes from the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray – commonly called the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray these words (not just say them), we do so showing our desire to be forgiven. And God wants to forgive us. He wants it so much that He made the way for us to be forgiven – the sacrifice of Jesus.

But the forgiveness we desire in that prayer comes with a cost. Notice the words, forgive us as we forgive. That is, we are only asking God to forgive us if we forgive others. Now, here is the most challenging part. The words “us,” “our” (twice), and “we” are personal plural pronouns. Why is this important? Because if we pray that prayer together and you forgive someone, but I don’t, then well, WE may not be forgiven. Ouch.

But we do desire forgiveness. And so, we ask. And God desires to forgive us. Two verses later, Jesus says that if you (plural) forgive others, then God will forgive you. That is God will focus us. He wants to forgive us; but He wants us to be forgiving as well.

But the point is that we pray for forgiveness because we desire it. And I will share why in just a few more minutes.

We Expect Forgiveness (Matthew 18.21-35)

This passage has a similar point to the previous one – we want to be forgiven, so we should forgive. But these verses contain a parable that provide a little clarity.

The servant in this parable thinks he is better than others. This first servant does desire forgiveness. He falls on his knees pleading for mercy (Matthew 18.26). But when he receives it from the king, he does not extend it to others. Why? Because he thinks himself better than others. The people who owed the servant money pleased in the same way (desiring forgiveness), but he did not grant it. The debts that the first servant owed the king far outweighed what his fellow servants owed him, but that did not matter to him. Why? He thought he was better than them.

This parable is similar to Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount about removing the log from our eye to see clearly enough to help another person by removing the speck from their eye. But when we think we are worthy of forgiveness and others are not, we have a serious problem. This man desired forgiveness, but his attitude after receiving it showed he did not appreciate it so much as he expected it. And if we expect forgiveness, we are much less likely to extend it to others.

Ultimately, it comes down to thinking that what we do is as bad as what others do. Ultimately, when we take that attitude, we will forget our desire for forgiveness because we will lose our understanding that we need forgiveness.

We Need Forgiveness (Romans 5.12-21)

It is sin that brought death, and that death came through one man. 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The Bible is clear that we sin.

Psalm 143.2: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.”

Romans 3.10: “None is righteous, no not one.:”

Romans 3.23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

1 John 1.8: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Some will say that mankind is basically good. That teaching is nothing new, but it certainly contradicts the Bible. David shows that our sin is not just from the lives we lead; rather, it is a part of our being from before our births.

Psalm 51.5: “Behold I was brought forth iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

The sin of which David speaks is not his mother’s sin, it is his.

So, these verses and other show our propensity towards sin. It is a part of our nature. And the sin we have leads to death. The first part of Romans 6.23 makes this clear. So does Romans 5. Read Romans 5.12-21. Adam’s sin is the cause of all sin. And because of his sin, Adam eventually died. Furthermore, we sin because of Adam’s sin, and statistics show us that we will die too.

But, and this but is important, the death of the body is one thing; the death of a soul is another.

We die because of Adam, but if we have faith in Jesus, we will live because of Him. That is what Paul is trying to communicate to the Romans. It is what he communicated to the Corinthians in the verse I mentioned above. Adam sin leads us to death; the gift we receive through Jesus leads to life, if only we choose to receive that gift.

Think of it this way. When Adam sinned, God removed mankind from the Garden. When Christ died, Jesus provided a way back in at the proper time.

God Grants Forgiveness (Ephesians 2.4-5)

Ephesians 2.4 is one of the great “But God” verses. I will share another one in a moment. In Ephesians 1, Paul has stressed the importance of the people knowing the truth of God and that their salvation rests in Him. Then, as he begins the next section, he turns to the idea that they were dead in their transgressions, following the world, and were sons (and daughters) of disobedience. They deserved wrath (Ephesians 2.3). But God. God made a way – even though He did not have to do so. He made a way through the man we know as Jesus.

Romans 5.8 says something very similar – “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Here is the most important point I can make today. We desire forgiveness. We even expect forgiveness. We desperately need forgiveness. But if God did not grant us what we desire, expect, and need, then it would not matter. We would be doomed. And we should be doomed.

But God. God grants forgiveness.

And He does so even before we knew we needed it. He did so even if we do not desire it now. He made it possible because of His love. And all we must do is confess. As John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

People often cry out for fairness. But God does not offer fairness. He offers grace. Fair would be allowing us to die in our sin. Grace says we can live – eternally with Him. Fair would mean that because of what God has done, we stop pretending to be the rulers of our own lives (which requires us to ask for forgiveness again and again). Grace says, “I wish you wouldn’t, but I love you.”

God made a way for us knowing we could not make a way for ourselves. What God allowed His Son to endure was not fair, but it was necessary for His purposes.

And all we have to do is respond.

CONCLUSION

So, yes, as the Apostles’ Creed says, I believe “…in the forgiveness of sins.” And I do. I believe it not because I desire it, although I do. I believe it not because I expect it, although I do. I believe it not because I need it, although I desperately do. No, I believe it because the Bible tells me God offers it.

But I wonder if we feel the weight of our sin. In Psalm 51, David said he could not escape the torment of his sin (v. 3). Do I constantly sense the heaviness of my sin?

The reality is that we probably don’t feel the weight of our sin because we don’t like to talk about sin. But if we are not willing to talk about our sin, then we will likely not confront our sin. And if we are not willing to confront our sin, then we have no need of Jesus. Again, if we do not realize the gravity of our sin, then effectively we have NO NEED FOR JESUS.

