Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lesson, stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: run_race

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Are You Running from God’s Judgment or towards His Grace?

© April 11, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based On Messages Originally Published September 19, 2010 and on July 13, 2014

BLCF Bulletin 13, 2014

BLCF: Cross_Runners

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading # 648 ( A Challenge to Faith – Hebrews 11 and 12); Prayer                                             

Opening Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation; Choruses

Tithing & Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings 

Scriptures: Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Corinthians 9:24, Acts 20:24, and 2 Timothy 4:7 

BLCF: MARATHON-RUN

Let us pray…

In this age of instant fast foods, instant bank tellers (a.k.a. bank machines), movies on demand, and instant access to a wealth of information via the internet, it is refreshing to slow the tempo of our surroundings and do something that requires more than just a few minutes of our time to complete. For some, such low tempo activities includean extended period of unstructured time, untethered to clocks, schedules or timetables. For others, it is the challenge of completing a goal that involves continuous effort for a protracted period of time, dedication, commitment and provides a goal worthy of the effort.

One such event is the marathon, a cross-country run, not run as a competition between individual participants, but as a vehicle for a group of people to raise awareness and funds, by its participants in order to recognize or help others who suffer from, are afflicted by or have died from a disease or affliction. An example of one such marathon for a cause is the Terry Fox Run for Cancer Research, which occurs annually every around September 14, on the second Sunday after Labour Day.

BLCF: TerryFoxRun-banner-2014-EN

The Terry Fox Run takes place annually on the second Sunday after Labour Day. The Terry Fox Run dates over the years:

2014September 1434th Anniversary
2015September 2035th Anniversary
2021September 1941st Anniversary

Some people run in marathons for personal satisfaction of completing the challenge of the race. For others it is all about the cause.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers (26 miles and 385 yards), which is usually run as a road race. The event was instituted in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon (the namesake of the race) to Athens. Upon completion of the run where Pheidippides reported a victory, he collapsed and died. While he had died he completed his task and gave the message which gave hope and joy to the people of Athens.

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Today, many marathon races are run to commemorate a person or just cause. Often the person and the cause are inseparable, such as the Terry Fox Run. Though he never finished his race, the effort and idea of running across Canada to raise awareness of, and funding for, Cancer was a victory for him.

We have with the Terry Fox Run, no individual winners; only a common desire amongst the runners to defeat Cancer. In our race as Christians, we run together to defeat Satan, to defeat death and win victories for God.

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While Paul and other authors of the Scriptures speak of running or winning a race, I think the God was not speaking of a short sprint or even a middle or long distance event. God was talking of a long endurance race, such as the marathon. A life-long marathon.

And how do we prepare ourselves for in the long run, (if you excuse the pun)? God does provide us with a “Runners Handbook” in His Word. Here are a few of the important verses to prepare us for the race of life, beginning where the Bible describes ways of preparing the believer for the challenges encountered along the way of a lifelong “Christian Walk:

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Ephesians 6:10-20, describes them as wearers of ‘The Whole Armour of God’.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

And in 1 Chronicles 12:22, talks of the ‘The Army of God.’

22 For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.

We are part of the “army of God”, engaged in battle, wearing the armour of God. But armour is not the only analogy given to our Faith Walk.

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The Bible in 1 Corinthians 12:27, also, describes Christian believers as part of the “body of Christ”.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

BLCF: Body of Christ

Looking at 2 Corinthians 5:20,we are “Christ’s ambassadors”; His envoys, representing him in this world.

20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Ephesians 5:22-33 describes the church of believers as “bride of Jesus”, with Christ being the groom, described similar to the relationship between a wife and husband.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Footnotes: a. Or holy and blameless

BLCF: temple-body

The Bible likens us in 1 Corinthians 3:17, to a “temple of God”.

17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

 We are “healthy branches” and Christ is the vine, as described in John15:5.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

BLCF: salt_of_the_earth

Matthew 5:13-16, characterizes Christian believers as “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

Each one of these is varied and each one is valid.  Each one could easily take a sermon to explain and understand.

