Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

© November 5, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 5, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                            

Opening Hymn #288: Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me                                                   

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

Responsive Reading #624: The Great Commission                                                                                                   (-from Matthew 28, Luke 24, Acts 1, and Mark 16)                 

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                                                               ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’

Let us pray…

Welcome to our Sunday morning Praise and Worship Service in the heart of Toronto, at BLCF. This Saturday is Remembrance Day, where at the 11th hour of the 11th day of 11th month we will take a moment of silence and reflection to honor the sacrifice of those men and women who fought to give us the gifts of democracy and freedom in Canada.

While the sacrifice of brave soldiers gave us a period of peace and freedom, the ‘war to end all wars’ has been followed by other wars and conflicts, demonstrating that the rewards of these battles are fleeting at best. While a war may end a conflict, the sinful nature of humanity is such we have but a brief reprieve from the next conflict we find ourselves involved in. Unfortunately, it seems that eventually in time another conflict comes along, and we are called again to defend the freedom and principles that we hold so dearly.

Our lesson today, entitled ‘Following the Lord and Keeping His Grace by Love and Faith’,  we will look at a different type of sacrifice made on our behalf, by Christ Jesus, to rid ourselves permanently of the death penalty, which is humanity’s judgment for sin. We will examine an example how the account of Peter’s denial of the Lord demonstrates the Lord’s promise that he will never leave or forsake us, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

Let us look at how fear and the instinct for self-preservation can cause us to act quite contrary to the way we think we would, under certain circumstances where our own health and safety are threatened, as was the case with the disciple, Peter, in Matthew 26:31-35 (ESV):

31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Though Peter is quite adamant about his loyalty to the Lord, fear can displace the courage of his convictions, Matthew 26:69-75 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

It is interesting that Jesus knew that Peter, the disciple who Jesus had described as the rock upon which he would build his church, would deny Christ three times. The denials would occur immediately after Jesus had instructed the disciples in the practice of communion, an observance that was to be maintained after his crucifixion, until the day he returned from heaven. Though Peter’s denials threatened the establishment of the church with the cloud of sin, it appeared that Jesus would give the disciple an opportunity to atone and reconcile with the Lord,  at a future time.

Fortunately, the Lord knows the true nature of our hearts, and Jesus’ capacity to grant us unconditional love and forgiveness, when he died for our sins on the cross. God has a plan for us, and He will not allow our fears and doubts to dissuade us from achieving His intended goal. Though the disciples’ fear had caused them to lock themselves in the Upper Room, Jesus returned to bring them the Peace of the Spirit and hope, so that they may have the courage to undertake the Great Commission of bringing the truth of the Gospel of Christ to the world, as we see in John 20:19-29 (ESV):

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 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.”

Jesus and Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[b] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

It should be noted that while Peter displays fear by his denial of any knowledge of Christ, all of the disciples show a similar fear by locking themselves in the Upper Room.

While the disciples are visited by their Lord, now resurrected, and have received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, Thomas, who was absent from the Upper Room when Jesus first visited, refuses to believe the testimony of his fellow disciples. Eight days later, the Lord returns to restore Thomas with the same peace and belief in seeing his Jesus resurrected, bearing the marks of his crucifixion.

Jesus revealed that he knew of his impending death and predicted that Peter would three times deny knowing the Lord would fulfill the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7 (ESV):

The Shepherd Struck

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
    against the man who stands next to me,”
declares the Lord of hosts.

“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered;
    I will turn my hand against the little ones.

Jesus spoke to Peter, (in Matthew 26:31-35), of his pending betrayal, death, and resurrection, Peter wept bitterly, no doubt guilty and ashamed at his inability to stand at the side of his Lord on the evening of his arrest. By using  some table fellowship, Jesus wanted to give Peter the opportunity to confess and be forgiven of his denial of  having known Jesus, as described in John 21:4-19 (ESV):

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards[a] off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Footnotes: a. John 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters

When Peter heard that Jesus had arrived to visit the disciples for a third time since his resurrection, the disciple threw himself into the sea, an indication of the disciple’s guilt and shame.

The Lord  demonstrates his love for Peter, by asking the disciple three times whether or not he has love for Jesus, one for each of the three times Peter had denied Christ. Peter responds three times to Jesus by confessing his love for the Lord. It is after hearing the third acknowledgement from Peter, that Jesus indicates all is forgiven, by telling Peter the nature of the disciple’s death, which would be to the glory of God. The Lord then instructs the disciple to follow him. Peter is now ready to resume the role of being the rock of Christ’s Church, which will come on the Day of Pentecost, along with the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit to the faithful assembled in the Upper Room.

