Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour

BLCF: Doing what Jesus would do at BLCF Cafe

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:          

‘Claiming a Blessed Inheritance, by Loving Our God and Our Neighbour’                   

 © May 25, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin May 25, 2014

BLCF: L_O_V_E

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #660

(The New Way of Life – Luke 6); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #450 Jesus, Still Lead On ; Choruses

Scripture Verses: Matthew 25:31-46 and John 12:1-8  

Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV) The Final Judgment

BLCF: HeavenHelSign

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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

John 12:1-8 (ESV) Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

BLCF: Mary_Washing_Jesus_Feet

12 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”

Footnotes: a. John 12:3 Greek litra; a litra (or Roman pound) was equal to about 11 1/2 ounces or 327 grams b. John 12:5 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer c. John 12:7 Or Leave her alone; she intended to keep it

 

BLCF: Cross_-_Your_Prayer_14195433

 

Let us pray…

The last few Sunday’s, we discussed the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The transformation being the change that the Spirit effects.

The first example of the Spirit’s transformation was that which occurred to the disciples, who were locked in an Upper Room fearing for their safety, and then changed into apostles or messengers of the gospel or the message of Jesus. As apostles, they had the courage, direction and words needed to both confidently and courageously share their testimony among the very people who had crucified their Lord; people whom they had previously hid from with fear in that Upper Room, until the resurrected Jesus arrived to give them both his commission to spread his gospel and God’s Holy Spirit to achieve the task.

Another example of the Spirits power to transform or change lives, happened to the Pharisee known as Saul of Tarsus, a zealous Jew and citizen of Rome, whose sole preoccupation was the eradication of believers of a new faith-based religion known as the Way of Christ, known today as Christianity. Saul’s method of eradication involved: the arrest, imprisonment, and usually ending with the violent death to these Christian men and women.

The Lord revealed himself to Saul, who was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, with the intention of persecuting Christians in Damascus. Blinded by the encounter, Saul was healed and baptised by the Holy Spirit at the hands of the Apostle Ananias, at the Lord’s bequest. The Holy Spirit transformed a powerful Pharisee into one of the most outspoken proponents of the message of Christ. As was often the practice of new believers at that time, Saul decided take along with his new faith, a new name which we know today as Paul, an Apostle of the Way of Jesus and Christ’s gospel.

The third example of the influence of the Holy Spirit was with Mary as the mother of Christ. Mary was chosen by God to be mother to the Christ, because of her faith and capacity to nurture and love a child, who was both Son of God and son of man. Mary’s faith and trust was so strong that she neither hid herself with the disciples in Upper Room, nor did she renounce her faith when her son, Jesus, was crucified. It is likely that upon seeing her son’s resurrected by the power of the Spirit, she pondered the miracle in her heart, just as she had done at the time of his birth and when she found her son amongst the elders of the temple, being about his “Father’s business”. Her son demonstrated the same great capacity of love for both his God and his fellow brothers and sisters, by undertaking humanity’s judgement on the cross.

 

BLCF: Spirit-of-power

 

Which brings us two us to today’s Scripture verses: the Lord’s Final Judgment described in Matthew 25 and the account of Mary of Bethany’s anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive oils, from John 12.

At first blush, you might view these two Scriptures as either unrelated or even contradictory. We read that Christ indicates that there will a come a Day of Judgment, where our salvation depends upon each person’s righteousness. That righteousness based upon each person’s capacity to love others, specifically strangers, who are less fortunate, not just by words, but by deeds, as we see in Matthew 25:35-36.  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.’

This expression of love to strangers is such a strange and foreign concept to the self-proclaimed righteous, that they question: when did they ever encounter Christ in such a manner, asking:

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 

The Lord’s response to the self-proclaimed righteous is:

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.’

And to make it clear why the self-proclaimed righteous, or should we say self-righteous, will be condemned more because of their inactions than their actions, the Lord rephrases his previous statement:

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.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

BLCF: Love_Jesus

Phil Collins – Another Day In Paradise Lyrics

Songwriters: COLLINS, PHIL
Another Day In Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing
She calls out to the man on the street
‘Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?’

