Supernatural (Week 2)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story] Bree King reads Luke 1:26-38, then Kevin King reads Matthew 1:18-25, prays for the message and congregation.

Message #2: “Angels: Ministering Spirits to God’s People!”

Luke 1:26-38 & Matthew 1:18-25

Do you notice how the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? Last week, we saw how the angel Gabriel was involved in the birth of John the Baptist and today we see how directly he was involved in the birth of Jesus the Christ. Truly, without God sending the angel to Joseph, Mary would have ended up a single teenage mother, outcasted and labeled by her community, trying to raise the Savior of the World by herself. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed.
 
There are approximately 180 references to angels in the Bible and in ¾ of them they are focused on angels serving God’s human family (Michael Heiser, 2018, 132). They are simply doing their job as the guardians of God’s presence and messengers (ministers) to God’s people! They are the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46).

 

As an immediate application for us, never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of obedience. I believe that “just doing your job” with all of your heart is the greatest way you can serve in full-time Christian ministry. Please hear this: you don’t have to work in a position within the church or as a missionary to be on mission! It’s not about your job title or what you do, it’s about doing it all for God’s glory. As Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Just think about this for a second: What if the angels did not do their jobs wholeheartedly? What if the angels who are commanded to minister to you in a time of great need or danger were only going through the motions, trying to do the minimum of what was needed to avoid Hell in hopes of going to Heaven? Scary thought…maybe that should wake us up to the importance of how we live our lives. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness and grace!  But let us not use God’s grace as license to sin or to be half-hearted in our Christian life.
 
Angels are created beings who have existed in the presence of God for thousands of years so while they have free will and can fall, they have every reason to obey with their whole heart. John records an angel’s response to him in Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.’”
 
Perspective matters! This verse DOES NOT mean angels are our servants; they are fellow servants of God! Angels are ministering spirits to God’s earthly family. Listen to Hebrews 1:14,Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
 
And this leads us into our big question of the day: Are there guardian angels? ——— The short answer is yes! Here is what the Bible has to say about the topic of guardian angels:
 
  1. Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits” and they are “sent out” which means there is a Sender [GOD; hence, we don’t command angels, they act according to God’s orders and within the boundaries of His revealed will to them] and they minister to a specific people, “those who will inherit salvation” [who the Bible calls the elect].
  2. Psalm 34:7 reinforces the group to which the angels minister: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”
  3. Psalm 91:11 discusses that you could have a multitude of angels helping you: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
  4. Matthew 18:10 emphasizes God’s special provision for children, but speaks of angels in heaven continually in God’s presence and we know angels cannot be in two places at once: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
  5. Acts 12:15 is part of an amazing story of how angels serve God’s earthly family. This Scripture teaches that angels are real and active in the age of the Church. After angels physically manifest to rescue Peter from jail (please read the story), Peter goes back to the other followers of Jesus, but since they think he is in jail, when Rhoda goes to announce that Peter is at the door knocking, she gets this response: “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’”

 

God’s people do have angels ministering to them according to God’s command and permission. Because God sees all and knows all, at times of great need you will have help, with the possibility that some of that help comes in the form of an angel or a host of angels. As J. I. Packer states, “Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives” (J. I. Packer, 1993, 66).
 
Allow me to make 2 quick illustrations: Sports: I’ve played basketball and you’ve either played it or watched it. Do we need to always play man-to-man defense, even when there are enough players to do so? No, of course not, you do what is effective and that which the coach tells you!
 
Just like you trust the coach, trust God! The angels do, so should we! In fact, the angels that don’t trust God are no longer part of the loyal host of Heaven. Truly, if we don’t trust God and do what He says, should we go around saying we are Christians? Thank God for Jesus Christ who by grace redeems us and secure us in His love, but let us not abuse such a love.
 