But again, the Bible says differently. Let me close by reading just a few more verses.

Romans 6.23: “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5.21: “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

1 Timothy 1.15a: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came in to the world to save sinners,…”

And one final one, which I mentioned above, 1 Corinthians 15.22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Let us choose to overcome death, by choosing forgiveness in the One who died for us.

“The Church” by Pastor Andy Braams

We are moving toward the end of our series on the Apostles’ Creed. As we consider all of the changes in our world over the past few months, it is good to know that God is still in control. And the Creed provides a summary of the timeless truths found in the Bible.

Up to this point, the Creed has been about God. Now the attention turns to the notion of God’s people. The next phrase in the Creed is a stated belief in “the holy catholic church and the communion of saints.”

Now, you may be questioning why I would be preaching about this topic on Resurrection Sunday. That is a fair question. But my argument is that the Resurrection was the beginning of something new – not only life after death, but life while living through the promise of Jesus. One of those promises is the idea of the church.

So, my point today is not that the resurrection does not matter. Indeed, it matters greatly. And I wrote about that here. And the ascension matters as well as I wrote about here. But the resurrection is more than an item in history. We also need to understand why the resurrection happened.

First, and foremost, the resurrection defeated death. Jesus rose again, and now we have the opportunity to do so as well.

But, Jesus made a promise to build the church, and that did not happen before He died. So, either Jesus was unable to do what He said, or He would fulfill the promise in some unexpected way. That unexpected way was by being raised from the dead.

So, let’s look at the promise and the fulfillment through the lens of the resurrection.

The Promise (Matthew 16.18)

Matthew 16.13-20 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. I have taught on the passage over many different sermons at various times. (A series of links from a sermon series Andy preached on this passage is at the end of this post.) It was also the foundation for my dissertation. The passage is critical to our understanding of the founding of the church. In fact, this passage contains one of only three uses of the word church in all four gospels combined (the other two uses are in Matthew 18.17).

In Matthew 16.18, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” This promise is made in response to Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God. That is a substantial promise. Of course, the disciples had no real idea what He meant in that moment, but Jesus did, and that should be enough.

The problem is that this promise was made near the end of Jesus ministry. After this story, Jesus moves south towards Jerusalem where, within a matter of just a few months, He would be killed.

Now, I know we are all guilty of making promises that we cannot keep. I am certain many of us had plans and made promises that have been pre-empted by COVID-19. But if Jesus is God, and He is, then He not only should be able to keep His promises, He should keep them.

But if Jesus is dead, He cannot keep it.

The Solution (John 20.1-10)

Immediately after Peter made the Great Confession, Jesus began to talk about His suffering and death. Then, He mentioned His resurrection. A few of the disciples had witnessed Jesus bringing back people from the dead, and the rest of them, plus many others would soon witness Lazarus coming out of the tomb. But the concept of people returning from the dead was not understood. And particularly for a person to say that He would do it Himself must have been considered foolishness. But that is what Jesus said (see John 2.19). More importantly, that is what Jesus did.

READ John 20.1-10.

In this story, we have not one, but three witnesses mentioned. If we add in the other gospels, we know that a few women went to the tomb that morning (Luke mentions 3 by name and then says “others” were involved as well, see Luke 24.10). So, multiple people saw the empty tomb. The more witnesses, the more credible the story. And the fact that the Bible says that women were the ones to break the news is significant because of their place in society in that day. The story would be much more believable if a man had said it. But since the Bible tells us that it was women, it creates an extra measure of truth because no one would have dared considered a woman’s word in place of man’s unless what she said was true.

The Blueprints (Matthew 28.18-20)

After the resurrection, Jesus eventually gathered His tribe on the side of a mountain one more time to give them instructions. Those instructions were the blueprints for His earlier promise. The instruction was simply two words, “Make disciples” (Matthew 28.19). We do this my going, by baptizing, and by teaching others to observe what He taught. But that is the command. He commissioned us with His authority (v 18). He gave us the blueprints. And now we join Him in laboring to build His Church.

Rest assured, Jesus is the architect and the true builder. But we are co-laborers. Furthermore, we are the materials. Jesus is placing each of us right where He wants us…right where He needs us. Like a master builder placing brick after brick or fastening one joist to another, Jesus is building what He wants, how He wants.

And right now, it appears Jesus is doing some rearranging. Of course, that is our perspective. As Christians around the world celebrate the Resurrection, most do so from their homes, perhaps gathering with just a few other people. Instead of gathering in a building that man has built, we watch and listen online this week and wonder what the future of the church that Jesus is building will look like.

But again, Jesus was not caught off guard. Jesus is still building. And He will continue to build His Church, until He returns. While gathering together as a church can be done in many different ways to do many different things each week, we, the Church at large, often do things that would make little sense to Jesus. We often do things that the early church would have done. And we don’t know things like we should, including following the basics of the blueprints – love God, love others, love one another, and make disciples.

Are we guilty of treating His Church like it is our church? Are we guilty of assuming that Jesus is not active in building His Church today? Do we know that Jesus is risen, but live our lives and treat His Bride as if He is still dead?

Rest assured. Jesus is alive. The tomb is empty. The buildings may be empty this week, but the Church is still alive because Jesus is alive. And His last promise for the Church was as great as His first promise was about the Church – He will be with us always.

Why?

Because He is alive.

Why did Jesus raise from the dead?