He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there

Oh think twice, it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, ’cause it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

She calls out to the man on the street
He can see she’s been crying
She’s got blisters on the soles of her feet
She can’t walk but she’s trying

Oh think twice, ’cause it’s another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, think about it

Oh Lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh Lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she’s been there
Probably been moved on from every place
‘Cause she didn’t fit in there

Oh think twice, ’cause another day for you and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise, just think about it, think about it

It’s just another day for you and me in paradise
It’s just another day for you and me in paradise, paradise
Just think about it, paradise, just think about it
Paradise, paradise, paradise

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiUQE5bJKFU&feature=player_embedded[/embed]

There are two interesting illustrations in this passage. We will be judged  and sorted by the Lord, with sinners to the left and saints to the right.

In ancient Rome, a person’s sword hand, referred to as the dexter or the right hand. The left hand was called the sinister. Two people greeted each other by shaking the sword hand, as a gesture of peace and good faith. Normally you could not draw your sword if you are grasping the other’s sword hand.  According to some accounts Julius Caesar, who was assassinated in 44BC,  was stabbed while shaking right hand with his assassin, who stabbed Caesar with a sword held in the sinister or left hand. This is where the old expression “right hand man” being a trustworthy individual, came from. After the Son of God ascended to heaven, he sits at the right hand of God, the father.

The second illustrations, has sinners described as goats and saints as sheep. In the illustration, we have goats with the reputation as stubborn, stiff-necked creatures, often straying from the herd or flock, with a tendency butt-heads or fight to keep their own territory. By contrast, sheep are more obedient to their shepherd, preferring to stay in the herd, and generally are more peaceful in nature.

This passage speaks to the difference in attitude towards faith and God as much as describes judgment and righteousness, with respect to others, particularly strangers and the poor. It is interesting to observe that we are judged as much by our inactions as our actions. By ignoring the less fortunate, we dishonour the Lord and invite his judgment, accordingly. Not doing what is right s just as much a sin as breaking God’s Laws. We should ask ourselves,whatever we do and avoid doing: does it show love to God and does it demonstrate love to others, particularly strangers? If the answer is no, then what we have done or have not done has offended the Lord, and we will be judged by it. The Lord describes those judged as being either goats that are sorted to his left or those sorted to his right, which is the place of the truly righteous.

True righteousness to others is half of the Lord’s expectation of us. The other half being the righteous expression of humility and obedience, when we worship God in prayer. Jesus gave a clear explanation of this expectation in Matthew 6:5-15.

 

Matthew 6:5-15 (ESV) The Lord’s Prayer

BLCF: praying_like_Jesus

 

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.[a]

10 Your kingdom come, your will be done,[b]    

 on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread,[c]

12 and forgive us our debts,     

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation,     

but deliver us from evil.[d]

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.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 6:9 Or Let your name be kept holy, or Let your name be treated with reverence b. Matthew 6:10 Or Let your kingdom come, let your will be done c. Matthew 6:11 Or our bread for tomorrow d. Matthew 6:13 Or the evil one; some manuscripts add For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen

 

BLCF: Pray to God

 

In this passage, Jesus is asked how to pray to God? Jesus answer begins with the importance of praying as a form of worship and fellowship with God, not used as an opportunity for self-promotion of one’s faith or to be used as a speech of empty phrases that may be heard by others. Jesus points out that God knows our needs before we even open our mouths. And, like the judgment of the goats and sheep, what we do not do is important to the Lord. If you do not forgive others, the Lord cannot forgive you!

Jesus indicates that the prayer should acknowledge the power, holiness and authority of God, the Father, both on earth and in heaven. The Lord continues to  indicate a prayer should ask the father for His Spiritual sustenance, or “daily bread”, along with a plea for forgiveness, in proportion to that which we  have given to others. Christ continues by saying prayer should ask for guidance, particularly away from Satan’s temptation. Jesus indicates that a prayer should conclude the same way it was opened, by acknowledging God’s power, holiness and authority.

This helps us to understand today’s second Scripture passage in John 12, where Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus, a man resurrected from the grave by Jesus, demonstrates her respect for the Lord by anointing his feet with an expensive oil and drying them with her hair. Judas Iscariot, who was the money keeper of the disciples, (both figuratively and literally), objects to the use of an expensive oil to anoint Jesus’ feet, saying that its value would be better spent given to the poor. Knowing that Judas was skimming money, and where his heart was towards the Lord, (eventually the disciple would betray him for thirty pieces of silver), Jesus discounted the complaint, saying:

Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.

