And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”Luke 4:12 After all God saved the human race and the animals by instructing Noah to construct a man-made ark. Without it all would have perished!
Attention guests and volunteers of the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner. Since January 2008, the BLCF Cafe has not missed serving Wednesday’s dinner to the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto. And as both Christmas Day 2019 and New Years Day 2020 fall on a Wednesday, the BLCF Cafe will serve a holiday lunch from 12 Noon to 2 PM on these days.
– Thanks and blessings from BLCF Cafe.
BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, established in January 2008 and operated under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church, is located at 1307 Bloor Street West, Toronto, just west of Lansdowne Station (on the Bloor West TTC Subway Line). 416-535-9578.
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with the Bread of Life’
© May 27, 2018, by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 13, 2015
Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer
Opening Hymn #14: Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart
Offering & Prayer: Hymn #572 Praise God from Whom All Blessings
Responsive Reading #632: God’s Redeeming Love (John 3 & 1John 4)
Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with The Bread of Life’
Let us pray…
Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service. Remember this Wednesday is our “All For One Fundraiser,” featuring the music of Cold Water Roots, takes place during the BLCF Café Community Dinner. All proceeds from the concert go to feeding the homeless and marginalized at the café. The dinner does not benefit from any government or corporate help or support.
Speaking of feeding the hungry, our lesson today will give us a chance to examine how to ‘Satisfy Your Righteous Hunger with the Bread of Life.’
When we look at today’s two key Scripture verses, which are Exodus 17:1-7 and John 6:22-59, we see two accounts of the People of Israel not only dissatisfied with their lot, actually grumbling about it. I suppose the message could have been given the title: “A Tale of Two Grumblers.” Still, grumbling and quarreling happen amongst members of His Church, though it is not reflective of the Spirit of God.
The first account, from Exodus 17, concerns Moses as prophet and leader of the People of Israel, as he has to deal with not just their complaints of thirst, but also their demands to be provided with water, Exodus 17:1-7 (ESV):
Water from the Rock
17 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 And he called the name of the place Massah[a] and Meribah,[b] because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The People of Israel not only grumbled against Moses (Exodus 17:3), they questioned Moses about the presence of God (Exodus 17:7).
It seems that the People of Israel had lost their faith, in spite of all the miracles of God that they had witnessed, including the 10 Plagues of Egypt, the Pillar of Fire, the parting of the Red Sea, and the manna God sent from heaven to feed them.
Rather than honouring God by prayer and trusting Him in faith, the people began to quarrel with Moses and questioned the presence of God in their midst.
We see that God provided for the needs of His people (Israel), by providing manna to eat and water from the rock at (Mount) Horeb. In honour of the bickering Moses received from his people, he named the place “Massah and Meribah”, the respective meaning of Massah being testing and Meribah being quarreling, as the people had quarreled with Moses and they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
Our second Scripture verse, John 6:22-59, gives us of another account of grumbling and testing by God’s Chosen People, found in John 6:22-59 (ESV):
I Am the Bread of Life
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus[b] said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.
Following the miracle that Jesus had performed, where he multiplied the bread and fish to feed the gathered multitude, a crowd had followed the Lord to Capernaum. Like their forefathers, these Jews sought not because of the miracles performed by God’s supernatural power, but because they hungered for more bread, as we see in John 6:26-27 (ESV):
26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”
Jesus uses his understanding that the crowds have followed him to Capernaum because of hunger for food, rather than to satisfy their spiritual hunger, which is more important.
Jesus speaks of God’s desire to fill his children’s need for the Spiritual sustenance through Jesus, who is described as being “the Bread of Life.”
And like their forefathers, the Jews grumbled. They grumbled about Jesus (John 6:41), refusing to believe or to have faith in the Lord being the true manifestation of the “Bread of Life.” Jesus continues to explain that the only path to God’s salvation and grace is by faith in Jesus as the Son of God, (John 6:55-57).
The anxiety that People of Israel exhibited in Exodus 17 and by their descendants, the Jews, in John 6, were hunger of a worldly and physical nature, for water and bread, respectively. Along with their hunger and thirst, came an anxiety that demonstrated a lack of faith in God. Even after being fed, they would eventually die when their physical lives reached their end, (John 6:58-59).
