Archive for the ‘unconditional acceptance’ Tag

Grace To A Runaway Slave!

Part A:

Part B:

Full Message:


Bible Verse: Philemon 8-22


Introduction:

In his short letter to Philemon, Paul made an appeal for oneness and unity in Jesus Christ. He placed himself in the middle of a broken relationship between Philemon, a slave master, and Onesimus, a runaway slave. Contained within this story of reconciliation, grace, and de-exaltation is the gospel itself. A slave himself, Paul urged Philemon to consider love—not law, duty, or obligation. His instruction to receive Onesimus as a brother, not a slave, challenges us to evaluate our pride and align our perspectives of others with Christ’s perspective. In this letter, Paul helps us reflect on the racial, radical, and redemptive reconciliation Christ offers.

“The salvation secured by Christ in the gospel is more comprehensive than justification alone: it brings repentance, wholeness, love for brothers and sisters in the Christian community.” –D. A. Carson

Outline:

1. Appealing to Love, Not Obligation (Philem. 8-14)

Like Philemon, love is to be our motivation for obeying God in all things. We can easily fall into the trap of obeying God primarily out of obligation. We obey because we have to. We know we should. While this is certainly true—God has given us commands, not suggestions in Scripture— obligation cannot be what prompts our obedience. Love must be.

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands (John 14:15). Love fuels obedience; obedience verifies love. A steady diet of love fattens obedience, but obligation will starve it at some point. This is why Jesus fused the two together. Our love for God produces obedience that pleases Him and also brings Him glory as the world around us sees us joyfully obey.

2. Accepting a Brother, Not a Slave (Philem. 15-17)

Love all men, even your personal enemies, not because they are brothers but in order that they may be brothers, in order that you may always burn with brotherly love, whether for one already become a brother or for an enemy so that by [your] loving he may become a brother.” –Augustine

3. Anticipating Grace, Not Duty (Philem. 18-22)

If we as Christians only obey God out of a sense of obligation or duty, then we commit the sin of the Pharisee: righteousness without right-heartedness. God desires that our obedience come from the heart.

After committing adultery with Bathsheba, David discovered, “The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. You will not despise a broken and humbled heart, God” (Ps. 51:16-17). God cannot overlook a broken heart. He collects them, tends and mends them. Duty is a harsh master, but through the cracks of a broken spirit, the Holy Spirit enters into us and distributes grace to every limb. Paul had a broken heart when he penned his letter—a heart that Philemon could heal by demonstrating the grace of Christ to Onesimus. “Refresh my heart in Christ,” he instructed (Philem. 20).

Theological Theme:

Christian reconciliation models the cross of Christ.

Contained within this story of reconciliation, grace, and de-exaltation is the gospel itself – a gospel that regardless of background, skin color, class, or cultural difference unites God’s [Father-Son-Holy Spirit] family members and demonstrates the reconciling power of the cross. Christian unity is not about sameness; it’s about oneness.

Christ Connection:

When Paul appealed to Philemon on behalf of the runaway slave Onesimus, he placed himself in the middle of their broken relationship. In order to make peace, he volunteered to pay Onesimus’ debt. Through this action, Paul modeled Jesus Christ, who is the peacemaker between God and sinful humanity. By volunteering to pay our debt, Jesus reconciled us to God and to each other.

Missional Application:

God, through his Holy Spirit, calls us to live as peacemakers who reflect the heart of our crucified Savior.

Conclusion:

Jesus once promised that He would “go away and prepare a place for you” (John 14:3).

After the toils of life are over, God will declare your emancipation also. Like Paul, you will escape “this body of death” (Rom. 7:24) and abscond to your mansion in glory—a home where “neither moth nor rust destroys” and “where thieves don’t break in and steal” (Matt. 6:20). This future home is what should motivate us today. Because we anticipate entering Christ’s presence and basking in His love and grace as His brothers and sisters, we give to others today what we will receive then. It is the least we, all former slaves to sin who are now one family in Christ, can do for one another.

“We have but one leading aim, to which it is our deliberate and unreserved desire that every thing else in which we are concerned may be subordinate and subservient—in a word, that we are devoted to the Lord, and have by grace been enabled to choose him, and to yield ourselves to him, so as to place our happiness in his favor, and to make his glory and will the ultimate scope of all our actions.” –John Newton

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The Preeminence Of Jesus Christ!

