Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness’

© June 24, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin June 24, 2018

Based on a Message shared at BLCF on September 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2013

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn: #32: How Great Thou Art; Choruses

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

Responsive Reading #605: Prayer of Penitence (Psalm 51)

Message by Stephen Mickelson:                                                                                                                           

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness ’

 

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to our Praise and Worship service at BLCF Church. Today’s lesson is entitled: Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness.’

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we profess our faith that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But ask Christians: “What is meant by sin?”,  and you may get any of variety definitions: a sin is an act, it is state of grace or lack of, it is the legacy or birthright we carry as descendants of Adam and Eve; it is in our nature; it a manifestation of a defiant attitude towards our Maker; and so on.

No wonder there is some confusion among both believers and non-believers alike! It is very difficult to have a meaningful dialog or to witness about sin and salvation unless we have a mutual understanding and agreement of the terms that we discuss. The definition of salvation is fairly clear, but what about sin?

Let us have a look of how the Online Farlex Free Dictionary defines sin:

sin 1 (s n) n.

  1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
  2. Theology
  3. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
  4. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
  5. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins

  1. To violate a religious or moral law.
  2. To commit an offense or violation.

[Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; see es- in Indo-European roots.]

sin 2 (s n, s n) n.

The 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. See Table at alphabet.

[Hebrew în, modeled on în, shin (the following letter).]

Sin (s n)

  1. Mythology

The Babylonian god of the moon.

[Akkadian Sîn.]

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sin

We might have a better idea of what is a sin if we look at what Bible scholars commonly refer to as the original sin. In recent sermons, we looked at how Adam and Eve violated God’s singular rule: not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan stepped in and rationalized that eating the forbidden fruit would elevate them to the same level as God. Let us look at what happened after Adam and Eve chose to ignore God’s rule. In Genesis 3:17-18; 22-23 (ESV), we read:

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

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

I find it interesting to note that the tree of life was not forbidden to Adam and Eve, which implies that they were able to eat from this tree and live forever before they ate from the tree of knowledge.

Note that Verse 18 states: in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; which indicates that Adam’s days are numbered and finite and eventually will end as indicated in Verse 19: 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

So the consequence of sin is death, but God has a plan, a solution, as we read in Paul’s epistle of Romans 5:12-18 (ESV):

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[b] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[c] leads to justification and life for all men.

Footnotes: a.Romans 5:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women; also twice in verse 18 b.Romans 5:18 Or the trespass of one c. Romans 5:18 Or the act of righteousness of one

But was sin the result of an act or the thought something else? Let us look at Romans 7:12-14 (ESV):

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

“Sold under sin” sounds like slavery. This is confirmed in John 8:34 (ESV):

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[a] to sin.

 Footnotes: a. John 8:34 Greek bondservant

But if, by definition, a sinner is a slave to sin, then what is the remedy? The remedy is Christ, Galatians 5:1 (ESV):

Christ Has Set Us Free

5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

We have seen the consequences of sin and God’s solution in Jesus Christ. What does God expect from us in this equation? Let us next look at Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV):

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b]

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:5 Greek therefore your members that are on the earth b. Colossians 3:6 Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

So from Colossians 3, we see some expressions of sin and understand that sin is earthly or worldly in contrast to being spiritual. And the solution the Lord provided to us for sin is unconditional, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Still, God expects us not to surrender our commitment and drive, but that instead of allowing ourselves to be slaves to sin, which is associated with things that are of the world which is Satan’s realm, we must surrender ourselves to matters of spiritual reality which is the domain of God, Romans 6:16-22 (ESV):

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[a] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Footnotes: a.Romans 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface (twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20)

In addition to commitment to follow the righteous path which leads to sanctification and the promise of eternal life, we must remain vigilant to avoid temptation from Satan to given in to the impulses of our own carnal or worldly desires, which will lead us down the path to sin, James 1:12-15 (ESV):

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

God does not tempt us for He cannot be tempted. But knowing the law can lead to temptation. And temptation then leads to sin, Romans 3:20-25 (ESV):

20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Footnotes: a. Romans 3:20 Greek flesh

So the sin of humanity, as initiated by Adam, was removed by the righteous act of Christ in the Death in Adam, and changed to the Life in Christ verse we read earlier in Romans 5:12:

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.  Thus, requiring faith on our part, as we read in Romans 3:22, which then leads to a Redemption through Christ: 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