However, let me simplify all of them by describing them an aspect of our personal relationship with God. As soldiers in God’s army, wearing God’s armor we battle both Satan and sin. God is our Commander-in-Chief; the Bible gives us both His strategy and the weapons to battle within the scriptures. However, the battle, that challenges both our determination and tests our endurance, is lifelong; but great are the victories won, if we stay faithful in serving the Lord. Victory is found in souls saved from the final judgment of death by receiving God’s love and avoiding the obstacles Satan places in our path. The gaol and reward is salvation and eternal life.

Once we have made a decision to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, having confessed our sins, and committing ourselves to God, we are immediately appointed His ambassadors. As ambassadors our passports are stamped by the precious blood of Christ who died for our sins. As so we carry the diplomatic immunity from judgment for our sins. But we are expected to represent the Kingdom of God in an appropriate and fitting manner. Our diplomatic mandate requires us to understand God’s purpose and policies, as outlined in the Bible. And as Holy diplomats, we must use the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit to walk, talk and act as messengers of truth. Otherwise, we lose credibility and do our appointed position a disservice and dishonor the One who sacrificed so much that we may be His representatives, unto the ends of the world.

BLCF: Jesus_meeting_bride

A bride and groom are joined together in marriage until death. That is until death bids them to part. But God expects married partners not to be unequally-yoked. Like a pair of oxen, of one we stronger than the other. Otherwise the cart or the plough, or whatever the team pull, would be drawn into circles. God wants us walking a straight path, with straight rows, not making crazy crop circles. A bride and groom are kept together because they share the same values, seek the same goals, and work together in harmony. Jesus, the groom, did His part to provide for his bride, which is the church, by fulfilling the scriptures and being the last and final sacrificial lamb for all of humanity. Every believer; man and woman, Jew and Gentile, adult and child, alike may be judged sinless forever in God’s eyes’ thanks to the sacrifice of Christ.

And the bride in this relationship, being the Church, has the responsibility to maintain and nourish the faith; to ensure all her children understand the message of the Gospel, as well as God’s unconditional gift of love. Not for only a day; not until the kids are grown; and not until retirement; but until death, which in God’s time frame, forever! Forever includes this lifetime, the next, as well as the hereafter.

BLCF: socil_media_scrapbook

A married couple may have a wedding album to mark that special day, with all the events of the day being recorded by the photos,  as well as by saved mementos which, when added to the photos, make the scrapbook a tapestry of a life event. This album is often followed by other albums to record other important events, such as: birthdays, vacations, anniversaries and other significant events of a whole lifetime bound within the albums’ collective pages. Today, tech savvy couples may post such images on social media pages, such as Facebook, Flickr, BLOGs and Instagram on the Internet for the whole world to see. To make a good impression, these social media albums are edited to show only the best images of what we do.

BLCF: BOOK-OF-LIFE

The Lord keeps an album too, sometimes referred to our “Book of Life”. Unlike our scrapbook albums, this one has a record of all that we do, say and think; the good as well as the bad. But like our album, all of the good and bad will be posted for all to see come Judgment Day. That is a daunting thought, for instead of warranting a title such as “The Highlights of My Life”, the title for such a Book might have one sounding like a spaghetti western title like “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of My Life”! To the Lord the content of this Judgement Book that is important to Him includes: whether we have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour; whether we have confessed our sins; and perhaps most importantly, have we embarked upon the race that the Lord has set for us as Christian believers: to spread the Gospel to others and whether we grew in faith and trust in His Way.

Before I get carried away, and attempt to comment on all of these examples of our Christian walk, let me address the topic of this Sunday’s message: ‘Are you running from God’s judgment or towards His grace’?  There is another analogy of the Christian walk, but the Apostle Paul describes it as a race, like a marathon. With a few exceptions, the runners of these races are not necessarily running the race as competitors against each other, but like the marathons for a just cause, as a group running with the common goal of just making it to the finish line by overcoming the challenges of obstacles, such as the wall of pain and exhaustion. They must find inner strength from within and demonstrate to the world that they can continue the race into to the end.