To show sin and death were defeated? Yes. But also to build His Church!

And the promise of the Church, the truth of the resurrection, and the blueprints we are to use have been passed down for centuries. Now, it is our turn to guard that truth and to pass it on to others, so they can pass it on as well (2 Timothy 1.14, 2.2).

So, yes, I believe in the holy catholic church and the communion of saints, the latest phrase in our look at the Apostles’ Creed. By the way, catholic means whole – as in the whole church, not the belief system/denomination known as Catholicism. And, even though we cannot be in physical communion with one another today, a time is coming when we will gather together again. Why? Because that is what church really is – a gathering of people, specifically those who are called out by God and for God in order that we may serve Him. And that serving includes, making disciples so He can continue to build His Church.

CONCLUSION

On that Sunday morning, nearly 2000 years ago, the words were spoken that still ring true today, “He has risen; He is not here” (Mark 16.6).

Jesus is still not in that, or any tomb. Instead, He is still active and is building His Church. If you are a follower of Jesus, then that means you are a part of what is being built. If you do not yet know Jesus (not know about, truly know), then He wants you to be a part of what He is building as well.

Peter confessed the identity of Jesus as the Messiah and Jesus gave him a new identity. When we confess Jesus as our Savior, He gives us a new identity as well. And a part of that identity is to be a part of the Church, which therefore must include the local church.

So, what are you doing now?

Being a part of what God is building does not mean that we wait until we die. No, eternal life begins the moment you receive the gift of Jesus – the salvation He purchased on the cross, the resurrection that proved that salvation is real, and the opportunity to live with Him for eternity at His invitation.

But, what do we do while we are living? That is, if you are reading this, then you are not dead, so the resurrection cannot just be about life after death…it has to mean something for this life too. And that something is about each of us being a part of the Church He is building.

One thing I know, one day you and I will be asked a question very similar to the one Jesus asked His disciples. That question, “Who do you say that I am?”

The time to answer is now. Do you know what your answer will be?

While Andy has preached other messages on this passage, the following links are posts (from his sermon notes) from a series on Matthew 16.13-19 preached in January-March 2016.

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/engage-obstacle.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-magnificent-savior-vision.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-significant-purpose-mission.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-luxurious-design-strategy.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-limited-detail-strategy.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-simple-portion-steps.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/a-modest-servant-steps.html

http://ffxbc.blogspot.com/2016/03/engage-opportunity.html

“Our Helper” by Pastor Andy Braams

When I first conceived of our current sermon series in 2019, none of us knew of COVID-19. Indeed, the virus, for all we know, did not exist yet. It certainly was not infecting humans. My intent was to share stories about issues which are affecting us in new and different ways and then point to the one constant in the midst of all that change – Jesus. Thus, the title of the series is Constant in a World of Change. I could have never imagined how much change we would see in 2020.

And, of course, the virus is only one part of that change. The sexual revolution marches on and does so without as much attention right now because the focus is elsewhere. But other changes are happening and will now happen in ways that were inconceivable just a few week ago. Why? Because of an invisible virus called COVID-19.

Of course, the virus is not really invisible, but it does take a microscope to see it. However, the invisible force of the virus is not the most powerful, yet unseen force right now. No, that title belongs to the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is still present. He is still active. And He is still providing hope for all who know Him. We talked a little about the Holy Spirit’s role in the conception of Jesus a couple of months ago. Today, I will discuss His ongoing role for us.

BODY

The Holy Spirit Comforts Us (John 14.16)

When Jesus knew He was leaving the earth, He knew His followers would need comfort. The ESV uses the term Helper. But another word could be Counselor (John 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7).

Counselors do not bring comfort; they help us find comfort. Their words can help us understand our troubles, they can provide possible solutions, and they can guide us along a path. But the counselor himself or herself does not bring comfort. Our response to a counselor is what brings comfort.

The same is true for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us find comfort which is truly found in peace – a peace offered by God the Father, promised by the Son, and fulfilled by the Spirit. Many people say they believe in Jesus but have no peace. That is, they cannot find comfort. If we are truly born again, and do have the Spirit within them, the Spirit (or Counselor as Jesus calls Him) gives us the ability to find peace, but we must choose to receive the help and guidance.

In the context of John, Jesus was speaking not only of the lasting comfort that the Spirit would provide, he meant the comfort His disciples would need soon. Jesus was about to depart and when He did, the Counselor would come (John 16.7). But Jesus HAD to depart for the Counselor to come. Jesus knew His disciples (i.e. His friends) would be devastated at His leaving. But He promised them a Counselor (a Comforter) who would comfort them, if only they would allow it.

The Holy Spirit Lives in Us (John 14.16-17)

Jesus first introduces this idea of a Helper (Counselor) in John 14. He says that His disciples already know this Helper and He knows them. Specifically, in verse 17, Jesus says that “He dwells with you, and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit was upon Jesus. We see this in a literal sense in Matthew 3 when the Spirit descends as a dove after Jesus is baptized. But it is through the Spirit that Jesus does what He does. And so, the disciples having seen and known Jesus already know the Holy Spirit, even if they cannot see Him.

But Jesus says it is more than knowing. The Spirit will be within them. Therefore, He will be with them all the time, whereas Jesus was not – at least not with all of them all of the time. But the Spirit would be.