Jesus who is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, knew Peter would deny him, but the Lord gave the disciple the prediction immediately after instructing the disciples on the significance of the observance of Communion. Not only did the Lord know Peter, who was to be the foundation rock of the Church, Jesus knew the disciple would show contrition by acknowledging his love for Jesus three times.

We see that at Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me”, once for each time Peter had denied the Lord, to which the disciple replied, “Yes”. And after the affirmations Jesus spoke, “Feed my lambs” after the first; “tend my sheep” after the second; and “feed my sheep” after my sheep” after the third, indicating that Peter was forgiven and reinstated to assume the responsibilities of rock of Christ’s church, who Jesus describes as lambs or sheep. Peter is to tend or take care of and feed with The Word, the body of believers, whereby the Lord concludes by instructing the disciple to “follow me’”

After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared three times to the disciples, each for a specific reason. The first was a proof of his resurrection and to restore peace to the ten disciples locked in the Upper Room. The second was to revisit the locked Upper Room in order to restore faith of Thomas. And the third visit was to bring forgiveness and reconciliation to Peter. Truly, Jesus will never leave of forsake us!

Let us pray…

Communion – Matthew 26:30-35 (-see Lord’s Supper, below)

Matthew 26:26-35 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Closing Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again

Benediction – (Ephesians 6:23-24):

Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

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Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace

BLCF: faith_in_God

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trust and Faith in the Lord: Our Keys to Hope, Joy and Peace’

© May 17, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin May 17, 2015

BLCF: hope_joy_peace 

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #601(Faith and Confidence – Psalm 27); Prayer

Opening Hymn #235:  “What Must I Do?” Choruses

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers

Today’s Scriptures: Psalm 91:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58, John 20:19-29

BLCF: i_believe

 

Let us pray…

For our lesson today May 17, 2015, with Pentecost Sunday just one week away, I would like to discuss the disciple of Jesus who, thanks to a short passage of the Scriptures, been tagged with the unfortunate moniker of a doubter or skeptic. As you have likely guessed, I am talking about Thomas or Didymus, which means “the twin”, who we more commonly refer to as: “Doubting Thomas.” Thomas comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic root which means “the twin.” Didymus is from the Greek and also means “the twin.” It is likely that Thomas was born as a twin hence the unusual nickname.

But the skeptical response by Thomas to the his fellow disciples, as described in the following Scripture in John 20, verses 19-29, helped to earn him the unfortunate title as doubter:

John 20:19-29 (ESV) Jesus Appears to the Disciples

 BLCF: resurrected

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.”

Jesus and Thomas

BLCF: Incredulity of St Thomas

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,[b] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Footnotes: a. John 20:19 Greek Ioudaioi probably refers here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, in that time b. John 20:24 Greek Didymus

To be clear our terminology, I will refer to what I commonly “Wikibits.” So what is meant by the term “skeptic,” often applied to Thomas?

Dictionary.com: skeptic – noun

  1. A person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual.
  2. A person who maintains a doubting attitude, as toward values, plans, statements, or the character of others.
  3. A person who doubts the truth of a religion, especially Christianity, or of important elements of it.

 

Both the secular and Christian community, make frequent use of the term “Doubting Thomas,” in reference to Jesus’ disciple. Another idiom associated with Thomas, is “Seeing is believing.”

 

Wikibits: Seeing is Believing

BLCF: Augustine-Of-Hippo-faith-reward

Seeing is believing is an idiom first recorded in this form in 1639 that means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. It is the essence of St. Thomas‘s claim to Jesus Christ, to which the latter responded that there were those who had not seen but believed. It leads to a sophistry that “seen evidence” can be easily and correctly interpreted, when in fact, interpretation may be difficult.

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

The Scripture Verses, featured in today’s lesson and printed in this morning’s bulletin, talk about how important belief, trust and faith are, in our faith walk, as believers in the Resurrected Christ.