Those who believed and ate from the eternal bread and water that Christ offered would not die, but live forever, (John 6:53-57).
At times, we often see a similar reaction among guests and some volunteers at the BLCF Café Community Dinner. Over the last ten years of its existence, the BLCF Café has hosted a minimum of 100 guests a night, served by 15 to 20 volunteers. Multiply that number by 52 weeks per year and 10 years, we see that we have a conservative estimate of over 62,000 people attending the dinner.
But, it is not the free dinner or bags of bread being the point of the exercise, any more than the feeding fish and bread to the multitude gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, some of our guests and volunteers see the BLCF Café strictly as serving food to hungry people. The prime reason for the dinner is to serve the good news message found in the Gospel of Christ, Jesus.
The importance of nourishing the Spirit should be a greater priority than the feeding the body. Regardless of how much food we serve, unless the Lord returns, we should expect to eventually die. When our guests consume the Spiritual nourishment that comes from Christ’s sacrifice, we may expect the reward of our own forgiveness from the judgment of our sins; our own resurrection from the grave; and our ascension to join the Lord in heaven.
If we grumble and complain amongst ourselves, we are not demonstrating to the world a love and joy that comes from faith in the Lord to believers in the Resurrected Christ. Rather than complaining and grumbling, we should always rejoice in the Lord as seen in Philippians 4:4-8, which is printed on the back of today’s bulletin:
Rejoice in the Lord always
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
This expression of prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and joy leads to a peace which surpasses all understanding. Our focus should be on the positive aspects of a faith which is pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Seeking these is characteristic of the pursuit of righteousness, which we should be the focus of our attention and which leads us no room for us to grumble. By seeking them, we follow a righteous path and are promised to receive the Lord’s blessing:
Matthew 5:6 and 11 (ESV)
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Let our hunger and thirst be of a righteous in nature, for in this pursuit we cannot find fault in others, as such grumbling is not an expression of Christ-like love and an acknowledgement of the joy that comes from grace of God, by allowing Jesus to be our Lord, Saviour, an example in how we treat others.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #177: Rejoice, the Lord is King
Benediction – (Romans 15:5): 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.
Question: “What is prayer walking? Is it biblical to go on a prayer walk?”
Answer: Prayer walking is the practice of praying on location, a type of intercessory prayer that involves walking to or near a particular place while praying. Some people believe that being close to a location allows them to “pray nearer to pray clearer.” Prayer walks are taken by individuals, groups, and even whole churches. They can be as short as a block or as long as many miles. The idea is to use the five senses—sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—to increase the intercessor’s understanding of prayer needs.
For example, if you walk through your neighborhood looking for things to pray about, you might come across a yard that is extremely untidy and rundown. This might prompt you to pray for the health, both physical and spiritual, of the residents inside. Some groups prayer walk around schools, prompting prayer for the teachers and students inside, for their safety and peace, and for the schemes of the devil in their school to be thwarted. Some people feel they can concentrate and direct their prayers more effectively by walking near the people and places they are praying for.
Prayer walking is a relatively new phenomenon, the origin of which is not clear. There is no biblical model for prayer walking, although since walking was the major mode of transportation in Bible times, clearly people must have walked and prayed at the same time. However, there is no direct command that prayer walking is something we should be doing. To believe that prayers offered in any setting, or while in any position, are more effective than those offered at another time or in another manner is not scriptural. In addition, while we may feel we need to be close to a location or situation to pray more clearly, our heavenly Father, who is everywhere at all times, knows exactly what needs are present and will respond to them in His own perfect will and timing. The fact that He allows us to be part of His plans through our prayers is for our benefit, not His.
We are commanded to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and since walking is something we do daily, surely part of praying without ceasing is praying while walking. God hears all prayers offered by those who abide in Christ (John 15:7), regardless of time, place, or position. At the same time, there certainly is no command against prayer walking, and anything that prompts us to pray is worthy of consideration.