What the Lord was saying, though it is important to take care of the poor, you should not neglect honoring the Lord, who was to take upon himself the judgment and punishment for the sins of all of humanity.  By this account, it seems that Judas did not catch Christ’s mention of his impending death. The expectation of honouring the Lord is best expressed in Mark 12:28-34, where Jesus gives us his two Commandments, which should also serve as a guide for our faith walk, as believers in the Way of the resurrected Christ.

Mark 12:28-34; 41-44 (ESV) The Great Commandment

BLCF: Love-God_Love-People

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

We must love God with all of our heart, soul and mind; and love our neighbours, as we love ourselves.

What about those who live in poverty? We find an interesting illustration, again from Mark 12, where the Lord honours the sacrifice and offering of a poor widow over the greater contributions given by the wealthy.

 

The Widow’s Offering

BLCF: widowsoffering

41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.[a] 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Footnotes: a. Mark 12:42 Greek two lepta, which make a kodrantes; a kodrantes (Latin quadrans) was a Roman copper coin worth about 1/64 of a denarius (which was a day’s wage for a laborer)

We see that the Lord values the poor widows gift, a true reflection of her trust and faith, than greater sums given by the wealthy.

I would like to conclude today’s message by saying, based on the Scriptures we have just read,  that  it is not how great an offering you give;  or how loudly you pray; or  your concern over what others do to honour God that is important to the Lord. What matters to the Lord is whether our motives to praise him comes as a sincere expression of faith from or a heartfelt expression of love for both him, as well as for others. That is how we become righteous in the eyes of the Lord.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #483: We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations

For our benediction, let us,  I will read 2 Corinthians 13:14, followed by  the printed benediction.

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: benediction

BLCF: blessings

BLCF: Faith_Hope_Love

BLCF: patience

 

 

 

 

 

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Living within God’s New Paradigm of Faith

BLCF: the-cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Living within God’s New Paradigm of Faith’ 

 © April 27, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin April 27, 2014

BLCF: paradigm_shift

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #668

(The New Life – Colossians 3); r of Prayer)) Prayer 

Opening Hymn: #1 Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty                                                                   

Scripture Verses:Genesis 2:5-7, Acts 2:1-4, Acts 2:22-33

 

Let us pray…

Before the time of Christ, because of sin, and in order to worship God, people practiced a religion filled with good works, sacrifices to God for transgressions and communicating to God through such intermediaries as holy prophets or priests. Worship involved performing visible, tangible actions to honour God.

Through Jesus, God reveals His New Paradigm for His relationship with His people. Let us review the definition and usage of  paradigm, let us consult dictionary.com:

par·a·digm /ˈpærəˌdaɪm, -dɪm/ Show Spelled [par-uh-dahym, -dim] noun 

an example serving as a model; pattern. Synonyms:mold, standard; ideal, paragon, touchstone.

 framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community.

such a cognitive framework shared by members of any discipline or group: the company’s business paradigm.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/paradigm

 

BLCF: paradigm-shift-cartoon

 

To  better understand paradigm, let us use some visual aids found in today’s bulletin. In the middle of the  first page, just below the Order of Service are scrabble letters arranged to make the words “paradigm and shift” formed in the shape of a cross. If you look at the illustration one way, you see a term representing a change in way of thinking, at the same time it is set in the shape of the cross, which reminding us of how Jesus removed humanity’s judgement for sin and restoring our souls before God our father.

To the right of the “Paradigm Shift Cross” in the bulletin is a drawing that from one perspective appears to be a woman whose eyes are closed having what appears to be a bad hair day. When viewed differently, the drawing seems to be that of a person in a white parka at the entrance to a dark tunnel or cave.

 

BLCF: parka or face gif

 

On the bottom of the right inside page are a series of other paradigm graphics which can be interpreted to represent one thing or another, depending upon your point of view.

 

BLCF: paradigms                                   BLCF: paradigm_perspective                                   BLCF: paradigmperspectives

 

The first time I walked into this church some years ago,  I had expected to enter a small sanctuary based upon the perspective of the front of the building. The front hallway seemed to support  the expectation that the church being a small space. As you go from the hallway to the narthex, the interior space opens up. Still, you are impressed and surprised at the relatively large size of the sanctuary of the church. Unless you have been informed in advance in regard to the size and appearance of the church, you have to adopt a new paradigm or mindset to comprehend its actual structure.