This passage indicates that though all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all are entitled to redemption and grace to be received by faith. Faith or lack of faith is the key to sin. Adam and Eve sinned as a result of trusting Satan more than God. And the only way we can receive God’s redemption, grace and glory are to give up our faith in things of the world and return to having faith in God, by accepting the unconditional gift of Jesus Christ paid on the cross at Calvary.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn is #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction (2 Peter 1:2): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

– Go in Peace of the Lord

 

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Lacking Nothing, While Banking Your Treasure in Heaven

BLCF: Matthew_6_19-24

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Lacking Nothing, While Banking Your Treasure in Heaven‘

©January 5, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin January 5, 2014 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #618 (Heavenly Treasure – Matthew 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #63: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name

Choruses

Today’s Scriptures: Exodus 2:1-14; Luke 16:19-31; Mark 10:17-25  

                 

    Exodus 2:1-14 (ESV) The Birth of Moses

BLCF Baby Moses

2 Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When
she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes[
a] and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”[b]

                        BLCF_Baby_Moses          

  Moses Flees to Midian

11 One day, when Moses had grown up, he went out to his people and looked on their burdens, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his people.[c] 12 He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 When he went out the next day, behold, two Hebrews were struggling together. And he said to the man in the wrong, “Why do you strike your companion?” 14 He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.”

Footnotes: a. Exodus 2:3 Hebrew papyrus reeds b. Exodus 2:10 Moses sounds like the Hebrew for draw out c.Exodus 2:11 Hebrew brothers

 

BLCF: RichManAndLazarus

               Luke 16:19-31 (ESV) The Rich Man and Lazarus

BLCF Gustave_Dore_Lazarus_and_the_Rich_Man

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers[b]—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”                                             

Footnotes: a. Luke 16:22 Greek bosom; also verse 23 b. Luke 16:28 Or brothers and sisters

RichManInHades

                         Mark 10:17-25 (ESV) The Rich Young Man

BLCF: WealthYoungManAsksJesus

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

 IsThisYourKing

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is[a] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”                                            

Footnotes: a. Mark 10:24 Some manuscripts add for those who trust in riches

Let us pray…

Welcome to the house of the Lord in the heart of Toronto, on this – the first Sunday of the New Year 2014. In the service today we observe the Second Advent or the “return of Jesus” by way of Communion.  But before we partake in the Lord’s Supper, I would like to talk about today’s Scriptures, which give us a good idea what the Lord values in HIS children.

Our first verse, from Exodus 2, describes the circumstances of the birth of Moses, the son of a Levi, a Hebrew slave, was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, and raised as a Prince of Egypt. It turns out that the biological mother of Moses was hired to be nursemaid to the baby found in a basket amongst the bulrushes, which afforded Moses an opportunity to bond with his real mother. It is amazing how God works things out. It is likely that some of the compassion that Moses had for the Hebrews had its origins in the loving care he received from his nursemaid mother.

Eventually, Moses gave up his place as a son of Pharaoh and Prince of Egypt. However by acknowledging his true birthright as a Hebrew would likely result in his own enslavement. But before this happened, Moses killed an Egyptian whom he found beating another Hebrew. Moses fled Egypt to the land of Midian, eventually to have an encounter with God, in the form of a burning bush.  God had chosen Moses to lead the Hebrews out of servitude and enslavement, through the desert, to deliver HIS laws, and eventually to HIS promised land. Moses had the unique understanding of Egyptian Royalty which would be useful when dealing with Pharaoh in the assignment of freeing the Hebrew slaves.

Today’s second Scripture from Luke 16, known as Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus tells the story of an ‘rich’ man who dressed and ate well, while just outside the gate to his house lies Lazarus, a poor, starving man, who is covered with sores. Eventually both men die, with angels bringing Lazarus to join Abraham in heaven.

Lazarus is an interesting name for a character in this Parable, as it has the following meanings (sheknows.com):

Hebrew Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God will help.

Biblical Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Biblical baby name. In Biblical the meaning of the name Lazarus is: Assistance of God.

Greek Meaning:
The name Lazarus is a Greek baby name. In Greek the meaning of the name Lazarus is: God is my help.

http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/lazarus

Also, this is the only Parable where Jesus gives a name to one of the protagonists, Lazarus. It is worth noting that the other main character remains nameless and, unlike Lazarus who dies and is brought to heaven by angels, is judged and is sent to Hades or Hell. To God, material wealth does not get you to Heaven. And there is a point when it is too late to repent and ask for forgiveness and avoid judgment. The rich man ended up in Hades and sought mercy for his thirst not unlike the compassion that Lazarus desired at the rich man’s doorstep. The man’s request is denied. Next, the rich man asks for the opportunity to notify his brothers who are still living, so that they may avoid the same fate. The man is told that it is unlikely that people who have ignored the words of Moses and the Prophets will be convinced if someone such as Lazarus were raised from the dead.

