Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ, 2019

BLCF: conversion_of_paul

 

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’ 

© February 17, 2019, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin February 17, 2019

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on May 18, 2014

BLCF: Bulletin May 18, 2014

BLCF: 51_Psalm

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #553: Morning Has Broken; Choruses                               

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

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

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                            ‘Trusting, Serving, and Sharing the Victory in Christ’                                            

CreatInMe                                                                   

Let us pray…

In a Pentecost Sunday Lesson, last year, you may recall that we examined how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was chosen because she had found favor with God and lived an exemplary life, not just as the mother of Jesus, but as a faithful disciple to the Lord as well. We also saw how the disciples hid in the Upper Room, until Jesus, on the evening of the day that he resurrected from the grave, came to give them his Commission and then breathed upon them God’s Holy Spirit to enable them to achieve the goal. Still, one may question, whether Mary and the Apostles could be anything other than the best choice to trust and serve the Lord, as well as to share the gospel of Christ. And by asking this question, we, as every-day sinners, may seek to be excused from serving as the Lord’s apostles or messengers.

Our lesson this Sunday, we revisit for closer examination, a topic touched upon in recent message: how God chose, as His instrument, the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, an individual, who with the exception of Emperor Nero, was considered the least likely candidate to become a preacher of the Way of Jesus, more commonly known today as the gospel of Christ.

Let us briefly look at our Wiki bits for the background of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Christian Apostle, Paul:

BLCF" Acts_Map_Paul_to_Damascus

The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, was, according to the New Testament, an event that took place in the life of Paul the Apostle which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to become a follower of Jesus. It is normally dated by researchers to AD 33–36.[1][2][3] The phrases Pauline conversion, Damascene conversion and Damascus Christophany, and road to Damascus allude to this event. Within the New Testament, Paul’s conversion experience is discussed in both Paul’s own letters and in the book known by the title Acts of the Apostles. According to both sources, Paul was never a follower of Jesus and did not know Jesus before his crucifixion. Instead, he severely persecuted the early Christians. Although Paul refers to himself as an “Apostle” of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of “The Twelve” apostles.[1 Cor. 9:1-2] Paul’s conversion occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion. The accounts of Paul’s conversion experience describe it as miraculous, supernatural, or otherwise revelatory in nature. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a “zealous” Pharisee who “intensely persecuted” the followers of Jesus. Some scholars argue that Paul was a member of the “Zealot” party.

We find a summary of Paul testimony in his Epistle to the Galatians 1:13-14, 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. Paul also discusses his pre-conversion life in his Epistle to the Philippians,[3:4-6] and his participation in the stoning of Stephen is described in Acts 7:57-8:3. Acts of the Apostles discusses Paul’s conversion experience at three different points in the text, in far more detail than in the accounts in Paul’s letters. The book of Acts records that Paul was on his way from Jerusalem for Syrian Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus, with the intention of returning them to Jerusalem as prisoners for questioning and possible execution. The journey is interrupted when Paul sees a blinding light, and communicates directly with a divine voice.

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

 

BLCF:apostle-paul

Looking at Saul’s background, we see that he was a citizen of Rome and Jewish, a Pharisee who was generally opposed to the teachings of the Way of Christ or Jesus’ gospel. In fact, Saul of Tarsus was a zealous persecutor of Christian believers, who was present at the killing of the Apostle Stephen, described in Acts 7:58-60:

BLCF:ThestoningofStStephenwithSaulofTars

Acts 7:58-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

BLCF:stephen_dead

Saul not only was present at the stoning of Stephen, as one who watched the garments of those who gathered to observe the execution. His role in the persecution of Christian believers and the ravaging the Christian Church was far darker than described in Acts 7, as we read in Acts 8:1-8.

Acts 8:1-8 (ESV): Saul Ravages the Church

8 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Philip Proclaims Christ in Samaria Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city[a] of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city.

Footnotes: a. Acts 8:5 Some manuscripts a city

In spite of their continued persecution, we see that the apostles, including Philip, continued to proclaim the gospel of Christ and to heal the afflicted in the name of the Lord, by the power of the Spirit. But on a journey on the Road to Damascus, Saul experienced a life-changing event: an encounter with the Lord, which is described in Acts 9:1-31.

