Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Christ’s Church: It Speaks Boldly and Believes with Unity of Heart and Soul’

©March 2 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin March 2, 2014

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #634

(Christian Unity – John 10 and 17, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4); r of Prayer); Prayer

Opening Hymn #171: Thine Is the Glory, Risen, Conquering Son; Choruses

Scripture Verses: Exodus 32:21-24 and Acts 4:23-33   

    BLCF:1_Corinthians_12_13        

                                                           

Let us pray…

“The devil made me do it.” Any of us who lived through the 1970’s may recall the comedian Flip Wilson, who coined this popular catch phrase used whereby any mistake would be blamed upon the devil.

Psychologist use the term “projection” for a form of denial of the truth, by placing the blame or responsibility for an unacceptable attribute(s) upon others.

Here is our Wikibits explanation of the term:

Psychological projection was conceptualized by Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) in the 1900s as a defense mechanism in which a person unconsciously rejects his or her own unacceptable attributes by ascribing them to objects or persons in the outside world.[1] For example, a person who is rude may accuse other people of being rude.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

 BLCF: Flip-Wilson-Superstar

As to what may have inspired Flip Wilson in blaming the devil for actions or words which might offend others, we see this phrase strikes a harmonic chord among those familiar with the Scriptures. There are numerous examples in the Bible, which describe an individual attributing sinful or evil behaviour as being the fault of others. I have listed a few of the more familiar one in today’s bulletin.

The first example comes from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, verses 11-13:

Genesis 3:11-13 (ESV)

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11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

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God finds Adam and Eve have covered their nakedness, and asks: “Who told you that you were naked?” Such awareness could only come from eating from the forbidden fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

Adam blames Eve, and even God for giving him Eve to be with him, by replying: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate”, also implying innocence on his part. If you read Genesis, Chapter 3, you will see that Adam was present when the devil, disguised as a serpent, and tempted Eve with eating the forbidden fruit by saying in doing so she would become wise as God. Adam heard the whole conversation between Eve and the devil, and knew that the fruit that Eve had given was from the tree that God said was forbidden to eat.

And when God asks Eve, “What have you done?” we see that Eve responds, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” In other words, “The devil made me do it.” Both Adam and Eve gave responses which betrayed their sin, since they had acquired an awareness of right and wrong, by the clothes they now felt compelled to wear, and by the blaming others for their transgression.

Our second example comes from Genesis, Chapter 4, where Cain, jealous over his brother, Abel’s offerings to God, slays him:

Genesis 4:9-11 (ESV)

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Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.

Again, we see this sinful tendency in humanity demonstrated by the actions of Cain, who after killing his brother, hid from God and then falsely told God that he does not know where Abel is. He even makes the sarcastic rhetorical response to the Lord, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Our third example comes from Exodus, Chapter 32, verses 21-24, when Aaron tries to blame his actions of first blaming “the people”, indicating that “they are set on evil.”

Exodus 32:21-24 (ESV)

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21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”

Aaron does not acknowledge the sin or his involvement, indicating that “evil people made me do it.” Sounds a little like: “The devil made me do it.”

What make matters worse after committing, is to blame sinful behaviour upon someone else. Now we have two sins to confess: the initial sin and then the bearing false witness by blaming the sin someone else, even as n the case of Adam and Eve, the devil did his best to induce them into sin.

God not only wants us to avoid sin, but when sin happens to confess and acknowledge our sins. Remember, God has already projected the guilt of our sins upon His Son, Jesus, who paid the penalty for those sins, with his life. In effect, we have no excuse to not confess our sins.

And as in the account of the golden calf, God wants us to acknowledge Him for what he provides, whether it is freedom from slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt or the gifts of the Spirit. By acknowledging the powers and gifts we receive from God, particularly through Jesus Christ: salvation, sanctification, the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life, we are drawn closer to Him..

By accepting Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit, believers become united through the Spirit into a “body of believers.”

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An account that is in contrast the above accounts of sinners compounding their sinful behaviour by denying God’s authority and not confessing their sins,  is that involving  the apostles, Peter and John,   who used faith and the Spirit’s power to  heal a lame beggar, as described in Acts Chapter 3, verses 1-16:

Acts 3:1-16 (ESV) The Lame Beggar Healed

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3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico

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11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

Footnotes: a. Acts 3:1 That is, 3 p.m. b. Acts 3:13 Or child; also verse 26 c. Acts 3:16 Greek him

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Not only is the healing by faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, but it allows the lame man to join with the body of worshippers inside the temple. You see, in those times anyone with a physical impairment was not permitted to enter the temple, as their impairment was considered God’s punishment for a sin by the individual or by his or her ancestors. The beggar, having been healed of his affliction, is for the first time in his life to enter the temple and join the body of the church or body of believers and to worship inside the temple. Christ intended for all people to worship together in a unified Spirit, regardless of  their physical condition. For through Christ, all who believe and confess become acceptable unto God and become a part of His church.