And it is because of the Spirit that we can abide with Jesus. John 15.1-7 talk about the need to abide with Jesus. In a physical sense, that may have been possible for the disciples, but it is not for us. But Jesus did not mean physically. He meant a spiritual intimacy. And that intimacy with Jesus, that is, with God, is possible because of the Holy Spirit. We can abide with God even though we are not physically with God because the Spirit is within us just as it would be for His first disciples, if we truly believe in God.

But the Spirit is within us for more than intimacy. He is there for three more reasons which I will cover quickly.

The Holy Spirit Teaches Us (John 14.26)

We need to spend time with God to be taught. God wants to teach us and does so through His Spirit. During our current situation, it is not hard to imagine a teacher showing up to teach but not having any students. That could often be true of God. God has much to teach us, but if we are unable or unwilling to receive His teaching then we are poor students. Now, we must be willing, but the Spirit makes us able. And the ability He gives us is to understand the truth. Not my truth or your truth, but His truth which is THE TRUTH.

John 14.26 says that the Spirit was to teach the disciples what they needed to know, including reminding them of what Jesus taught. That is, in part, how we have the gospels, and how and why the Bible was written. 2 Timothy 3.16-17 and 2 Peter 1.21 both talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in writing the Scripture and the 2 Timothy verses share how Scripture can help us.

Much more can be said, and should be, but I want to spend just a minute talking about the difference between guilt and shame. Most of us know when we have done something wrong. If we are Christians, we might be struck with guilt. That is the Holy Spirit. We feel guilty, or a better word is convicted because we have violated what God desires for us and for others. But shame is not from God. Shame is feeling unworthy. Shame is what others make you feel. The devil wants us to feel shame – to feel unworthy, to feel unloved, especially by God. Guilt on the other hand is the realization we have done something wrong, and with the teaching of the Spirit, we can respond and have a chance to grow. Shame will not bring growth. Guilt can.

The Holy Spirit Testifies to Us and Through Us (John 15.26-27)

In John 15, Jesus speaks of abiding, but then He says that they disciples need to know more about Him. They need to further realize the truth of who Jesus is. That is a part of the teaching that the Spirit will do. He will “bear witness” about Jesus. He will make it clear who Jesus is. He will make it clear what Jesus did. And then the Spirit will use us to tell others.

Honestly, this is one of the key understandings of the Holy Spirit. If we do not desire to tell others about Jesus, then we may not have the Spirit within us. Now, let me be clear. I am not attempting to shame you if you do not share. I am not saying that “you should be ashamed of yourself.” I am certainly not saying that God does not love you if you do not share. If you hear that voice, it is not mine, and it certainly is not God’s. It is of the devil as I said in my last point.

But you may feel convicted. And as I just stated in the previous point, that is good. That means the Holy Spirit is pushing you, teaching you, to want to do that. If we have the greatest gift God could give (salvation through Jesus Christ), then we should want to share. That is what Jesus said to His disciples on that last night He was with the before He was crucified. And it is what He says to us – not only through the words of the Bible, but through the testimony of the Spirit.

The reality is that we can all share more than we do. We can all testify more than we do. So, if you feel guilty about not testifying, thank God for that guilt. But then, do something about it. Testify.

The Holy Spirit Empowers Us

And we can testify not only because Jesus said that the Spirit will testify through us, but because He empowers us. But He not only empowers us to understand God’s teachings, He also empowers to live our life free from sin. We talked about this topic a little this past Wednesday night in our Bible study.

Romans 8.2-17 talks about the freedom we have in Jesus because of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. (If you want more on that topic, I invite you to watch the video from last Wednesday night’s Bible study on the church’s YouTube channel. Go to Youtube.com and type in Fairfax Baptist Church Missouri – Missouri is important because we are not the only Fairfax, think Fairfax, VA).

A part of the breaking free from that bondage is found in Galatians 5. The chapter begins with the declaration that Christ set us free so we could truly be free.  Beginning in verse 16, Paul wrote about the distinction between those who live according the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit. The desires are very different. And the desires of the Spirit are to honor and glorify God. Specifically, we do that by showing fruit in our lives. And the fruit that comes from the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23).

This fruit was so evident in the life of Jesus, and it is meant to be evident in our life as well. We cannot grow that fruit ourselves. It is the fruit of the Spirit. That fruit comes when we allow Him to plant Himself into us and allow Him to cultivate us to allow it to grow. It is then that the fruit becomes evident. It is then that the fruit becomes mature. And it is mature fruit that helps not only us, but others.

CONCLUSION

So, the Holy Spirit live in us to comfort us, to teach us, to testify to us, to testify through us, and to empower us. But only if we believe – that is, if we are born again.

The Creed says, I believe in the Holy Spirit. But are these just words to you, or are they a way of life?

If they are simply words, you will live your life the way you always have which is exactly the way that you desire to live. Sure, you may feel ashamed of yourself and your lifestyle, but you will not change because you do not have the power to change yourself.

But if those words are a way of life, then you will be empowered to change. Sometimes the change will be slow. At other times, it may be so fast you will feel your head spinning. You will still make mistakes, and thus you will still feel convicted, but you will use that conviction as an opportunity to grow. Your fruit will grow. Your relationship with Jesus will grow. And that is all possible (and only possible) because of the Holy Spirit.

“The Judge” by Pastor Andy Braams

Matthew 25.31-34

People are worried about the world ending…what happens when the world ends.

If there is no God, then nothing, so why should we care about what is happening now, or ever. That is, if nothing awaits us beyond this life, then we need not worry about having purpose and therefore nothing should matter to us now – people are sick, people are dying, maybe it could be us, who cares?