BLCF Cafe Community Dinner serves dinner to upwards of 150 homeless and marginalized men, women and children of all ages every Wednesday evening since January 2008. BLCF Cafe receives no government funding or corporate sponsorship, relying on private donations from semi-annual fundraising events. The Blue Grass / Gospel group Cold Water Roots will play a Benefit Concert at the BLCF Cafe Community Dinner on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 between 6:00PM and 8:00PM, (at the dinner). Come and bring a friend, enjoy an evening of music, song, and dinner at the BLCF Cafe on May 17, 2017, at 1307 Bloor Street West, 1 block south and west of the Lansdowne Subway Station (Bloor Line West). Parking available on St. Helen’s, just west of the church. All proceeds to benefit homeless and marginalized guests of the BLCF Cafe, located in the heart of Toronto.
BLCF Cafe was established in January 2008 by BLCF Church and is run solely under the auspices of Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church. BLCF Cafe Community Dinner serves dinner to over 150 homeless and marginalized people every Wednesday evening,(over 7,500 annually). If you or your group are interested in helping the cause of feeding the homeless in the heat of Toronto, contact us: BLCF Phone: 416-535-9578 BLCF email: firstname.lastname@example.org * BLCF Web Page: http://www.blcfchurch.ca
Most of us have heard the Chinese Proverb: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’
Sandwich runs and to a lesser degree Food Banks offer scant opportunity to fellowship with or establish a meaningful dialogue with the homeless and marginalized. Both can make it awkward and embarrassing to those on the receiving end of a sandwich or food from a relative stranger. This can be a great stumbling block to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the ‘volunteer’ may appear condescending or patronizing to a homeless or marginalized person.
It is extremely difficult to share how faith in Jesus’ sacrifice allows all to be equal in the eyes of God, especially if they find out that volunteers are paying a fee to give a sandwich to them! At the cafe, there are no fees required to volunteer.
BLCF Cafe Community Dinner guests, who are the homeless and marginalized, are treated with dignity and respect, served a warm meal with music, and fellowship. These conditions are perfect for meaningful dialogue and to establish friendships as a launching point to witness as equals at the same dinner table.
A short testimony and shared scripture are given as the dinner’s second course, served between the main and dessert. Over time, our guests develop an appetite and appreciation for spiritual sustenance as much as the dinner served at the cafe.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit some of our guests now help to serve others at the dinner, giving of themselves, showing that they have learned to become fishermen/women and embracing the Mission Statement BLCF Cafe Community Dinner:
‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
– Matthew 25:40.
A number of our guests have made a decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, which demonstrates how marvelous and great the work of the Lord is when we trust him to transform a simple function as serving and sharing a community dinner into a meeting of faith and worshiping of our Lord. Many returning guests feel that the community is their church meeting. Jesus knew what He was doing when he fed the multitude as He shared His message on the mount.
Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Works of Faith’ & the ‘Royal Law’ as Elements of ‘The Great Commission’
© September 18, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 28, 2013
Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading 622; Prayer
Opening Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark, Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46; 5:43-48; 16:27; 1 John 4:11-12
Let us pray…
Good morning and what a glorious demonstration of the awareness God’s love and His presence is expressed in our opening hymn, ‘It Only Takes a Spark’. The author was inspired by verse from 1 John 4:11-12 (ESV):
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
Both the verse and hymn reveal important aspects of the believer’s faith walk. Verse 11 of 1 John 4 implores Christians to love one another in the same manner as God loves us. Remember for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for our salvation, even though we are unworthy of such an expression of love. Verse 12 reminds us that though God remains unseen, by loving one another, we receive God’s presence by way of the Holy Spirit. And the love of God is perfectly expressed in us when we share that love with others and God. Remember that Jesus taught us that the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the people of Israel, our Lord indicated may be expressed as two simple commandments: one is love to God, the second being love to one another. Together, these two commandments often referred to as the Royal Law as we read in Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV):
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Note that we are not instructed to just love our family, to love only friends or to express our love solely to other believers. There is a common expression of someone who is ‘preaching to the choir’, in other words restricting the expression of our love and ministry solely to other believers. That is not what Jesus had in mind when he issued the Great Commission, just before ascending to Heaven, Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 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 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.”