 

BLCF Church 1

BLCF Church 5

 

As Christians, we are expected to adopt a new paradigm in regard to the Trinity of our God. On the top of the inside of the bulletin, beside the Order of Service header is a graphic representation of the Godhead or Holy Trinity that helps us to understand, as best we can, that God consists of a Father, His Son – Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

BLCF: Godhead_Holy_Trinity

 

Each is distinct from the other, and each is God. Non-Christians may have difficulty accepting this description of the Holy Trinity, even though it is no more a paradigm shift than the world needed to have when they discarded the flat earth paradigm in favour of the world being a round sphere. A similar paradigm shift was required to accept the fact that the sun, moon and stars did not revolve around the earth. Both of these paradigms run contrary to our perception of how we normally observe the world around us.

 

 

BLCF: paradigm-shift

 

Last Sunday, we discussed how Jesus implemented the new paradigm  for humanity’s relationship with God, by removing the stigma for humanity’s sins, by taking upon himself our judgement and punishment. At Christ’s first appearance in the Upper Room, we see in John 20, that he commissioned the disciples, sending them to go forth, as the Father in heaven had sent him. And knowing that he was soon to ascend to heaven, Jesus breathed upon them the Holy Spirit of God to help the  twelve, implement his Commission, which is why we now refer to them as apostles or messengers of Christ. As believers in the resurrected Christ, we too are expected to serve as his apostles.

BLCF: e_the_holy_spirit

 

As messengers of his gospel of forgiveness, sanctification, and following Pentecost, as apostles of Christ, we are also vessels of the Holy Spirit, sharing God’s New Paradigm is the New Covenant, which not only includes salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the promise of our own resurrection. In addition to the New Covenant, we have been given the same Commission we are Christ’s apostles  and therefore given the same assignment given to the twelve in that Upper Room some two thousand years ago: sharing Christ’s gospel unto the ends of the earth.

 

BLCF: trinity_yuyu

 

The most important part of this passage, which all Christians who did not live in the time when Christ walked before his crucifixion should note, are the words that were spoken by Jesus to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

BLCF: Breath returned - Worship

 

Why is there the need for a New Covenant or any Covenant at all? Over the last few weeks, we examined how God created the universe: the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth and all life and had judged it to be good. Then the Creator made the first man from the earth and brought life to him by breathing into his nostrils, “the breath of life”, as we read in Genesis 2:5-7.

 

Genesis 2:5-7 (ESV)

BLCF: breath-of-life

When no bush of the field[a] was yet in the land[b] and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist[c] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 2:5 Or open country b. Genesis 2:5 Or earth; also verse 6 c. Genesis 2:6 Or spring

According to Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were made living creatures, created by God, in His image. And we discussed how both Adam and Eve were beguiled by Satan, posing as a serpent, to break God’s rule “not to eat from the forbidden fruit”, as Satan had promised that they would have the knowledge of God. This was the fall from the grace of God.

 

BLCF: Adam_Eve

 

Following the fall of Adam and Eve, we are aware of Adam and Eve’s judgement to be evicted by God from the Garden of Eden, to suffer death and other hardships for all subsequent generations. In a fit of jealousy, Cain killed his brother, Abel. Eventually sin became so widespread upon the earth that God decided to do a reset by make a Great Flood to destroy all life,  as we read in Genesis 7:21-24.

Genesis 7:21-24 (ESV)

BLCF: s-Chapter-8-A-Dove-Is-Sent-Forth-from-the-Ark

21 And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24 And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.

God’s judgement was to reset His creation back to Day #4, but instead of recreating life, he had Noah construct the Ark to carry the his animals, as well as Noah’s extended family above the flooded world. And like the third day of creation, God parted the land from the sea so that the dwellers of the Ark could begin life anew.

You may note that in both our Scriptures from Genesis that God breathed life into the nostrils of Adam, to make him a living creature, but in Genesis 7:22-23, that the flood had removed the breath of life from everything on dry land, not only people, but “animals, creeping things and birds of the air. From these verses it is safe to infer that God’s breathed life into humanity, animals, creatures and birds.

 

BLCF:-breath_of_god-aa1

 

But Genesis indicates that man and woman were created in God’s own image. We were given a soul. But the soul of humanity, even the descendants of Noah, carry the tarnish of the sin from the Garden of Eden. Through Moses God had brought humanity His laws, but the laws by themselves do not remove the sin. And even Adam and Eve, who had only one law to follow, were tempted to break that law. If I were to post on a wall a sign “ Don’t Touch! – Wet Paint”, how many people would be tempted to challenge the posting a touch the wall?