BLCF: WINDOW DEPICTS CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL

Acts 9:1-31 (ESV): The Conversion of Saul

9 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

BLCF: animated-passion

Saul Proclaims Jesus in Synagogues

For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. 20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

BLCF: Paul_lowered_in_a_basket

 

Saul Escapes from Damascus

23 When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.

BCF: Jerusalem

 

Saul in Jerusalem

26 And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists.[c] But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.

Footnotes: a. Acts 9:23 The Greek word Ioudaioi refers specifically here to Jewish religious leaders, and others under their influence, who opposed the Christian faith in that time b. Acts 9:25 Greek through the wall c. Acts 9:29 That is, Greek-speaking Jews

BLCF: the_Apostle_Paul

This passage describes a vision within a vision: the Lord appears to the apostle Ananias to inform him about Saul, who in turn has been a vision that he, Ananias, would heal the blinded Saul by the laying of hands. Ananias’ reservations of having to deal with a man whose reputation was to bind all who profess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour is reduced when the Lord tells him that he has plans to use Saul as his instrument, Acts 9:11-19:

“Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house.

Ananias complies with Lord’s request by laying his hands upon Saul and saying:

“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

You may recall from our lesson last week, that the Lord called those who were obedient to God, brothers, and sisters. Reading further, we see that not only is Saul healed, but is baptized, not in water, but by the Holy Spirit:

18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

We see that salvation by the Lord is not reserved solely to the good, the pious, or those who are favored by God. We see that He has a purpose for those who oppose and persecute believers, as was the case of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, who became transformed by God’s Holy Spirit, to the Apostle Paul. And Paul’s past actions as Saul became part of his confession and testimony as an apostle in Christ, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

BLCF: 1Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (ESV): The Resurrection of Christ

15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verses 6, 31, 50, 58

BLCF: confessing_sin

Saul of Tarsus, as a Roman Citizen, who ran a tent manufacturing business, a merchant, and a Pharisee was eminently qualified to travel throughout the Empire of Rome to interact freely with Jew and Gentile, Greek and Roman, Citizen and King, to attack the Way of Christ movement, which was perceived as a threat to undermine the authority of Rome and the Jewish Faith. These same qualifications enabled the same man, now an Apostle of Christ, called Paul of Tarsus, to preach and minister, provide hope and healing, to spark faith and belief in the gospel of Jesus, as God’s instrument.

BLCF: Psalm51

I would like to read: Psalm 51:1-17, as our closing prayer.

Let us pray…

Psalm 51:1-17 (ESV): Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

To the choirmaster.

                       A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him,                                      after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
    and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
    O God of my salvation,
    and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.                          

Footnotes: a. Psalm 51:1 Or Be gracious to me b.Psalm 51:10 Or steadfast

 – Amen

BLCF: Oh_My_God_Jesus

Closing Hymn #546: Sing the Wondrous Love of Jesus

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14): The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: justification

 

 

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Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© November 4, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain; Choruses                            

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

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of November 2018. For those of you gathered here this morning, congratulations for having set your clocks back an hour, in order to make the change from Daylight Savings to Standard time. Please be kind to those who arrive in an hour, as they may have forgotten about the time change. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. We invite all present, who believe that Jesus is the Son of God died on the cross to pay the penalty for our, to join us in partaking the elements of Communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (ESV)

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b.Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

Responsive reading #663: Communion Observance (1 Corinthians 11)         

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

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stones-Throw from Each Other

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s-Throw from Each Other’

© September 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin September 9 2018

Originally shared with BLCF on November 15, 2015

BLCF Bulletin November 15, 2015

Call to Worship; Prayer                                                                                        Opening Hymn #276: In the Stars His Handiwork I See; Choruses                             Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                     Responsive Reading #648: A Challenge to Faith (John 8:1-11)                         Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                         ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’

 Let us pray…

As you may surmise from the Scripture verses, today’s lesson, entitled ‘Sin and Sanctification: Just a Stone’s Throw from Each Other’, will look at accounts of stoning in the Bible.