Parenting: First kid, it’s 2:1. Second kid, it’s 1:1. Third kid, you’re outnumbered! J But, here’s the deal, even when Kimberly and I are outnumbered (for her it’s 3:1 for 10 hours a day most days) every one of our children knows that they have a parent who is there for them and will answer their call for help. Even though the child may not always get what s/he thinks is best or good in his/her own eyes, the child knows s/he always has a parent who is there! How much more will we receive the help we need when we call upon the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Don’t call out to angels because angels come only at the command of the Lord. Don’t try to command them, don’t pray to them, and never worship them!
 
Angels are not God’s only means by which to minister to you, to care for you, to guard you and His earthly family. God has more at His disposal for your well-being in this life than angels. God has called you to come to the aid of others like the angels are called to come to your aid. Which is why Hebrews 13:1-2 commands His Church, Let love of the brethren [men and women] continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [men and women], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” You never know how God will use you to minister to others. You never know that someone may mistake you as an angel just like you may be ministering to an angel one day without knowing it. This should stop us in our tracks of any racism, sexism, bigotry, vileness, cursing, gossip or slander. God is with us and His angels are possibly the person you are speaking to or about.
 
Who can you invest in today? What service can you render? How can you be there for someone who needs to experience the love of God?
 
In conclusion, may the Christmas story remind you that you are never alone! The miracle of Christmas is Immanuel – God is with us! The little baby Jesus of the first Christmas morning grew up to be a man who lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death for your sin, defeated death through His resurrection, ascended to Heaven in His resurrected body, and is coming again to make all things right. He promised to you, “I am with you always, even to the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20).
 
God keeps His promises! You are secure in His love for all of eternity and you are protected by His presence and power in this life. God will send His angels to minister to you, but more than that, God is with you, today and every day, forever! Immanuel – this is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.
 
 
This ends the notes from the actual teaching, but for those who have had their appetites whetted…
 

For Additional Study (Quotes from Resources with references)

 
Key Verses Heb 1:14; Heb 13:2; Is 6:2–3; Da 10:10–14; Lk 1:26–38; 2 Ki 19:35; Job 1:6; 2 Pe 2:11; Col 1:16; Mt 22:28–30; Lk 15:10; Zec 1:9–10; Ps 103:20–21; Eze 10:1–22 Additional Verses Ge 18:1–22; Ge 19:1–22; Jos 5:13–15; 2 Sa 14:17; 2 Sa 14:20; 1 Ki 22:19; Job 38:7; Ps 34:7; Ps 78:49; Ps 91:11; Ps 148:2–6; Da 9:20–27; Col 1:16; Mt 2:19; Mt 4:6–11; Mt 22:30; Mt 24:31; Mt 25:31; Mt 26:53; Mk 1:13; Mk 8:38; Lk 2:13; Lk 4:10; Lk 20:36; Jn 20:10–14; Ac 1:10–11; Ac 5:19; Ac 10:22; Ac 12:5–11; 1 Co 11:10; Col 1:16; Col 2:18; Heb 1:7; Heb 2:6–9; 2 Pe 2:11; Re 4:6–10; Re 5:11–12; Re 14:6[1]  
 
  • David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (2015)
 
As far as I can determine, there are just two verses in the Bible that indicate there might be guardian angels in the world today. The first is Matthew 18:10: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Apparently, some of God’s angels are assigned to stand ready before the Father to respond instantly to His command for protection and care over these children. Jesus calls these particular angels “their angels.” And that’s why some people have used this passage as proof that everyone has an angel.

 

The second passage that seems to support guardian angels is in Acts 12. After Peter was released from jail, he went to the home of Mary, where a group of Christians was praying for his release. A servant named Rhoda answered Peter’s knock at the door. She was so excited to hear his voice, she left him outside and ran to tell the believers Peter was at the door. They didn’t believe her and reasoned the person at the door must be Peter’s angel.
 