This is very interesting, as the Parable tells us that there are people who will never believe or have faith, even if the messenger is raised from the dead. From this, we may conclude some people will embrace faith, even if the messenger is known to have been raised from the dead, which is precisely what our Lord Jesus Christ did. It is interesting, though sad, for those who refuse to believe. But we as believer must continue to witness to those who do not have faith, until it is too late. For we never know whether or when a person may change his heart and embrace faith so as to be saved before it is too late.

Our third Scripture teaches the same lesson as the parable, is an account where a young rich man approaches Jesus and asks how he may inherit eternal life. In contrast to the rich man in the ‘Lazarus Parable’, the young rich man seeks from Jesus what is necessary to enter God’s Kingdom. The outcome for the young man seems to be more hopeful than the rich man who ends up suffering in Hell after death. In addition to seeking God’s Kingdom before death, the young man has some knowledge of religion and awareness of God, as he has observed all of God’s commandments from the youth. It appears that this rich man will not end up in the same place as the rich man in the Lazarus Parable. But wait, there is one stumbling block.

Jesus perceives that the young rich man’s religious practices are tainted by something the young man values more highly than he should. Jesus instructs the young man to sell all that he has and give all the proceeds to the poor. In other words, the Lord has perceived that young man values his own personal wealth over the welfare of the poor. In spite of a desire for eternal life, the young man is unable to relinquish his material wealth in exchange for heavenly treasure received by demonstrating love and compassion for the poor.

Jesus uses the exchange with the rich man to teach how difficult it is for those who are preoccupied with worldly values to enter he kingdom of God or to follow the Way of Jesus. This gives us some insight to how Moses was able to establish a relationship with God, as he had already surrendered all his worldly wealth and power associated with the position of an Egyptian Prince, and he had demonstrated compassion for the vulnerable: the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt.

But you may say how much does a preoccupation with acquiring and maintaining one’s wealth and worldly possessions interfere with faith? What would happen if our fortunes are reversed? Let me share with you a short article I recently came across which gives just such an account. It was untitled, so I gave it the title: ‘Switched at Birth’:

                       ‘Switched at Birth’ – Julian Ryall

  Switched at Birth

Subtitled: ‘Japanese man accidentally switched at birth grew up in poverty while other baby lived life of privilege’

Julian Ryall, The Daily Telegraph | November 28, 2013 7:01 PM ET
(Republished by the National Post)

TOKYO — A Japanese man born to wealthy parents grew up in poverty after being given to another couple in a hospital six decades ago, while the infant who took his place went on to live a privileged life of private tutoring and university, and is today head of a property firm.

The 60-year-old man – who has declined to give his name – was raised reliant on handouts from the state after the man he thought was his father died when he was just two. The woman he considered his mother had to support his three older brothers, and there were few comforts in their one-room apartment as he grew up.

The man had to study at night school while working day shifts in a factory before finding steady employment as a driver with a transport company. He did not marry, and now helps take care of three men who are not his brothers, including one who has suffered a stroke.

The infant who was given to the man’s biological parents was born 13 minutes later at the San-Ikukai Hospital, in Tokyo’s Sumida ward, and grew up in relative affluence.

This boy had a personal tutor, went to university and is the head of a successful property company. His three brothers work for major companies, according to media reports.

‘It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer’

Questions were only raised when those brothers recently realized that he bore little resemblance to any of his relatives.

In 2011, the family requested access to hospital records and DNA tests subsequently confirmed the mistake.

The error apparently happened when a midwife took the newborn babies to be bathed and then returned them to the wrong mothers.

Speaking to media in Tokyo, the man condemned to a life of hardship described his shock at learning the people he grew up believing to be his parents and brothers were unrelated to him.

“I wondered how this could have happened,” he said. “I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it.”

The Tokyo District Court this week ordered the hospital to pay the man 38 million yen ($393,000) in damages as a result of the mix-up, significantly less than the 250-million yen ($2.6-million) the plaintiffs had been seeking.

“The links between the man and his real parents were severed and the man was forced to grow up in a poor home,” Judge Masatoshi Miyasaka said in his ruling. “The mental anguish he went through was enormous.