But we do care. Why?

Well, before I answer that, let me remind us that this series is about the Apostles’ Creed. But we are at a transition point this week. The Creed has been primarily about the past until this point. But today’s phrase, “whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead,” points to the future. Jesus will come.

And when He comes again, it will not be as a servant, it will be as Lord. He will be King. And thus, He will judge.

The Real Judge

We all have a sense that judgment is right. And therefore, we all judge. We talk about fairness and equity and rights. All of these terms and more imply judgment. And thus, we recognize judgment as necessary, but we do not want to be judged ourselves. Ultimately, this is the answer to the question above. We care because something inside us seeks justice. The problem is that justice is not the same as fairness and what we want is fairness. But who determines fairness? If it is me, then sometimes you will not like what I think is fair. If you are the one determining, then, at times, I will not like what you think is fair. Therefore, for judgment to be real it must have come from a higher authority than humanity. For me, that authority is the one true God.

Now, many people believe that God will be the judge. But what most people do not consider is which Person will be the judge. Is the Judge God the Father, God the Son, or God the Spirit. I think most people would assume that the judge is the Father. But we do not have to assume. And we do not have to guess. The Bible is clear: the judge is Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (5:10). But beyond the words of Paul, we can know straight from the mouth of Jesus. John recorded Jesus’ saying, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,…” (5:22).

So, Jesus will judge. And He is the Judge. But what kind of judge will He be?

The Righteous Judge

Paul calls the Lord, the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4.8). He wrote these words from a prison in Rome while awaiting his execution, which was imminent, although probably months away. He was comparing the judgment of Christ (who place a crown of righteousness on Paul’s head – v. 8), with the judgment of Nero who was to remove Paul’s head from his body.

Now, when we talk about judgment, we must be clear about what is meant. We are called to discern – that is, use judgment. In fact, the verse that many will use about us not judging others (Matthew 7.1) is in a passage that actually goes on to say that we are to help others (which requires judgment that they need help), but to do so after making sure we are right with God. (Read Matthew 7.1-5. Then read verse 6 which goes further into the need to “judge” the situation.)

But in our focus today we are talking about eternal judgment. We are not talking about helping others; the intent here is about condemnation And only Jesus can do that.

Any judicial system has issues. We are all prone to judge others based upon a lot of factors that are irrelevant such as theological understandings, skin color, political affiliation, nationality, or even geographic location within a country, state, or even city/town, etc.

But the judgment of Jesus will be based upon one thing – belief. And, in fact, Jesus will not have to condemn anyone on the day of judgment (see Rev 20) because as Jesus said just after one of the most oft-quoted verses in the Bible,

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of he only Son of God” (John 3.17-18).

So, the righteous Judge is not condemning people. He is just pronouncing the judgment that they have already chosen for themselves.

The Faithful and True Judge

In Revelation 19.11-19, Jesus is also referred to as Faithful and True. That faithfulness is to Himself as God. That truth is to His purposes as God. The reality is that we all want to think of ourselves as faithful to ourselves and true to our purposes. But we are not. We can see this in so many areas of our lives. Maybe it is treating one child differently than another. Maybe it is reacting differently to different people when they do the same thing. May it is when we give up on a New Year’s (or any other) Resolution. Etc.

But Jesus has never wavered. Jesus is always faithful. To Himself. And thus, to us. We can know exactly what He expects of us. We can also know His love for us never wavers. Ever. For He is faithful and He is true. And He wants us to be as well.

What is interesting is that those who are found faithful (not perfect, but faithful), will also sit as judges. In Revelation 2.26-27, Jesus says that the “one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end” will have authority. We will judge with Him, but under His authority. Furthermore, Paul wrote that the saints will judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6.3). That is, we do not become angels when we die – angels were created before mankind); instead, we will judge them.

And that leads us to the last point. A judgment is coming.

The Coming Judgment

For the sake of time, I will not read all of Matthew 24.32-42 and Matthew 25.31-34; 41. But let me summarize each.

At the end of Matthew 24, Jesus speaks of the fig tree. The fig tree is supposed to produce figs in season. It did not, so Jesus cursed it and it died. Jesus then talked about a future time when some will be ready and some will not, because the exact time of the coming judgment is not known. He does not even know (Matthew 24.36). So, just like the fig tree, we need to produce fruit in season – before it is too late. And this is our season.

At the end of Matthew 25, Jesus describes the final judgment as a separating of the sheep from the goats. In this passage, the idea is not just having belief, but what we do with that belief. Jesus gives scenarios such as being hungry, thirsty, and being a stranger and being welcomed by some, and rejected by others. While anyone can provide care for others, Jesus is saying that those who believe should show the necessary compassion to provide that care. That is what distinguished true belief from merely stating a knowledge of something, or in Jesus’ case, Someone.

Ultimately, both of these passages talk about what we will do because of what we know. It is belief that is important, but it is our fruit that shows belief. The goal of the servant is to first hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21, 23) so that we can hear the rest, “enter into the joy of your master.” But as I say often, to hear “Well done” we first have to do.

CONCLUSION

The Bible is clear that doing is not what grants you salvation, but what we do should be the result of what we believe (Ephesians 2.8-10). And we need to serve our King, but it is He, our King, the Lord, who will judge. Jesus is that King. And Jesus will return. And when He does, He will come in judgment.

Jesus is the ultimate judge. He Himself was judged by man, but when He returns He will judge mankind.