You may recall that Jesus taught his disciples not only by his Holy Words but by his example. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to teach the disciples humility and awareness that we are messengers of God, and we must teach others as servants of God. This falls in line with how our Lord ministered to those who were considered outcasts not even permitted to worship in the temple: a prostitute, a blind man, a cripple and even the criminal crucified beside Jesus. Associating with any of these outcasts was not permitted by Jewish laws. Note that neither the Ten Commandments nor the Royal Law from Jesus, instruct believers to shun or to avoid associating with non-believers or those judged to be sinful because of an affliction or criminal past. In fact, by avoiding non-believers, how can one make disciples of all nations, not just the nation of Israel and not just to make disciples other believers in Christ? The Christian Way was not intended to be an exclusive club or organization, The Way describes an inclusive faith that is to be made available to everyone throughout our world. We are to preach and teach the Way of Jesus both by action and in word to all whom we encounter.
The Lord’s Commission issued before his Ascension will be subject to a Final Judgement by Jesus on His return, as we read in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) entitled: The Final Judgment:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
This judgment, also known as the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, expresses the Lord’s warning that it is not enough just to confess sins and say that Jesus is your savior, to be judged righteous by Him. It is our attitude towards those whom we may tend to avoid: the homeless, the sick, the destitute, criminals, and strangers than counts. We are instructed not only to associate with them but to care for them. For by caring for the least of these, we demonstrate our love of God, by following Jesus’ example. If we shun them, even though we may claim our behavior righteous, we will suffer the same judgment as will the devil and the fallen angels: eternal fire as a punishment. This verse indicates that faith is more than solely performing acts of charity. Faith is how we express our love to our Lord, by loving those whom many of society may despise.
This attitude expression of Christian faith is reinforced in James 2, where the Lord views holding a negative bias towards others as a sin as we see in James 2:1-13 (ESV) The Sin of Partiality:
1My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
By judging others to be not worthy of our attention or love, we bring the same judgment down upon ourselves.
So, if I volunteer to help out at BLCF Cafe Community Dinner, so that I may brag about it others or because I believe that I am better than some or all of the guests or other volunteers, I am committing the sin of partiality over others and defying God’s will and purpose for His followers.
It may surprise some that by expressing just a biased or partial attitude against another; we have broken God’s law and are subject suffer the same judgment given if we had murdered another person. We cannot twist God’s rules to suit our desires, Adam and Eve already made that mistake.
But one may argue, isn’t faith just a belief and as such expressed in prayers, blessings, and good words to others? That is all we need to do to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right? We find the answer in the rest of James 2:14-26 (ESV) entitled Faith Without Works Is Dead:
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
While salvation is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. This does not mean that a believer’s faith cannot be without an expression of works. The so-called believers who gave God’s blessing, only, to those in need when they can give more, will be judged the same as if they have rejected God, just as Satan had rebelled against His authority.
The third verse teaches that that Christians should embrace others outside the faith, that is to show the love of Christ to those who are not brothers and sisters in Christ is found in Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV) entitled Love Your Enemies:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
What these verses allude to, is the danger of performing actions of faith with a design to promote ourselves or from a motivation of fear of punishment, rather than out of love and respect for God and others. After all, this was the mistake of Adam and Eve, who sinned seeking to elevate themselves to the same level as God, by eating the forbidden fruit. A prideful disregard of God’s instructions had very bad consequences for them. Acts of selfless love to strangers, our enemies and the undeserving, as Christ did for each of us on Cross at Calvary, is the only way to assure our own forgiveness and salvation. This is as much a change in attitude, as it is behavior that is needed in order for us to become righteous in the Lord’s eyes. And we know that judgment will come. Matthew 16:27 (ESV):
27For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Therefore as followers and believers in the Resurrected Christ, it is good to reflect upon what we do and say, and why? Are our words and deeds done out of a desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to all we meet? Or are we motivated by a need to promote ourselves above others, perhaps to the same level of God, as did Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden? Our answer to each of these questions will indicate what judgment we may expect from the Lord on that final day and demonstrate how much we have allowed the Holy Spirit to transform ourselves in our faith walk.
Fortunately, if our actions are selfish rather than selfless, it is not too late to change our ways and seek to demonstrate His love to others, especially to those whom we dislike or despise. For if God loved us to sacrifice His son for us. who have offended Him through sin, surely we can demonstrate Christ-like love and forgiveness to those who offend us. Let us seek a revival in our own personal faith walk, by walking in the footsteps of Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #358: We Praise Thee, O God
Benediction (Romans 15:5-7): 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. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
You’re Invited: BLCF Church Potluck Picnic, following this Service at St. Helen’s