Part A:

Part B:

Full Message:


Bible Verses: Colossians 1:15-24 2: 3


Introduction:

What is the outlook you have in your life? Do you see Jesus?

How and what we see is so important for the life we live today, the relationships we have, and to the words we speak today. Our outlook/view is so important to our walk, ministry and testimony.

“We should be focused on The Father, Son and Holy Spirit and The God who is revealed in Jesus”

“We should be (given the context of the lives that we live today, given all things that we’re going through, through the tears, celebration, through the relationships, through the work and through the worry) focused on Jesus, who is supreme, who is central, and who is sufficient in and for all things, and for all times.”

Paul wrote the letter to the church at Colossae when he learned through Epaphras that heretical teachings were running through the church. Paul’s letter pointed the church to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The cross of Christ is not merely a theory for theologians to ponder; it’s a real-life, realtime reality that heals, restores, and reconciles. Through the cross, Christ reconciled us to the Father, reconciles all things in Himself, and reconciles us to one another.

Paul focuses on the reconciling work of Jesus and focuses our attention on reconciling in 3 different areas in our lives:

1. Christ is preeminent in His reconciling all things. (Col. 1:15-20).

2. Christ is preeminent in His reconciling us to God. (Col. 1:21-23).

3. Christ is preeminent in His reconciling us to one another. (Col. 1:24–2:3).

Theological Theme:

Through His work on the cross, Christ is restoring the world and reconciling us to God [Father-Son-Holy Spirit] and to one another.

Christ Connection:

Jesus is the preeminent one. Growth and maturity are firmly established on that precept.

“For everywhere He is first; above first; in the Church first; for He is the Head; in the Resurrection first.” –John Chrysostom

In prison, Paul encouraged God’s people by proclaiming the magnificence of Christ—His identity as God’s Son and His work on the cross to reconcile us to God. Christian growth and maturity does not take place through moving beyond the gospel to other Bible teaching but through continually refocusing our attention on Christ—who is the focus of the Scriptures and the head of the church

Missional Application:

God, through His Holy Spirit, calls us, as those who have been reconciled to God, to be heralds of reconciliation to the world.

Conclusion:

Just as Christ is preeminent in His reconciling creation, He is preeminent in His reconciling us to God, which He accomplished through taking on flesh and then laying His life down on our behalf. Because of the blood He shed on the cross, we are no longer alienated, hostile, and evil. That is the old person who has been put to death with Christ on the cross. In that person’s place, we have received new life, new identity, in Christ. And it is this new person who has been declared holy, faultless, and blameless whom Christ presents to the Father. This is the fundamental change of Christ’s reconciliation. He has undone sin’s curse. He has restored that which was broken. He has made right that which was wrong. He, not us, has accomplished this work of reconciliation. And this is why He receives all the glory of our salvation.

By the cross, Christians enter into a personal relationship with the Man of Nazareth who, being fully God and fully man, suffered with us, suffered for us, and suffers through us as we “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). The beams of the cross point us upward (Christ), downward (grounded in the faith), and outward (loving others). Be careful to keep those three beams together, for if we become deficient in one, the others will fall apart. May we proclaim a whole redemption through a whole Christ to a world that is not yet whole.

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The Most Important Priority For Everyone Everywhere! Part 1 (Our Christian/Biblical Worldview)

Part 1A:

Part 1B:

Full Message:


Bible Verses: Colossians ( Various Scriptures)


Introduction:

Over the past few Gospel messages we’ve been sharing in the mind of Jesus Christ by reading through the book of Colossians and seeking to grasp all that the Father inspired to be written for the Christians living there under His leading! We have been beholding the complexity of the Father, Son and Spirit’s oversight and purpose for everything, everywhere! Understanding His loving care and concern for our faith, hope and love in Him!  Trusting Him for His loving care and concern for His Church, His Kingdom, and the World at large. Receiving His loving care and concern for all created things as Reconciler and Redeemer of each and all of us who have been negatively impacted by evil and are in a state of recovery from the Fall in Christ our Lord!