BLCF: Woman Running

I have a sister-in-law, Suuzi who is a triathlete. She does triathlons, which include three endurance races combined in a single marathon race. Part of the race is in the water; part is like the original marathon is on foot; and part is on bicycle. One of Suuzi’s first races took place in Hamilton, early in the month May, with the first leg to be swum in Hamilton Harbor. My brother-in -law recorded that race with over three hundred participants at the starting line.  At the start of the race,  we  see that the starting gun goes off and the triathletes run into water. In the next scene of the video, about half of the participants doing a 180 – turnaround and run right back out of the water.

BLCF: cold water swim

If you are curious as to how cold the water of Lake Ontario can be in early May, ask Sophie as she was baptized in Lake Ontario at Sunnyside Park in the month of May.

I believe Suuzi was one of those who ran in, then out of the lake. She and the other runners were not prepared for the conditions of the lake. Eventually Suuzi re-entered the lake and eventually finished her race.

BLCF: kangaroos

Recently, Suuzi lived in Australia for a couple of years, and while on the road had her training run interrupted by a gang of kangaroos, which surrounded Suuzi on the roadside. This kangaroo encounter, while somewhat bizarre and sounding humorous could have had a very serious outcome, as the hopping marsupials are well known for their aggressive and combative behavior. Fortunately, Suuzi escaped from the encounter, unharmed. After she escaped the kangaroo threat, Suuzi actually returned to the same location with her husband, camera in hand, hoping to take a photograph the ‘roos. Come to think of it, it is likely that Suzie’s photo albums, at least those documenting her runs, are likely to be quite different from the norm.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, those running the ‘Race of Christian Faith’, we must be prepared for the unexpected, which is Satan’s way of distracting us from our goal of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

BLCF: 15km_kangaroo_sign

In school I used to like running to middle distance races. A middle distance was 880 yards before metrification or 800 meters today. I recall during one practice run, where I knew none of my opponents. I had taken, and was maintaining, a lead over the rest of the pack for most of the race, with one pesky runner, whose name was Alan, maintained a pace beside and behind me for most of the race.

At one point of the race, near the last thirty yards of the finish line, Alan looked at me with a show of apparent concern saying, “You look tired! Are you OK? Maybe you should take it easy, as it is only a practice.”

For me that was I all I needed to hear. My legs and arms were burning, my lungs bursting at my efforts and Alan’s words spoke to me of everything that my body felt. I was done, as Alan had effectively broken my focus enough to pass me and win the race.

BLCF: hebrews-12-what-makes-the-course-worth-running

In our race on the Glory Road, we too have someone like Satan whispering in our ears that the water is too cold to swim or that we have reached an insurmountable wall. Even something as innocuous as “Oh look a bunch of kangaroos”. Whatever it is, we must resist the temptation to stop or quit the race. For in quitting, we hand the garland of victory to Satan!

We must not be diverted from our route or distracted from the goal in our race. Satan loves to chill the water in which we swim or throw a kangaroo or two in our path. He will do anything to make us lose our focus and ultimately to stop us from running God’s race. Remember, that Jesus, immediately following his baptism and having received the Holy Spirit, was taken into the desert, where he fasted and was repeatedly tested by Satan. But Jesus, through faith in His Father, and by his knowledge of the scriptures, stayed on track and defeated Satan. Jesus’ victory was our victory. Jesus did not allow himself to be detoured from his appointed path to defeat sin on our behalf.

BLCF: rooted_in_faith

Having prepared ourselves for the race, let us review the race set before us:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (ESV)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

BLCF: 1Corinthins_9_24-27

         1 Corinthians 9:24 (ESV) 

4Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  

BLCF: the-race-of-faith-Hebrews_12_1-2

The goal of our race is testify to the Gospel of Christ and to keep the faith:

  Acts 20:24 (ESV)  

24But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 

  2 Timothy 4:7 (ESV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

And if we set upon the marathon of our life, intent to share, without distraction, the Gospel of Christ and keep our faith in the Lord, then when our race is run. We may claim for ourselves the rewards of our efforts to draw closer to the Lord’s “Throne of Grace”, so that we may receive His mercy and, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, find the grace to help those who have not yet found it.

