Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Rendering Heavenly Treasures: Sanctified in His Truth and Unified by His Spirit’
© May 3, 2015 2015 by Steve Mickelson
Announcements & Call to Worship:
Responsive Reading #618(Heavenly Treasure – Matthew 6); Prayer
Opening Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark: Choruses
Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: Mark 12:13-17, Matthew 6:19-20, John 18:33-40, John 17:1-19
Mark 12:13-17 (ESV) Paying Taxes to Caesar
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances,[a] but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius[b] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
Let us pray…
Good morning and welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service for the first Sunday of May, 2015, which is also Communion Sunday.
Sometimes, the toughest part about writing a lesson is to remember that while I may struggle to clarify a verse or some aspect of the Gospel, I must remind myself that help is available from both the Holy Spirit and fellow members of the Body of Believers. Just as Moses and Paul succeeded in their respective missions, when they allowed the Lord to guide their path, rather than depending solely on their own strengths. While, as believers in the Resurrected Christ, we share the Gospel Message; it is the power and work of the Spirit is responsible to convict, transform and grow the faith conversion of the non-believer.
At times, Christian believers struggled to heed the guidance of the Spirit, as had both the prophets and the disciples at times. An example of this challenge was given by Pastor Charles Stanley, writing his Tips for Being Led by the Holy Spirit, as appeared in the online Charisma Magazine:
Pastor Charles Stanley shares how to walk in step with the Holy Spirit’s promptings.
Several years ago during a photographic trip, my group had been traveling up a trail for almost three hours, and I began to have a funny feeling that we were going in the wrong direction. I asked the guide about it, and he assured me that everything was fine. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I kept walking. After a few minutes, I noticed that my sense of uneasiness persisted; in fact, it was growing stronger. I pulled out my compass and looked at the map. Sure enough, we were headed away from our intended destination.
It took us close to an hour and a half to return to where we had taken the incorrect turn off the trail. Sadly, this meant that by the time we got to the site, our window for taking photographs was cut short.
The event helped me to realize two valuable lessons. First, when we sense an internal witness encouraging us to take a certain course of action, we should listen. Second, when you and I choose people to guide us, we must be certain they know the path ahead better than we do.
Have you ever felt something alerting you to pay attention or pulling you in a particular direction? Perhaps you were listening to a sermon and you sensed God telling you to follow Him in obedience. Or maybe you walked into a restaurant and were filled with dread, as if you should leave quickly.
If you are a believer, then most likely these feelings were the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who always guides you to understand and accept the Father’s will. He is the One speaking to your heart, warning you about danger and encouraging you to submit to God’s purposes.
Unlike the fellow who accompanied us on that photographic trip, the Holy Spirit is a trustworthy guide who will never lead us astray and knows the path ahead much better than we do. Apart from Him, you and I cannot live a godly life. Galatians 5:16 instructs, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (NASB). The Holy Spirit empowers us to resist sin and obey God. But He does so much more: He also helps us to understand Scripture and enables us to fellowship with the Lord. He will never advise us to do anything that contradicts Scripture.
Today’s first Scripture verse, Mark 12:13-17, gives an account where Jesus was challenged by a group of Pharisees and Herodians, who hoped to snare the Lord into speaking out against taxes, by asking, (verse 14): “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
We see that the Spirit allowed the Lord to discern their motives and give an answer which satisfied both their faith values, while not being subversive to authority of Rome,(verses 15-17): “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius[b] and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The stumbling block for many Christians is living in a world that based upon a completely different set of values from those held by our Lord, Matthew 6:19-20:
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
We find that the proponents of both the Empire of Rome, represented by Pilate and Pharisees, or chief priests, struggled with the truth of God as was taught by Jesus, John 18:33-40:
My Kingdom Is Not of This World
33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.[a]
Footnotes: a. John 18:40 Or an insurrectionist
The Pharisees and Herodians, not being guided by the Spirit, understood neither the purpose nor the truth brought to them by Jesus. Their lack of understanding came as a result of the absence of faith and trust in powers of Heaven.
While Pilate, the Pharisees and Herodians may have failed to accept or understand the truth of the Lord, those disciples and others who believed were the focus of the High Priestly Prayer that Jesus prayed just before his crucifixion, John 17:1-19:
The High Priestly Prayer
17 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
6“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.
Footnotes: a. John 17:15 Or from evil b. John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God) c. John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God) e. John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)
We know that Jesus often left the disciples in order to pray. John 17 gives us an insight of not only whom the Lord prayed for, but reveals to us the nature of his advocacy on behalf of Christian believers after he ascended to heaven. We note the difference between those who heeded the words of the Lord and those who rejected it, (verses 6-11):
6“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
In John 17, Jesus continues to pray for the believers’ sanctification (in the truth), protection from Satan (the evil one), and Christ’s determination to set himself apart so that the believers may continue to remain sanctified in the truth – all implemented by the companion in the Holy Spirit which was sent in place of Christ after his ascension into heaven.
For all believers are united by Holy Spirit, given as a reward to confession of their sins and faith that Jesus died for those sins. Believers are instructed to share the Gospel of Jesus and to gather together in the name of the Lord and observe the sacrifice and Lordship, until the day that he returns.
Let us pray…
Communion – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26):
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Closing Hymn #505: Out in the Highways and Byways of Life
Benediction – (Romans 12:1-2):
I appeal to you therefore brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.