We’ve been seeking to understand and have God’s view of what it means to live in and amongst all this complexity, even as the Colossian church members were, too! We are hearing the call of the Lord to continue to let the Truth of our Being (Jesus Christ!) be the Way of our Being, participating with him in his earthly historical life!

Theological Theme:

In Astounding and Inclusive Love the Father has sent and given humanity His Son and Word (Jesus), and gives us His Holy Spirit, that all of humanity might share in His Fellowship as Father, Son and Spirit! How do we receive, trust and live out this relationship in the complex situation going on around us? How do we honor and love God and neighbor while we are still in a becoming state of being more like Jesus? In Colossae, and like us, they were believers who are seeking to relate with Jesus and seeking to understand the Jewish/Christian connections of faith in Jesus Christ! At the same time they are also working, living, and breathing in a particular secular culture that had businesses, educational institutions, gossip, industry, various religions, and therefore various idols and powerful influences that threatened to attack and undermine their faith and trust in Christ!

“Human beings are fallen and therefore subject to temptation and being deceived by evil influences. Fallen, we are also inveterate self-justifiers seeking to maintain our own autonomous righteousness (ethics) apart from the gift of God received by repentance and faith upon hearing the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.” – Dr. Gary Deddo.

Abba, Father, help and save us through this tension through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Your Spirit!

Christ Connection:

The Good News of the Gospel is that Christ has already overcome this tension, and our fallenness, through his obedience to His Father by the Spirit, from inside our broken human nature. He has turned our human nature around and back to the Father! From his place of Ascension as a glorified human being he now sends, and we receive freely, the Holy Spirit he sends from the Father, giving us a share in his overcoming power through his very own faith and trust poured out in us!

“For the Lord touched all parts of creation, and freed and undeceived them all from every deceit.”
― St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation

Missional Application:

Jesus is the only hope for all, not just Christians! As Jesus encounters and empowers us believers in our relationship with him, we call upon pre-believers to place their faith and trust in Jesus by the Spirit – calling on them to repent, be baptized, deny themselves and pick up their cross, following Jesus!

“The problem of pursing a life of moral faithfulness is not simply a matter of discerning what God’s will is—as if simply knowing it, figuring it out, takes care of it. The barriers are much greater. No earnest pursuit of moral faithfulness to Jesus Christ will come to fruition unless the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word of God, breaks down our resistance to the Word and the Spirit and kills our self-justifying pride that resists repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and his Word.” – Dr. Gary Deddo

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Becoming An Ethically Responsible Christian Disciple! Part 4 (Our Christian/ Biblical Worldview)

Part 4A:

Part 4B:

Full Message:


Bible Verses: Colossians (various scriptures)


Introduction:

In Jesus, God’s Elect One, you and every other person you know have been elected/chosen to be at the highest place of honor and privilege possible for a human being, participating with Jesus in his union and relationship with His Father, in the Holy Spirit. In fact, all of what it means to be truly and fully human is seated, truly and mysteriously, with the Father, and in Jesus who share in our humanity. Jesus represents and substitutes for each and all of us human beings before the Father not so we don’t have to participate but so that we can, with him!

Theological Theme:

Because of the Reality of Jesus in our humanity, now glorified, we are invited and urged to share more deeply in in the humanity of Christ by the Spirit Christ than in the divided humanity of those who reject God! In the worshipful and relational way of Jesus, we who trust and believe in him, prioritize and live out the Great Command to love God with our all, first, and then, at His direction and lead in the Spirit, to love our neighbors as ourselves.

As the late George MacDonald has written: “God can no more than an earthly parent be content to have only children: he must have sons and daughters—children of his soul, of his spirit, of his love—not merely in the sense that he loves them, or even that they love him, but in the sense that they love like him, love as he loves. For this he does not adopt them; he dies to give them himself, thereby to raise his own to his heart; he gives them a birth from above; they are born again out of himself and into himself.” ― George MacDonald

Christ Connection:

There is a call from the Father for us to be different and to be transformed in Christ in the Holy Spirit; to begin and keep becoming and growing up in Him, right here and right now! To keep sharing in the mind of Christ about our world, that we are forever going to be relating with and oversee with Jesus in a larger more fulfilling way! We’re not in a pretend mode right now just because everything here on earth will one day be transformed! In believers, and by the Holy Spirit, Jesus has an earthly body that still resides in our present history, interacting with his Father and our neighbors in love. Obeying Jesus right now is as vital as it was vital when he actually walked the earth in his distinct human body because he is the Risen Lord and still has an ongoing and present ministry!