“There were far-reaching differences between the two family environments and the plaintiff suffered an unreasonable loss as a result,” the ruling said.

“It is impossible to assess the scale of the pain and disappointment the parents and the man had to suffer, as they were deprived of opportunities to enjoy their parent-child relationship forever.”

‘I could not believe it. To be honest, I did not want to accept it’

The man’s biological parents both died before the error came to light and he is still coming to terms with the impact of the events of 60 years ago.

“I might have had a different life,” he said. I want [the hospital] to roll back the clock to the day that I was born.”

He is particularly angry at never having the opportunity to meet his real parents.

“As I saw picture of my parents, I wanted to see them alive,” he said. “For months, I could not hold back the tears every time I saw their pictures.”

He added that the woman who raised him may have suspected something was amiss. “I think my foster mother may have sensed it,” he admitted, pointing to the physical differences between himself and his brothers.

The hospital initially attempted to have the case dismissed on the grounds that the 10-year statute of limitations had run out. The court dismissed that claim and ruled that the statute of limitations only began when the results of the DNA tests were confirmed.

The hospital has not confirmed whether it will appeal against the ruling.     http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/11/28/japanese-man-accidentally-switched-at-birth-grew-up-in-poverty-while-other-baby-lived-life-of-privilege/

BLCF: Matthew_6_21

We have in this story, the account of two babies: one born of wealthy parents and the other whose parents lived in poverty. After 60 years, the impoverished man, a caretaker for three ‘brothers’ who are not even related to the man, has one main regret: that he never had an opportunity to meet and talk to his biological parents, now deceased.  There did not seem to be any regrets for lost or missed opportunities  or wealth that were afforded to the man whose place he had exchanged with, through a mistake made some six decades before.

It is also interesting, according to the story, that the wealthy man, who should have been raised in poverty in his place, seemed to show a callous disregard towards his true biological parents, his true siblings, or the man took in his place to live a life of poverty. Perhaps he was too busy running the property company to care. And the man who lived in poverty gave no indication of abandoning brothers who really are not related to him, from a family that a fateful mistake had been given to him.

In this story, it is not difficult to speculate which of these two men would have difficulty finding God’s Kingdom if both were presented with Christ’s Gospel of salvation, and which would not.  One may live a life of extreme poverty and still have more to share, than someone who is raised in wealthy circumstance. We find a good conclusion to today’s lesson in Luke 12:32-33 (ESV):

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

BLCF Living our values

Let us pray…

At this time, as believers in the resurrected Christ, let us take a moment to reflect upon the act of Communion, whereby we acknowledge the gift and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ made on behalf, so that we may be judged sinless before God and have confidence of the New Covenant that promises us eternal life upon his return.

Communion: Luke 22:14-23 (ESV) Institution of the Lord’s Supper

14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it[a] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.[b] 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.

Footnotes: a. Luke 22:16 Some manuscripts never eat it again b. Luke 22:20 Some manuscripts omit, in whole or in part, verses 19b-20 (which is given… in my blood)

Hymn #40: To God Be the Glory

Benediction – (Ephesians 3:20-21):

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Happy New Year

Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness

BLCF Church: sinner saved

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Freed From the Shackles of Sin by a Single Act of Righteousness’

© September 29, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 29, 2013

BLCF Church: Freed from sin

 

BLCF Call to Worship:

Responsive Reading 605: Prayer of Penitence (Psalm 51); Prayer

Opening Hymn: #32: How Great Thou Art

Let us pray…

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we profess our faith that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, Romans 5:8 (ESV): 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But ask Christians what is meant by sin and you may get any of variety definitions: a sin is an act, it is state of grace or lack of, it is the legacy or birthright we carry as descendants of Adam and Eve; it is in our nature; it a manifestation of a defiant attitude towards our Maker; and so on. No wonder there is some confusion among both believers and non-believers alike! It is very difficult to have a meaningful dialog or to witness about sin and salvation unless we have a mutual understanding and agreement of the terms that we discuss. The definition of salvation is fairly clear, but what about sin?

Let us have a look of how the Online Farlex Free Dictionary defines sin:

sin 1 (s n) n.

1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.

2. Theology

a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.

b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.

3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins

1. To violate a religious or moral law.

2. To commit an offense or violation.


[Middle English sinne, from Old English synn; see es- in Indo-European roots.]

sin 2 (s n, s n) n.