Now, those are the only two passages that I’m aware of that allude to the idea of guardian angels. Having said all of that, let me also present to you the other side of the story, because while many believers throughout church history have believed in guardian angels, others have rejected the idea, feeling these two texts are not proof enough to construct such a doctrine. As you read the Scripture, there were many times when more than one angel was called into action on behalf of one of God’s chosen. Several angels carried Lazarus’s soul to Abraham’s bosom. And Elisha and his servant were surrounded by many angels. The psalmist writes that all the angels rally for the protection of one saint.
 
Now, we can’t know with absolute certainty whether or not each believer has a guardian angel; but we do know that God’s angels care about us and that they can intervene in our lives as they are called by God—and that’s a wonderful thought![2]

 

Our English word angel translates the Hebrew word mal’ak in the Old Testament and the Greek word angelos in the New Testament. The core meaning of both of those words is “messenger.” That’s the essence of who and what angels are: God’s messengers. God’s will and work for angels is to communicate His messages, both by what they say and what they do (Psalm 103:20–21). And solely in obedience to His will are they sent to serve us. God’s own ministry to us, His plans for us, and His protection of us are the busy stairway angels use in their daily diligence of attending to our needs. When they give us strength or enlightenment, it is God’s strength or enlightenment that they impart (Luke 22:43; Daniel 9:21–22). Their encouragement is God’s encouragement (Genesis 16:10–11). Their guidance is God’s guidance (Acts 11:13). Their protection is God’s protection (Psalm 34:7). When they bring comfort and assistance, it is God’s comfort and assistance they offer (Matthew 4:10–11). And when they bring wrath, it is God’s wrath they inflict (2 Chronicles 32:21). Through what angels say and do, God personally expresses to us His friendship, His fatherhood, and much more.[3]  
 
The Bible gives no indication that angels will respond if we pray directly to them for help. We are never told to pray to angels. In fact, in Scripture we don’t find any instances of people even asking God to send them an angel’s protection. And the only person in Scripture who tried persuading someone else to seek help from an angel was Satan, who quoted an Old Testament verse about angelic protection while tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Angels are God’s messengers to us and never our messengers to God—they are not go-betweens or mediators between us and heaven. No one in Scripture ever prayed to an angel, and neither should we. We pray to God, and He sends the help we need.[4]  
 
Yes, some angels appear in human form. In Genesis 18 and 19, angels appear as men to Abraham and Lot. If you read the story carefully, you see that these angels ate, washed, walked, grabbed hands—they took a physical form. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” If you really believe in angels and would enjoy entertaining or honoring them (as a thank-you gesture perhaps for everything they do for you), consider improving your hospitality to strangers. Not until eternity will you know if any of the strangers you encountered were angels, but the possibility is exciting![5]
 
  • Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (2004)  
 
Scripture clearly tells us that God sends angels for our protection: “He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12). But some people have gone beyond this idea of general protection and wondered if God gives a specific “guardian angel” for each individual in the world, or at least for each Christian. Support for this idea has been found in Jesus’ words about little children, “in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). However, our Lord may simply be saying that angels who are assigned the task of protecting little children have ready access to God’s presence. (To use an athletic analogy, the angels may be playing “zone” rather than “man-on-man” defense.) When the disciples in Acts 12:15 say that Peter’s “angel” must be knocking at the door, this does not necessarily imply belief in an individual guardian angel. It could be that an angel was guarding or caring for Peter just at that time. There seems to be, therefore, no convincing support for the idea of individual “guardian angels” in the text of Scripture.[6]  
 
As if to make the reality of angelic observation of our service to God more vivid, the author of Hebrews suggests that angels can sometimes take human form, apparently to make “inspection visits,” something like the newspaper’s restaurant critic who disguises himself and visits a new restaurant. We read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2; cf. Gen. 18:2–5; 19:1–3). This should make us eager to minister to the needs of others whom we do not know, all the while wondering if someday we will reach heaven and meet the angel whom we helped when he appeared temporarily as a human being in distress here on earth.
 