Missional Application:

Jesus, being our Great Ethic, has pointed out what it means to participate with him in relation to God and our neighbor:

A lawyer asked [Jesus] a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:35-40, NRSV)

As Dr. Gary Deddo points out in his article “Theological Ethics”:

“When we love God with all we are and have, there shines forth a reflection of it towards those who are not God. We love God because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Our love for God is a response, the right and appropriate response, to God’s love for us. We first receive God’s love and we first love God. When we love the neighbor in the way God would have us, then like Jesus, we are passing on to others what we have received from God. Think of the offering of the Lord’s Supper and Paul’s words: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you” (1 Cor. 11:23). In God’s economy, we can pass on only what we have first received. First things must remain first, otherwise, as C.S. Lewis reminds us, we will lose both the first and the second things.”

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Becoming An Ethically Responsible Christian Disciple! Part 2 (Our Christian/ Biblical Worldview)

Part 2A:

Part 2B:

Full Message:


Bible Verses: Colossians (various scriptures)


Introduction:

Because Jesus Himself is our Ethic (our humanity living properly among his neighbors and glorifying the Father), ethics is the free gift of God given to us in Jesus Christ. Christian ethics are not a way to earn God’s love or a way to earn salvation through human works and achievements. It is the gift of participating with Jesus in his human life by Grace! Jesus is God’s Grace to us! Ethics is what it means to participate with Jesus in living his life in this world by the Spirit!

Theological Theme:

You begin life as a child but only so you can grow up into an adult. Similarly, through your union and participation with Jesus, by the Spirit, you are in the state of growing up and becoming a little Christ who glorifies the Father.

Christ Connection:

Jesus is the One Who stands in our human place and lives life in this world with our human nature and on our behalf in a renewing way that brings and gives us revitalized human life, destroying sin completely. He Himself, then, is our Ethic. He is the way we are called to live! Jesus is our proper human response to God and our neighbor! He is the only true Learner of God, and the only human fully obedient to the Father, AND he was and is this so that we might participate with him, glorifying the Father!

Missional Application:

As members of Christ and as people in this world, Christians have a dual citizenship. We have a complex responsibility – the response-ability of Christ, by the Spirit, to be equipped for the works of Christ’s service in the spheres of the Church, the Kingdom, and the State. The goal and mandate is to prioritize our relationship with God, and then, at his direction and under his authority over all, to love everyone, pointing them, through his mission, to him that they too may be in union and participation with him.

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The Waiting Father

Luke 15: 11-32, for me, is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture describing our Father’s love for all humanity.  It provides each one of us the foundation to stand before our Creator with no fear, no shame, no guilt, and no doubt.

A number of years ago my family and I were flying home from a vacation trip.  I entered into a rare moment of deep meditation, lost in my own thoughts.  A vision flooded my mind when my mom and I were waiting in the parking lot for my dad.  It had been years since I thought about those trips to pick him up from work to take him home.  I remembered very clearly, how, as a young boy, I would wait for the doors of the RCA plant to open at the 4 p.m. bell.  I eagerly waited to see my dad in the crowd, on his way “home.”  I remembered the joy of seeing him.  Although it brought a smile to my face, I didn’t know why I was recalling this, until I felt God’s presence speak to me.  In that moment, it became clear.  I heard God say to me, “that’s how I feel toward you.  I get the same joy of seeing you just like you did in seeing your dad come through those doors.”  I immediately broke into tears with an awkward hope no one was looking.  It became a very touching memory and metaphor of the Love our Father has in seeing and waiting for all of humanity, all of his children, “coming through the doors of life on their way home.”  He always smiles with joy at seeing you and me, just as I did, when I saw my dad.

Commentators have called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, many things.  The one I love the most is, “The Waiting Father.”

Breaking into the story, when the son requested his inheritance, his father had an amazing reaction.  There was no imposition of fear, or shame, or guilt, or doubt.  There was no anger, or punishment. He simply gave him what he asked for and let him leave on a trip leading to a life less than zero.  The son gathered what he had, left home, and “headed for Hollywood.”