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This healing, as well as others, where the disciples acknowledged  the resurrected Christ as Lord, by whom they had been given the power of the Holy Spirit, had angered the leaders of the temple,  resulting in the arrests of Peter and John not once, but twice!  On one occasion, the two are freed by the words of Peter as he is guided by the Spirit. And the second occasion, John and Peter are freed from prison by an angel of God, who instructs them to continue sharing the Lord’s gospel.

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After the two arrests, we see that the disciples pray not for their personal safety, but for the Spirit’s guidance and influence for courage to continue to praise and glorify God, and to acknowledge the gifts through his Son, Jesus. Acts, Chapter 4, verses 23-33:

Acts 4:23-33 (ESV) The Believers Pray for Boldness

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23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[a] said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’[
b]

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants[c] to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

BLCF: United by the Holy Spirit

They Had Everything in Common

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32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Footnotes: a. Acts 4:25 Or child; also verses 27, 30 b. Acts 4:26 Or Christ c. Acts 4:29 Greek bondservants

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We see a choice between two contrasting paths that we may take.

One choice is to be like Adam, Eve, Cain and Aaron, is to drift away from God towards sin and then make matters worse by not confessing those sins, instead placing blame on others.

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The other choice is to draw closer to God, by confessing our sins and then accepting God’s path for forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Then, we may pray that the Spirit will give us the courage to boldly witness the gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the world, which is our Commission as believers in the Resurrected Christ. For just in the days of Adam and Eve, Cain and Aron, and the disciples of Christ, we see that those without faith exhibit a Godlessness in their behaviour, 2 Timothy, Chapter 3, verses 1-5:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV) Godlessness in the Last Days

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3 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

BLCF: God's One Way

We should avoid the influence of Godlessness people, but we should be bold in our courage to witness the gospel of Jesus, for the sake of their salvation. Let us pray to God, as a body of the church of believers, united in Spirit, for a unity of purpose and boldness of Spirit, in the name of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #204: There’s a Quiet Understanding

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Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (The Last Supper – Mark 14)

Benediction – ( Romans 15:5-6):

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

BLCF: may-the-God-of-hope-fill-you-withl-joy-peace

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Deception, Disobedience and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent

BLCF: garden_of_eden

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Deception, Disobedience and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent’

© April 21, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2013

Let us pray…

Good morning. For the lesson last Sunday, we briefly reviewed the significant events that occurred in Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, ending with the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  The message focussed on the events that took place in the Upper Chamber or Room and last but not of least importance, the significance of Pentecost and the Great Commission.

In Today’s lesson, we will take a look at both the reasons for, and the importance of, God’s Salvation Plan through Jesus Christ, and hopefully see how His plan of salvation will restore access to Paradise to all who believe. Paradise is an Old Iranian term for a walled garden. It is a higher or better place than our current existence.

 

garden-of-eden

In order to better understand salvation, let us talk about sin in general, but specifically what is often described as the ‘original sin’.

When people talk about committing a sin, it is usually in some reference to a violation of the Mosaic Laws, which we commonly call ‘The Ten Commandments’. These were the Laws God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai to people of Israel. Jesus later simplified the ten to two, loving God with all your heart, mind and soul; and loving your neighbor as yourself. But the ‘original sin’ happened back in the Garden of Eden, before Moses, before the ministry of Jesus and is described in Book of Genesis.

We begin in Genesis 1:26-29 (ESV), with the creation, and how Adam was created and given dominion or charge over all creatures on the land, sea and air:

26 Then God said, “Let us make man[a] in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Footnotes: Genesis 1:26 The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam

Temptation in the garden

Satan, Eve and the Forbiddeen Fruit

So with the responsibility for the flora and fauna, God gave Adam one caveat; one item to beware of, which we might say one rule or law. We see this described in Genesis 2:15-17 (ESV):

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[a] of it you shall surely die.”