 

dont-touch-wet-paint

 

 

This is quite a dilemma, because the separation from God is more a result of the guilt and shame of the sinner than a result of God’s desire to be apart from us. And self-loathing can be as harsh a judgement as any.  How is possible for sinners be reconciled with God? God loves his creation and waits for the prodigals to return. But how can the corruption of the sinner’s soul caused by sin be cleansed, so that we may live with God for eternity? The Pharisee, Nicodemus, asked the Lord the same question, which we find in John 3:1-8.

 

John 3:1-8 (ESV) You Must Be Born Again

Nicodemus and Jesus

Nicodemus and Jesus

3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c.John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

 

BLCF: spirit to the people

 

In this passage, Jesus talks about being “born again” in the Spirit. When a baby is born, the first thing it must do is take in a breath of air. The air is unseen, but brings life. And like the air, the Holy Spirit brings new life. This is God’s New Paradigm. Where the Ark built by Noah had preserved the life God created, the Holy Spirit, as a second breath from the Lord, restores the soul. And the only way that we may receive the Holy Spirit is by Way of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which cleansed our souls from the corruption of the soul caused by sin.

That Jesus came and died to remove the death penalty for sin that everyone faces removes the impossible expectation of being perfect and sinless under law, as well as constantly offering sacrifices for sins committed on a regular basis. Architect Richard Buckminster Fuller expressed it very well, when he wrote:

 

BLCF:Richard-Buckminster-Fuller-fighting-change-reality

 

The arrival of the Holy Spirit upon believers as a breath from Christ is first described in John 20:19-23, where the Lord appeared to the disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection.

 

John 20:19-23 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples

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19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time

Before he breathed the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the Lord gave them the great Commission to share his Gospel. Then Jesus breathed upon the now apostles or messengers, the Holy Spirit of God.

 

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The next act of Pentecost occurred again in the same Upper Room, after the Lord had ascended to heaven. Again, the Lord reminded the apostles of his Commission to spread his Gospel unto the ends of the world.in Acts 1:6-9.

 

Acts 1:6-9 (ESV) The Ascension

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So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

The twelve apostles, including Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas, were not the only apostles or messengers of Christ.  For all who receive Christ as Lord and Saviour are also elected as his apostles and are expected to share the good news of his gifts of salvation, resurrection and the Holy Spirit, as we read in Acts 2:1-4.

 

Acts 2:1-4 (ESV) The Coming of the Holy Spirit

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2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

God’s New Paradigm, which is expressed in the gospel of Christ that we as his apostles are instructed to share, is provided in Acts 2:22-33.

 

Acts 2:22-33 (ESV)

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22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[a] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,     

for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;     

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,    

 or let your Holy One see corruption.

28 You have made known to me the paths of life;    

 you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:23 Greek this one

As I shared earlier in this message, the greatest barrier keeping people from God is not from Him, but caused more by our own guilt, shame and remorse. How can one carry Jesus Second Commandment, expressed in Galatians 5:13-14, to love one’s neighbor as oneself if that person is unhappy with his or herself?

 

Galatians 5:13-14 (ESV)

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13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we truly trust in the Lord and the Holy Spirit, trust in the unseen, we have confidence that Jesus will be with us in the Spirit and that we will see him when he returns, John 14:15-21.

 

John 14:15-21 (ESV) Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

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15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be[b] in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

Footnotes: a. John 14:16 Or Advocate, or Counselor; also 14:26; 15:26; 16:7 b. John 14:17 Some manuscripts and is

Therefore, as believers in the resurrected Christ, let us seek to both understand and to live within God’s New Paradigm of Faith, provided by His Son, Jesus. For where the Creator first breathed life into the nostrils of humanity to give us life, Jesus – by way of his sacrifice on the cross – cleansed the souls of humanity, by removing the tarnish of sin, and breathed the breath of the Holy Spirit, making believers vessels of the Spirit. And as vessels of the Holy Spirit, we have the gifts, power and ability to share Jesus’ Gospel, which Jesus gave to all believers, as apostles as a Great Commission.

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Through Jesus, the price and judgment levied upon humanity for sin has been paid in full. God’s New Paradigm, through Jesus, removes humanity’s sin before God and allows humanity to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, in order to share the Lord’s Gospel, and to be cleansed of guilt and shame. This is really God’s vision for out life in Jesus.

 

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Let us pray…

Closing Hymn: #276 In the Stars His Handiwork I See                                                      

Benediction – Romans 15:13:

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

 

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