Verse 17 begins with a beautiful line, “When he (the son) came to his senses…”  Because of God’s love for His creation He sent His Son to unite us forever and included us (and the entire cosmos) in Union with Him.  When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished.”  Our Union in Him is accomplished forever, and is irrevocable.  For any one human being to cease to exist, Jesus would have to cease to exist.  It is an accomplished fact. Unfortunately, most of humanity is included without a clue, until we come to our senses, believe, and come home.  When we do, we find a Waiting Father.  A Father who doesn’t wait for a moment, or a few years, or just in this lifetime (as some Christian friends may tell us) but one who will be waiting for eternity, as long as it takes.

In verse 20 we find that Waiting Father (waiting for his son to come home)…”but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him.”  The son had worked up a repentance speech to make his way back home into the family just as a hired servant, but his dad didn’t allow him to finish his speech.  He restored him to full fellowship in the family as if he never left.  His dad didn’t allow sin to separate him from his son.  He had been his son, and the relationship with his son had never changed.  He had always been his son.  But when the son came to his senses and came home, the son’s relationship and fellowship changed toward his Father.  His Father never moved, never changed his love for his son, and remained…waiting.  For us, just as with the son, it is always our move, because Jesus made the first move toward us when he brought us home.

Just as I would wait with anticipation for my dad, our heavenly Dad waits with anticipation for us.  Our loving father waits, and waits, and waits, and will forever wait until all humanity comes to its senses, and comes “home.”  While He is waiting, He never loses His sense of joy and feeling toward us, despite what we may think.  When humanity comes through those doors, comes home, one by one, our dad will be standing there with open arms.

~by Craig Kuhlman

ILYUF

 A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my 54-year-old cousin, Rodney Winkle, who was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.  He was an outstanding person who lived a full life, participating in many good and charitable activities and organizations.  His oldest daughter gave a moving eulogy, and one of the memories she recounted was that he would always say to her and her sister, “I love you unconditionally forever.”  These words soon became so familiar to them that he created an acronym (ILYUF) to use in text messages and on greeting cards.  Both of his daughters conveyed the security they felt growing up, knowing that whatever they did (right or wrong), their dad’s love for them would never change.

That feeling of unconditional acceptance and love is one that isn’t often a part of most families.  Many go through life believing that they have to perform to earn the love and approval of their peers, their families, and even God.

This idea that we have to do something or behave a certain way to be loved by God makes us almost superstitious, thinking that whenever we happen to suffer, we must have displeased God in some way, and we’re being punished for it.   Ancient Greek and Roman religions had a similar view, where sacrifices were made to keep their capricious gods appeased or run the risk of enduring their wrath.  These views, unfortunately, have tainted our Christian belief about the Triune God and have needlessly heaped a heavy burden of guilt on us all.

What if God were really like a loving father, one who said and wrote, “ILYUF,” on hearts and cards and text messages?  Jesus shares a story in Luke 15:11-24 that illustrates the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father for each one of us.  A father had two sons, and the younger son wanted his inheritance right away.  He took his inheritance and wasted it in a foreign land. When he was desperately hungry, he decided to go back to his father, ask his forgiveness, and go to work for him as a hired hand.  But the father had been watching and waiting for him:

                “When he was still a long way off, his father saw him.  His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him.  The son started his speech…but the father wasn’t listening.  He was calling to the servants, ‘Quick.  Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him.  Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it.  We’re going to feast!  …My son is here- given up for dead and now alive!  Given up for lost and now found!'” (Luke 15:20-24, The Message).

The story shows that the son didn’t have to confess, repent, or offer to do anything to be welcomed with open arms by his father.  All he had to do was accept the lavish, unconditional love (ILYUF) given to him by his father.  That’s true for us, too.

I like this new acronym ILYUF (thank you, Rod Winkle).  I plan to use it to remind my family and friends that no matter what, I will always love them.  That’s a tall order, given that I’m fallible and so is everyone else.  But it’s also a reminder to me that I am accepted and loved by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that every day the Triune God is whispering in a myriad of ways, “ILYUF.”

~by Nan Kuhlman

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