I do not know when He will return, but some people are concerned that the time we are living in right now may be the end. Maybe it is. Again, I do not know. But whether this is the end of not, Jesus will come again one day. If He comes today, are you ready? If He comes tomorrow, or next week, or next year, will you be ready?

If you are not sure, I encourage you to find a friend who knows Jesus, who loves Jesus, and wants you to know and love Him as well. Or, perhaps it would be easier for you to contact our church. You can email us at fairfaxmobaptistchurch.org or send us a message on FB. If you leave a comment in Facebook or YouTube, the comment could be overlooked depending on the number of comments received or when you leave the comment, so directly contacting us is a better option. If you do, someone will reply as soon as possible in order to set up a time to talk.

“The Significance of the Ascension” by Pastor Andy Braams

Very few people remember the beginnings of WW2. Some may remember the end, but to even be alive at the beginning, which happened when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, you would have to be nearly 81. So, to be able to remember that day would add a few years and limits the number of people considerably. And the war that started over there, would be brought to our shores just over two years later on December 7, 1941.

Many are stating that WW2 is the event that most closely identifies with our current pandemic known as COVID-19. While the circumstances of that war were far different, we can find similarities. First, like the beginning of that war, this virus started over there. Sure, we heard about some people in another nation being affected by a virus, but we have heard similar stories before, and yet we have barely been affected.

But the biggest parallel is the disruption that has come to the lives of people around the world. For Americans, we had two years before WW2 became a national concern. With COVID-19, we had two months, and really, to reach the level it has, we have had about 3 months.

But with WW2, most of the war was fought over there. Sure, people had concerns that led to the use of internment camps. But most of the worry was about those fighting over there. Not this time. This time, the concern is right before us. And it will be for some time.

What faces us is more than concern; it is fear. However, as I said last week, “Fear is real, but it need not rule.”

Last week, I took a break from our current series to discuss a Christian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. That response centered on acknowledging any fear and trusting God as David did in Psalm 56. Then, having acknowledged the fear, we are to love others, and help them through their fears. I believe more can be added, but at a minimum, those two ideas represent how a Christian can respond.

But the question is WHY can a Christian respond that way? Well, that is the message for this week. And to see the answer, we will look to Jesus. But we will look at an aspect of Jesus’ life that is often overlooked.

However, before I do that, I realize that many who may watch this message will not have the full context. So, I want to take a few moments to share about the series I am doing, and how it fits far better than I could have imagined.

The current series is entitled, Constant in a World of Change. The series is based upon the Bible but is designed around the phrases found in the Apostles’ Creed. Each of the phrases found in the creed is a truth found in the Bible. So, the point of the series was to show the constancy of God in the midst of all of the changes around us. And the reality is that our world is changing fast – and it still is, but most all of the attention now is on the changes brought by the novel (or new) coronavirus.

That is the purpose behind the series. Now, let’s move into this phrase:
He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

We can find the truth of this statement in one verse, which will be my focus today.

Ephesians 1.20 says, “that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

That verse has a lot of He, Him, and His in it, so let me restate the verse by backing up and picking up the context:
“that God (the Father) worked in Christ when God (the Father) raised Him (Jesus) from the dead and seated Him (Jesus) and His (God, the Father) in the heavenly places.”

In other words, the Him(s) are Jesus, and the He and His are God, the Father.

So, why does this verse matter. Why would I choose to preach on this during the midst of the challenges of COVID-19? Stay with me for a few minutes and you will see. Let me give you four quick points.

The Ascension Proves Christ’s Work On Earth Is Finished

It is one thing to say, “It is finished.” (John 19.30)

It is another for that statement to be true.
God raised Jesus from the dead. Was it to do more work? Nope!
God raised Jesus from the earth. Because the work Jesus did on earth was done.

Jesus would not have ascended if the Father did not think Jesus’ job on earth was done.

The Ascension Places Jesus in the Position of Authority

Because Jesus work on earth was done, God had a new assignment for Him.
Read Ephesians 1.20-23. (This passage is similar to what is written in Philippians 2.9-11 and Colossians 1.18-20).

What we can know is that Jesus has supreme authority. He is the supreme authority. We will see more of that next week when we look at Jesus as the Judge.

The Ascension Provides the Spirit His Opportunity to Work

Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit when He left. It is the Spirit who guides us in this day. It is the Spirit who equips us.

Jesus said it is to our advantage that He leave (John 16.7)

As Al Mohler writes about this truth, “Without his ascension the Spirit could not come; and, in some mysterious, spectacular way, the indwelling of the Spirit eclipses the physical presence of Jesus Christ.” (1)

So, what is Jesus doing right now? He is preparing a place for us. Many have focused on the rooms, asking questions like what will they be like? Who cares? The purpose is not where we stay, but with Whom we will stay. (John 14.3)

And that leads us to the fourth point.

The Ascension Presents God’s People a Permanent Home

Mark 16.19 says that Jesus was taken up into heaven. Heaven is a real place. Ephesians 2.4-6 says that we will be seated with Him. Revelation 3.21 says the same thing for those who overcome this world. Again, as I mentioned above, Jesus is preparing a place for us now. And the world, with all of its beauty and creativity was created in six days. Imagine what Jesus is preparing having had nearly 2000 years to do it.

CONCLUSION

As I prepare to close, you may recall that I mentioned that this message fits perfectly within the scope of the current COVID-19 pandemic. Let me explain how.

If Jesus died, but did not rise from the dead, how could we know that His death meant what He said it did.