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BLCF: Phillipians_313

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

 14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.                                                                                          

Let Us Pray…

BLCF: Christian_Faith

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: hebrews12_1_new

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stones-Throw from Each Other

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s-Throw from Each Other’

© September 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 9 2018

Originally shared with BLCF on November 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                        Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                             Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (John 8:1-11)                         Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

 Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at accounts of stoning in the Bible.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second Scripture Verse, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, Verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

Paul on the Road to Damascus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin from those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision, that is just a stones-throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                            The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday: 

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’                  

© February 11, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 11, 2018

Based on a Message shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF on November 28, 2010

BLCF Nov_28_2010 Bulletin

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                                           

Opening  Hymn #398: I Come to the Garden Alone; Choruses                                                                         

Prayers and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings              

Responsive Reading #648 ( A Challenge to Faith – from Hebrews 11 and 12) 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                           

‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service, in the heart of Toronto.

Our lesson today is a study of the ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents: Keeping Faith and Trust in the Master’, taken from Matthew 25:14-30 (ESV):

The Parable of the Talents

14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a]and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents,[b] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Footnotes: a. Matthew 25:14 Or bondservants; also verse 19 b. Matthew 25:15 A talent was a monetary unit worth about twenty years’ wages for a laborer c. Matthew 25:21 Or bondservant; also verses 232630

The ‘Ten Talents’ was number 21 of some 40 Parables that Jesus used during his earthly ministry. Jesus often used parables to help us understand the teachings of His ministry. By definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. These parables of Jesus, found in the three synoptic gospels, or the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, are a key part of the teachings of Jesus, forming approximately one third of his recorded teachings.

What did Jesus talent as mentioned in title of this passage of scripture? A talent was the largest measurement of money in those days. Since a talent was actually a measurement of weight, it did not have a constant value. A talent of gold, for example, would be worth a whole lot more than a talent of bronze. While commentators differ somewhat over the approximate value of a talent in today’s economy, all would agree that it was a large amount of money. Talents were used as a unit of currency, worth about 6,000 denari. Since a denarius was the usual payment for a day’s labor, a talent would translate roughly the value of twenty years of work by an ordinary person.

Why did Jesus give us a parable about treasure and money? In Matthew 10:17-25 (ESV), the Bible says this about Christ’s encounter with a rich young man:

The Rich Young Man

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him,[b] “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Footnotes:a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches b. Mark 10:26 Some manuscripts to one another

In Mark 6:7-9 (ESV) Jesus told his disciples: “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.”

Keep in mind that in the ‘10 Talents’, Jesus presents us with a story that that is a parable. And that by definition, a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Therefore we should not take the events the in the story literally, but as an allegorical lesson to give us insight and understanding to our Lord’s expectations of us. This will allow us to develop a better, richer relationship with our Lord.

Traditionally, the parable of the talents has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the God’s Kingdom. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities (“talents” in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgment.

The poet John Milton was fascinated by the parable (interpreted in this traditional sense), referring to it repeatedly, notably in the sonnet “On His Blindness“:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent, which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He, returning, chide

This interpretation seems to be the origin of the word “talent” used for an aptitude or skill.

There are a number of hymns that mention the parable, notably  John Wesley‘s “Servant of God, Well Done!” which refers to Matthew 25:23 (ESV):

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

Wesley authored the hymn after the death of Anglican Minister George Whitfield,  who helped spread the Great Awakening throughout Britain and the colonies in British North America, being one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally. Whitefield became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because Wesley traveled through all of the American colonies, he drew great crowds and media coverage, being one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Wesley’s hymn begins:

Servant of God, well done!
Thy glorious warfare’s past;
The battles fought, the race is won,
And thou art crowned at last.