The 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. See Table at alphabet.


[Hebrew în, modeled on în, shin (the following letter).]

Sin (s n)

n. Mythology

The Babylonian god of the moon.


[Akkadian Sîn.]

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Sin

 

 

We might have a better idea of what is a sin if we look at what Bible scholars commonly refer to as the original sin. In recent sermons, we looked at how Adam and Eve violated God’s singular rule: not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan stepped in and rationalized that eating the forbidden fruit would elevate them to the same level as God. Let us look at what happened after Adam and Eve chose to ignore God’s rule. In Genesis 3:17-18; 22-23 (ESV), we read:

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

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.

I find it interesting to note that the tree of life was not forbidden to Adam and Eve, which implies that they were able to eat from this tree and live forever before they ate from the tree of knowledge.

Note in Verse 18: in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; which indicates that Adam’s days are numbered and finite and eventually will end as indicated in Verse 19: 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

So the consequence of sin is death, but God has a plan, a solution, as we read in Paul’s Epistle of Romans 5:12-18 (ESV):

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass[b] led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness[c] leads to justification and life for all men.

Footnotes: a. Romans 5:12 The Greek word anthropoi refers here to both men and women; also twice in verse 18 b. Romans 5:18 Or the trespass of one c. Romans 5:18 Or the act of righteousness of one

But was committing a sin the result of an act or the thought something else? Let us look at Romans 7:12-14 (ESV):

12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

Sold under sin sounds like slavery. This is confirmed in John 8:34 (ESV):

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[a] to sin. Footnotes: a. John 8:34 Greek bondservant

If by definition a sinner is a slave to sin, then what is the remedy? Galatians 5:1 (ESV):

Christ Has Set Us Free

5 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

We have seen the consequences of sin and God’s solution in Jesus Christ. But what does God expect from us in this equation? Lets next look at Colossians 3:5-6 (ESV):

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[a] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[b]

Footnotes: a. Colossians 3:5 Greek therefore your members that are on the earth b. Colossians 3:6 Some manuscripts add upon the sons of disobedience

So from Colossians 3, we see some expressions of sin and understand that sin is earthly or worldly in contrast to being spiritual. And the solution the Lord provided to us for sin is unconditional, Romans 5:8 (ESV):

8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Still, God expects us not to surrender our commitment and drive, but that instead of allowing ourselves to be slaves to sin, which is associated with things that are of the world which is Satan’s realm, we must surrender ourselves to matters of spiritual reality which is the domain of God, Romans 6:16-22 (ESV):

16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[a] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Footnotes: a.Romans 6:16 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface (twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20)

In addition to commitment to follow the righteous path which leads to sanctification and the promise of eternal life, we must remain vigilant to avoid temptation from Satan to given in to the impulses of our own carnal or worldly desires, which will lead us down the path to sin, James 1:12-15 (ESV):

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

God does not tempt us for He cannot be tempted. But knowing the law can lead to temptation. And temptation then leads to sin, Romans 3:20-25 (ESV):

20 For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Footnotes: a.Romans 3:20 Greek flesh

 

BLCF Church: Redeemed from sin by Jesus

So the sin of humanity initiated by Adam was removed by the righteous act of Christ in the Death in Adam, resulted in Life in Christ verse we read earlier in Romans 5:12, requires faith on our part, as we read in Romans 3:22, which then leads to our redemption through Christ. This passage indicates that though all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, all are entitled to redemption and grace to be received by faith. Faith or lack of faith is the key to sin. Adam and Eve sinned as a result of trusting Satan more than God. And the only way we can receive God’s redemption, grace and glory are to give up our faith in things of the world and return to having faith in God, by accepting the unconditional gift of Jesus Christ paid on the cross at Calvary.

Let us pray…

Our Closing Hymn is #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction (2 Peter 1:2): May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

– Go in Peace of the Lord!

Deception, Disobedience and Destruction from the Mouth of a Serpent

BLCF: garden_of_eden

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© April 21, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin April 21, 2013

Let us pray…

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

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

 

garden-of-eden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Temptation in the garden

Satan, Eve and the Forbiddeen Fruit

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

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

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

original_sin

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

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

                       

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

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

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

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

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

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

Masaccio_Adam_and_Eve_detail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BLCF: cross

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

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

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

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

BLCF: sin-cursed-world

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

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

Salvation from judgement

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

BLCF: salvation_thru_Christ

Let us pray…

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

BLCF: ejected_from_eden