If Jesus rose from the dead, but had not ascend to heaven, how could we know He did not die again.

In other words, without the ascension, could we really have hope? But if Jesus did die (and He did), and rose from the dead (and He did), and ascended to heaven (and He did), then we can know that no matter what may happen to us on this earth, we can have hope for today, for tomorrow, and for every tomorrow’s tomorrow.

The word corona comes from a Latin word that means wreath or crown. A crown is worn by a ruler, and right now, the coronavirus seems to rule the world today, but Jesus will rule for eternity. Rest assured, God is in control. Jesus is seated which means His job is done, and when the time is right, He will return and prove His worth as the One worthy of all crowns, for as the Bible says, He will be crowned the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

That is a hope worth having. That is the hope we need.

(1) Albert Mohler, The Apostle’s Creed, Nashville: Nelson Books, 2019, 108.

“A Christian Response to COVID-19” by Pastor Andy Braams

You may have heard about this little thing called a coronavirus. Specifically, the current coronavirus is named COVID-19. COVID-19 is not the first coronavirus, and it likely will not be the last. A coronavirus will infect both animals and humans. Currently, seven different types exist, with four of those causing symptoms like the common cold. In fact, many of our colds are related to one of these viruses.

But more recent coronaviruses have caused more problems. In 2002, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus infected nearly 8100 people in 24 countries, killing nearly 800. No cases of SARS have been reported since 2004. However, the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) became known in 2012 and has since infected around 2500 individuals, with over 1/3 of those people dying. 27 countries have identified the MERS virus.

Other viruses, such as the so-called “bird flu” and “swine flu,” have impacted our world over the past couple of decades. And one of the worst epidemics was the Spanish Flu of 1918. It is estimated that 500 million people worldwide were infected and somewhere between 20 to 50 million people died. This pandemic came on the heals of some 20 million people dying during WW1.

But this new virus, has the attention of the world. It started in China (as did SARS), and has now spread to more than 100 countries. This week COVID-19 went from an epidemic (upon the people) to pandemic (all people). Some have estimated that as many as 45% of Americans will get the virus. In raw numbers terms, that is 150 million – Americans.

And this pandemic is causing fear and disruption in ways our world has never seen. Certainly, our world has seen major catastrophes before. Earthquakes, famines, plagues, wars (including two World Wars), terrorist attacks, etc., have all caused disruptions for days, weeks, and years. But nothing in the history of the world has caused this level of change so quickly. Decisions are changing by the hour as to how people and organizations are responding. And those decisions will continue to be made in the days and weeks (if not months) ahead.

So, what is our response? Not as a part of the people, but as the church? How should we respond?

Our response should be two-fold – a trust in God and a love for others.

Trust in God

Read Psalm 56.

A follower of Christ should focus first on trusting in God. Fear is real, but it should not rule.

Fear is probably the strongest emotion because once it grips us it does not let go. And, of course, fear is not something the Bible condones. In fact, famously, the Bible records the idea of not being afraid or not having fear 365 times – one for each day of the year. But this is Leap Year, so I guess we get to have fear for one day.

Fear may not be right, but it is natural. But we must also keep it in perspective. Some will call fear a sin, and I understand the rationale. Let me first explain a part of the rationale, but then let me show you from Scripture why I do not believe it is a sin.

First, ultimately fear is the result of a lack of trust in someone or something. Second, the Bible says “do not fear” which is very similar language to “do not lie” or “do not steal” or “do not commit adultery.” But lying, stealing, and adultery are choices we make to do. Fear is a natural response. Just like anger. Thus, as Paul says, in your anger, do not sin. Likewise, I think we can say, “in your fear, do not sin.” Yes, the sin would be different, but the principle is the same.

For instance, David had fear, but he knew where to turn in the midst of that fear. In Psalm 56.3, David say, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” This verse was the first verse I taught our children. By the time they were two or three, they had this verse memorized. Mommy and daddy could not always be there for them, but God would be.

What is great about this chapter is that David never confesses a sin or repents for his fear. At least not directly like he does in Psalm 51. In fact, if you look at Psalm 56, David begins with why he is afraid, then makes his declaration of trust, and then shares more details about why he is afraid. He may have stated his intention to trust in God, but that has not freed his mind from the perils around him. He realizes that simply stating he trusts in God does not remove him from danger. BUT – and this is key – He does not let that danger or fear cripple him.

Notice the structure of this Psalm.

Verses 1-2: He asks God to watch over him because of his enemies. That is, David acknowledges his fear and plainly states it to God.

Verses 3-4: David acknowledges God is greater than His fears.

Verses 5-7: Having acknowledged God, and his desire to trust God, David details why he is afraid.

Verses 8-13: David acknowledges why He can trust in God. David acknowledges that he will trust in God.

A Psalm with 13 verses has 5 verses about the reality of fear. But it has 8 verses about the reality of God triumphing over fear.

38% of the verses talk about fear. That is important. David does not share one verse about fear, then acknowledge a desire to trust God and the fear is instantly gone. A holier-than-thou Christian might think that our response should be 1% fear, and 99% trust. And frankly, maybe it should be. But the reality is that David, the mighty warrior, the man who slayed thousands of people, expressed his fear – openly and honestly.