This passage is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are actively living out God’s will?

With the help of the Spirit, the Bible is its own interpreter.  We may understand the meaning of this passage from the Scriptures by reading it in context of other scripture on the same or related topics. The key to the passage may be found in Matthew 25:29 (ESV):

29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Jesus used these very same words in the “Parable of the Sower”, found in Matthew 13. We know from that parable that the seed sown is the Bible and the message about ‘The Kingdom’ found in verses 18-23. In the two parables are the ‘Seed Sown’ and the ‘Talent Entrusted‘ appear to be one in the same. In both parables, Jesus speaks taking action to bring an increase in your understanding and knowledge of God in your life by acting on it and putting it to work. This is the great commission. We find more scriptures that refer to knowledge being like money or something of value having been given to us?
In 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (ESV) we read:

13 Follow the pattern of the sound[a] words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 1:13 Or healthy

In Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV), we read:

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

In the ‘10 Talents’, the first two servants undertook to grow what was entrusted to them. They acted with confidence and faith that their endeavors to increase that which was entrusted to them. They had a confidence and assurance of faith that they would be successful in caring for that of value which was entrusted to them.

God expect us to minister to others with the His Spirit providing us with not only confidence and assurance of faith, but also with endurance, as we see in Hebrews 10:35-36 (ESV):

 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

The third servant acted out of fear and misunderstanding of his master and did nothing. His actions were more rooted in fear of the wrath of his master, and lacked a true understanding as to what his Master’s expectations were. Our take away from this is we are to walk with confidence in the Lord, see Ephesians 5:8 (ESV):

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Our Christian walk should be characterized by: faith, wisdom, and awareness of His and the time we have, Ephesians 5:15-17(ESV):

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

And contrary to the notion once saved, always saved, we may lose the promise of salvation if our actions are not in line with what the Lord expects of us. We see this in Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV):

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Consider the usage of the word “Earth” elsewhere in Jesus’ parables. The word earth is always used in reference to a man’s heart. We sow seeds (the Word) in the earth (men’s hearts). Likewise, earth is used in this parable. He who was only given one talent (given one gift) hid it in his heart, afraid to use it for God’s gain, and he lost it.

Sometimes we who claim Jesus Christ as Saviour can behave like the slothful servant in that we may become too comfortable just sitting in the pews only keeping company with other Christians, just praying for each other, talking only to those we know about the goodness of God. While this may be a good start, as we need to fellowship as a body of believers. However, God wants us to get outside of that cozy comfort zone. Like Peter take a step of faith outside the boat, as it were. He has given us each a measure of faith, His Word, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son and presence of the Holy Spirit to empower us, so that we spread the ‘Good News’ about our faith to those whom we do not know. Many who claim to believe, lack the faith in their own God given talents to make a difference in somebody’s life. They say that they just are not gifted to share the gospel in a significant way. This brings to mind The Starfish Story, an abbreviated version of this story may be found on the front page of today’s bulletin. Here is a longer version of the same story:

The Starfish Story, adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

There once was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are entrusted and expected now, and until the day He returns, to reach out to share our faith in Him, to boldly take risks of faith. Our talent of responsibility is to make an investment in someone, other than those we know or with whom we are comfortable, and share our testimony in word and deed. For this our Lord will hold each of us accountable. It is on the basis of this we will be judged.

In this regard, Jesus’ ‘The Parable of the 10 Talents’ is offered as a comparison allegory to the coming of Christ. Christ came and gave us a great gift, through Grace, and then “went away on a long journey.” Christ will come back. How have we responded to the freedom and power given to us through Jesus Christ? Have we cowered in fear or are we actively living out God’s will? For the Great Commission entrusted to us, as good and faithful servants described in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV):

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnotes:a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The choice is ours, as to whether we faithfully trust our Lord and invest what gifts the Master has entrusted to our care. You can make a difference, even if it be to a single starfish or an unsaved soul.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #37: Great Is Thy Faithfulness    

Benediction – (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13): Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.  – Amen