The first Scripture, taken from Psalm 91, verses 1-6, we see that trust and faithfulness used interchangeably, describing a mutual regard between a believer and God. Just as we are faithful to God, He is faithful to us:

Psalm 91:1-6 (ESV) My Refuge and My Fortress

BLCF: Psalm_91_1-6

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High     

will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say[a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,     

my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler     

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his pinions,     

and under his wings you will find refuge;     

his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,     

nor the arrow that flies by day,

nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,     

nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

The next Scripture passage in the bulletin is Matthew 13, verses 53-58, describes how our Lord was rejected, in spite of his wisdom and miracles, because of the “unbelief” among many of the people in his hometown of Nazareth:

Matthew 13:53-58 (ESV) Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

BLCF: Jesus-preaching-at-synagogue-at-nazareth

53 And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

While John 20:19-29 does describe the doubts of Thomas, who was absent when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples in the Upper room on the day of his resurrection, the Lord did show the disciples the very same wounds that Thomas asked to see, as well as breathing the Spirit into the disciples, to help them understand the significance of what they were witnessing.

While Thomas was skeptical of the Lord, when he first encountered Jesus, he was by no means the only disciple to have doubts on that day. Let us look at a passage of Scripture, not found in some of the earlier manuscript’s:

Mark 16:9-20 (ESV) Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

[Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9–20.][a]

BLCF: Jesus_appears_to_Mary_Magdalene

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

Jesus Appears to Two Disciples

BLCF: road_to_Emmaus

12 After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission Matthew 28:16-20

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]

Footnotes: a. Mark 16:9 Some manuscripts end the book with 16:8; others include verses 9–20 immediately after verse 8. At least one manuscript inserts additional material after verse 14; some manuscripts include after verse 8 the following: But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after this, Jesus himself sent out by means of them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation. These manuscripts then continue with verses 9–20

In Mark 16, verses 9-20, the remaining eleven disciples demonstrated the same level of doubt and skepticism towards Mary and the two disciples on the Emmaus Road, when they had reported seeing Jesus on the day of his resurrection. And like, Thomas, the eleven were rebuked for their unbelief.

Our previous Upper Room account of the Resurrected Jesus appearing before the Eleven Disciples in John 20:19-29 does not give a reason why Thomas was absent. The diciples had cloistered themselves in the Upper Room because they feared that the angry mob would crucify them as they had the Lord. Whatever the reason for Thomas’ absence, whether it was to get food for the disciples or to attend to the needs of others, it was important enough for him to risk his own personal safety while the other disciples chose to stay behind a bolted door. We do know that the reason Thomas left the the safety of the Upper Room, it was not for doing something nefarious, as was the case of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. The Mark 16 account has the Lord returning specifically for the assurance of Thomas, so that the disciple would believe. In the John 20 account Jesus gave a mini-Pentecost, breathing upon the eleven the Holy Spirit which gave them the power of the Spirit and to understand the Lord’s purpose.Thomas being absent did not receive the Spirit at that time. The Lord’s prerequisite to receive the Holy Spirit is that a convert demonstrates faith in the Jesus, which Christ ensured by his returning to the Upper room to reveal himself to Thomas. This was an act of both compassion and faith by the Lord, and shows us that he would not leave any of his sheep behind.

Unfortunately, Thomas bears the brunt of the blame for his skepticism towards the others’ news of the Lord’s resurrection, which overshadows the ministry that Thomas performed in spreading the Gospel of Christ, which is the “The Great Commission” given by Jesus to all the disciples. In the sharing of the Gospel, the disciples became apostles or messengers of Christ. Here is a brief summary of work of the Apostle Thomas, which is really germane to his work:

BLCF: St_Thomas_Apostle

Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to the New Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have travelled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, travelling as far as India.[2][5][6][7] According to tradition, the Apostle reached Muziris, India in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places.[citation needed] In 1258, some of the relics were brought to Abruzzo in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle.[8] He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India,[9][10] and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

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

I feel that by focusing on an account which describes Thomas as having some doubts, which were no more severe than that exhibited by the other disciples, instead of his service in spreading the Gospel as far east as India, we do the apostle a disservice.

The New Testament is full of accounts describing the disciples as having doubts or lapses of faith, particularly before receiving the Holy Spirit. But the work that the disciples, now as apostles or messengers of the Gospel, was accomplished by them, even to the point of their own deaths, is far more significant to the Christian Church of believers, The Apostle Thomas is included as an important contributor to the Great Commission  given to all believers in Jesus, as Lord and Savior.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine

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.

BLCF: believe-without-seeing