But David had more trust in God than he did fear. Because 38% of this Psalm addressed fear, over 60% addressed the goodness of God. Again, I am sure some Christians in our world today will say David was weak by only mentioning God’s power over fear 60% of the time. I am glad those Christians have it all figured out and never have any fear. Because you know what, I don’t have the level of faith they have. Frankly, I am not overly concerned about the coronavirus personally, but I have my own challenges, including the fact that I serve a church that has many people who are much older than I and are in the higher risk category for contracting and being affected by the virus.

Now, I do not want the virus. And I will take precautions to avoid contracting the virus. But that fear is not my biggest fear. And yet, whatever fear you may have, the example David gives us in Psalm 56, is that we can have very legitimate fears. And even in the midst of fully trusting God, we may honestly and openly express those fears. And when we do so, we may help others to better process their fears as well.

Love of Neighbor

The second response during this time of crisis – and it is a crisis – is that we should love our neighbor.

Several months ago, when I was preaching on the parable of the Good Samaritan, I made following statement: We cannot love the people we label, and we will not label the people we love.

On Friday, I saw a statistic that a much higher percentage of Democrats fear contracting the virus than Republicans. That is one of the most stupid studies and statements I have ever heard. Who cares? People are getting sick and dying and instead of focusing on this being an issue affecting people all over the world regardless of races, religions, and political leanings, and people are making this political. That isn’t love. That is manipulation.

Again, people are afraid. Certainly, some are more fearful than others, but we do not need to beat down on people for their fears. We need to love them through it. Let me give an example.

Suppose a child wakes up from a dream and is frightened. The child bravely gets out of bed to find a parent (or parents). (Don’t discount how much courage it takes for some children to get out of their bed in this situation.) A parent could respond in a few different ways, but let’s go to the edges.

A parent could respond: “You are an idiot. I told you there is nothing to be afraid of. Haven’t I told you that everything’s fine. I just don’t get why you can’t understand this.  Just go back to bed and let me get some sleep.”

Alternatively, a parent might respond: “I am sorry you are afraid. Let’s see what we can do to make you feel better. What if we check to make sure everything is ok and then I will lay down with you until you go back to sleep?”

Again, other possibilities exist. But the first scenario is rather harsh. The second would be considered compassionate. And yet, in the church we often treat others similar to the first example. We are selfish and we show a lack of care. The second example takes time and energy – and love.

And that is what we are to do. Romans 12.15 says to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”  We like rejoicing. It is often more difficult to weep. Frankly, in the examples above, I would like to think I will respond like the second example, but I know I am often guilty of the first. Why? Because I am selfish. Because I sin.

However, Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as I do myself. He tells us to love our neighbor as we do ourselves. Thus, I must properly love myself. We must properly love each other. And when we do, the real benefit is that others can know they are loved too.

That is our opportunity right now in the midst of the fear around us. We do have an opportunity to rejoice when it is appropriate, but to weep as well. We do have the opportunities to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6.2). We have the opportunity to stand together to oppose our enemy and whatever obstacles might come before us.

We can do this because Jesus loved His neighbor as He did Himself. And He asks His followers to do the same.

CONCLUSION

Fear is real. But God is bigger than our fears. And, if we truly love others, we will help them to know that truth as well. This week, fear has been front and center in the lives of millions, if not billions. But realize that fear is based upon a virus with a surface area that is measured to be 1/25,400,000 or .0000049213 inches.

How can something so tiny cause so much fear? But it has, and it will continue to do so. But COVID-19 is not the only fear in our world today. And it is not the only fear within our church right now. Other health issues are front and center. Issues like cancer or other chronic diseases create fear. Or maybe your fears stem from a relationship with a friend, a coworker, or a member of your family.

Maybe it is learning to live after the loss of a loved one.

Maybe your fear is financial.

Maybe the fear is changes in our country, in our town, or in this church.

I know the fears that some of you are experiencing. But I do not know the depth of those fears. I know the fears that I face too.

But I also know that I have a God who desires me to trust Him. A God who desires you (individually) to trust Him. A God who desires us (as a church) to trust Him. He is a God who does not change. So, even though we moved away from the Apostles’ Creed this week (which is itself a change), we are still focusing on our constant – on THE constant – in a world of change. And, in a world of fear.

JOURNEY:

Our JOURNEY letter for today is JOURNEY.

We are all on a JOURNEY of faith. And this JOURNEY will requires us to acknowledge and confront our fears. So, let me present a couple of verses for you to reflect upon for a couple of minutes.

The first was written to Timothy, and thus is meant to be internalized individually.  The verse is 2 Timothy 1.7: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4.6-7 was written to a church, and thus is meant of us to consider corporately: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

NEXT STEP(S):

      • LEARN.  Learn to trust God through your times of fear.
      • LOVE.  Love others to help them do the same.

As followers of Christ, we must also see this disruption as an opportunity. Fear can drive people in many different directions, but one of those directions is to seek purpose and meaning in their lives, to consider death, and therefore to be open to God.

SPECIAL CALL TO PRAYER

From the SBC:

      1. Ask God, in His mercy, to stop this pandemic and save lives—not only in our communities but around the world, particularly in places that are unequipped medically to deal with the virus (Isaiah 59:1-2).
      2. Pray for President Donald Trump and other government leaders—international, federal, state, and local—to have the wisdom to direct us in the best courses of action for prevention and care (Romans 13:1–4).
      3. Scripture says—teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom in this moment of fear as the foundations of what we know are shaken, that others would realize how fragile life is and how real eternity is, and they would see their need to turn to God (Psalm 90:12).
      4. Ask God to protect our missionaries and their families around the globe, using this global crisis to advance His Good News to the whole world (Mark 16:15).