Before talking about these passages, let us check with our Wikibits for a definition of this cruel form of execution:

Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until he or she dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Slower than other forms of execution, stoning within the context of Modernism or contemporary Western Culture, is considered a form of execution by torture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

The first of today’s accounts of stoning an individual is found in John 8:1-11, where we have the familiar account of a woman who was caught in adultery, who was brought by the scribes and Pharisees to Jesus as part of a plan to test and trap our Lord, as he was teaching in the temple.

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Jesus was asked what should be done with the adulteress, citing that Mosaic Law mandated that she be stoned or killed for her transgression. But as Jerusalem was under Roman jurisdiction, and only Roman officials had the authority to judge or execute the woman.

The trap was intended to have Jesus side with one authority over the other. If Jesus agreed with the Mosaic Law, to stone the woman, the scribes and Pharisees would inform the Roman authorities that Jesus was guilty of usurping the authority of Rome. If the Lord told them to bring the woman to the Roman authorities, the scribes and Pharisees could accuse Jesus of breaking the Mosaic Laws.

We see that our Lord did neither, but challenging anyone who believed himself to be without sin, to cast the first stone at the woman. No stone was tossed and the crowd dissipated. Jesus then asked the woman whether any of her accusers had remained, to which she answered no. Jesus responded that neither did he accuse her, instructing her to go and sin no more.

Our second Scripture Verse, tell the story of the Apostle Stephen, the first to be martyred for preaching truth from the Scriptures.

Acts 6:8-15 (ESV) Stephen Is Seized

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Acts 7:51-60 (ESV)

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes: a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Our verses, form Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7:51-60 describe how Stephen was falsely accused of speaking against before the council accused by several groups of speaking blasphemous words against the Law of Moses, God and the temple, any consideration of these violations carried the death penalty of being stoned.

Stephen was arrested and instead of defending refuting the false charges, pointed out how his accusers were guilty of bearing false witness and rebelling against the authority of God. In Acts 7, Verses 1-50, Stephen gives a concise, condensed accounting of how previously, Joseph, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus were victims of those who challenged God’s authority, with Solomon having the audacity of attempting to house God in the temple.

Chapter 7 of Acts gives a wonderful synopsis of the challenges the people of Israel gave to God’s Prophets and His Son. While the Speech or Sermon of Stephen covers centuries of time, we see a repeated pattern of disobedience to God, which resulted in the children of Israel repeatedly being punished by God, who allowed them to be enslaved or subjugated by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans. We see how God repeatedly demonstrated His love and compassion for His children by providing leaders to deliver them from death and enslavement, with His Son, Jesus, providing a way from the judgment for sin.

Stephen’s truthful account of how God’s love was spurred; His rules disobeyed; and His Son rejected, angered his accusers, who killed the Apostle by stoning him. Before his death, Stephen, being described as being full of the Holy Spirit, looked towards Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of the Father. Stephen’s last words were to commend his spirit to God and to ask Him to forgive those who persecuted him.

Our third set of Scriptures describes the faith transformation of Saul of Tarsus by an encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus in Acts 22:6-21.

Acts 22:6-21 (ESV)

Paul on the Road to Damascus

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[a] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

This is the same Saul described in Acts 7:58, who watched the garments of those who stoned the Apostle Stephen, as Saul acknowledged in Acts 22:20.

We see that instead of having Saul being punished for his crimes of murder, our Lord showed compassion to Saul, who now identified himself as Paul, now an apostle of the Gospel and way of the Lord. Such is the degree of love and compassion demonstrated by our Lord and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ sacrifice had removed the judgment of sin from those who confess by faith, including Saul of Tarsus.

The Lord will come and knock at our door, asking us to allow him to come into our hearts. If we answer his call by accepting his gift of salvation, confessing to him our sins, and allowing him to be our Lord in our lives; we are born again in the Holy Spirit. We are given the choice to cast a stone of sin or drop that stone and answer the knock at the door and be sanctified from sin through Christ. The decision is ours’. The decision, that is just a stones-throw away.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):                                                                            The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.