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:17 Or when you eat

original_sin

Because Adam’s descendents today know, or should understand what is good, from what is evil, or right from wrong, we could understand how a rule might be broken. If you doubt what I am saying, just put a “Wet Paint Do Not Touch Sign’ on a door or wall and watch how many people will touch it to see if it is actually wet, a sign (no pun), of our sinful nature. But, when God gave the commandment, Adam and Eve were innocent of this type of thought and had to be tricked or fooled into doing something which would judged as challenging the authority of God. That is where Lucifer, also known as Satan or the devil, the original rebel who fell from God’s Grace by challenging His authority, enters the picture, as we read in Genesis 3 (ESV),entitled appropriately, The Fall:

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

                       

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,  cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

20 The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Masaccio_Adam_and_Eve_detail

Satan had enticed both Eve and Adam to break God’s rule, and in doing so challenging the Creator’s authority by telling Eve, as well as Adam who was with her, (see  verse 6), that by eating the fruit, they would become like God, having knowledge or understanding like God of good from evil, and by assuring them that they would not suffer death as God had warned. Because of the alluring appearance of the fruit, and possibly because of a naive belief that being similar to God would bring them closer to God, when just the opposite is true, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Having eaten the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve had their eyes open and became fully aware of the significance of breaking God’s rule. Now it seems that they likely realized how Satan, disguised as a serpent, desired to have them to challenge God’s authority, and to fall from His Grace.

This is the crux, or central point, of the ‘original sin’  is not so much the act of breaking God’s rule, but more the attituded inherint in a challenge to His authority. This sin caused a rift between Adam and Eve. Because of God’s concern that this pair of rebels might eat from the ‘tree of life’ giving power of eternal life to those who had already chose to follow the directions from Satan to challenge His authority, Adam and Eve were evicted from Paradise.

But God loves his creation and desires that the human race have an opportunity to be reconciled to His Grace. Consuming the forbidden fruit lead to our fall from God’s Grace, and the knowledge of the difference between good from evil brought pain and guilt for such actions.

God’s simple solution was to remove the judgement of sin, through Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins, taking upon Himself the judgement and punishment of death, and providing through the resurrection, the assurance that God’s death penalty eliminated.  A pardon from the judgement and penalty for our sinful nature. So believers, who confess their sins, and admit to a sinful nature, and who decide to follow Jesus, are forgiven their sins and granted the promise of salvation, the gift of the Holy Spirit, as well as the assurance of their own resurrection from the grave, as we see in Romans 6:20-23 (ESV):

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.     21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We see that Jesus’ resurrection assures us of Jesus’ power over death, but what about the sinner and our return to Paradise. Some scholars argue that Paradise or the Garden of Eden in Book of Genesis is just a parable for the state of grace and not an actual physical place. I would argue that Moses, who most Biblical scholars agree, authored Genesis did not use parables in his writings.  This would allow us to conclude that the Garden of Eden, God’s place of Paradise created for Adam and Eve is an actual place. Jesus spoke of Paradise in the scriptures, a place for sinners who confess sin and ask for  forgiveness through Jesus may receive it, while being given the assurance of the resurrection, the company of the Lord in Paradise, in Luke 23:39-43 (ESV):

39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

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And in addition to asking forgiveness from God, we must forgive those who trespass against us. This example of agreeing to follow the two commandments of Jesus in order to be fully right with the Lord, Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV):

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Remember, that the foundation of our faith in the power of God, is a trust and belief in His promises and abilities. To nonbelievers, such actions of faith seems to be just nonsense, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) entitled: Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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And if we choose not to turn away from Satan’s promptings; to ignore God’s authority, we remain locked in to sin and doomed to suffering and death. As beings, capable knowing right from wrong, and therefore having the ability to choose between the good, righteous path for ourselves, or the leading of Satan, God has given us control or dominion over our destinies. We may choose to continue along Satan’s way of rebellion and with Satan suffer judgement and death. Or, we may choose the Way of Jesus, confessing our sins, admitting to our sinful nature, accepting the gift and leadership of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to lead us on the righteous path. Christ said that we must not seek to elevate ourselves or others amongst ourselves to the same level as God which we read in Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV):

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Salvation from judgement

So by following the Way of Christ, we renounce the desire to be equal with God or to forsake His authority. We must choose to serve God as His servant, humbled, as Jesus had taught when he washed the disciples’ feet just before Christ’s crucifixion. We must pledge our obedience to God. As believers, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us keep our faith to the Lord on the right track and to keep us on the righteous path to Paradise and avoid the consequences of sin.

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Let us pray…

Benediction (Hebrews 13:20-21):  Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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