When we are suddenly delivered from a danger or distress, we might suspect that angels have been sent by God to help us, and we should be thankful. An angel shut the mouths of the lions so they would not hurt Daniel (Dan. 6:22), delivered the apostles from prison (Acts 5:19–20), later delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:7–11), and ministered to Jesus in the wilderness at a time of great weakness, immediately after his temptations had ended (Matt. 4:11).

  When a car suddenly swerves from hitting us, when we suddenly find footing to keep from being swept along in a raging river, when we walk unscathed in a dangerous neighborhood, should we not suspect that God has sent his angels to protect us? Does not Scripture promise, “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12)? Should we not therefore thank God for sending angels to protect us at such times? It seems right that we should do so.[7]   “Worship of angels” (Col. 2:18) was one of the false doctrines being taught at Colossae. Moreover, an angel speaking to John in the book of Revelation warns John not to worship him: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10).

 
Nor should we pray to angels. We are to pray only to God, who alone is omnipotent and thus able to answer prayer and who alone is omniscient and therefore able to hear the prayers of all his people at once. By virtue of omnipotence and omniscience, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also worthy of being prayed to, but this is not true of any other being. Paul warns us against thinking that any other “mediator” can come between us and God, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). If we were to pray to angels, it would be implicitly attributing to them a status equal to God, which we must not do. There is no example in Scripture of anyone praying to any specific angel or asking angels for help.
 
Moreover, Scripture gives us no warrant to seek for appearances of angels to us. They manifest themselves unsought. To seek such appearances would seem to indicate an unhealthy curiosity or a desire for some kind of spectacular event rather than a love for God and devotion to him and his work. Though angels did appear to people at various times in Scripture, the people apparently never sought those appearances. Our role is rather to talk to the Lord, who is himself the commander of all angelic forces. However, it would not seem wrong to ask God to fulfill his promise in Psalm 91:11 to send angels to protect us in times of need.[8]
 
  • A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1984)

It is true that angels are sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). But nowhere in Scripture or Jewish tradition of the NT period is there any suggestion that there is one angel for one person. Daniel and Zechariah imply one angel for each nation. Appeal to Acts 12:15 does not help. Why should Peter’s supposed guardian angel sound like Peter? And if ministering angels are sent to help believers, what are the angels in Matthew 18:10 doing around the divine throne, instead of guarding those people to whom they are assigned?[9]

  • I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993)

 

Heaven is their headquarters (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; Rev. 5:11), where they constantly worship God (Pss. 103:20–21; 148:2) and whence they move out to render service to Christians at God’s bidding (Heb. 1:14). These are the “holy” and “elect” angels (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 14:10), to whom God’s work of grace through Christ is currently demonstrating more of the divine wisdom and glory than they knew before (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12). Holy angels guard believers (Pss. 34:7; 91:11), little ones in particular (Matt. 18:10), and constantly observe what goes on in the church (1 Cor. 11:10). It is implied that they are more knowledgeable about divine things than humans are (Mark 13:32), and that they have a special ministry to believers at the time of their death (Luke 16:22), but we know no details about any of this. Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives.[10]
 
  • Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (2018)

 

An earthly focus occupies roughly three-quarters of the approximately 180 references to angels in the New Testament. This frequency should not be surprising, as it is God’s will that his heavenly agents serve his human family.
 
Instead of being objects of worship or adoration, angels are cast in the New Testament as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14). Angels are portrayed rendering their service in a variety of ways. They delivered apostles from prison (Acts 5:18–21; 12:7–11). One comforted Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 27:23). Angels brought messages to people in dreams (Joseph: Matt 1:20–24; 2:13, 19) and visions (Mary, the mother of Jesus: Luke 1:26–38; Zechariah: Luke 1:8–23; Cornelius: Acts 10:3–7, 22 [cf. Acts 11:13]; Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the empty tomb: Matt 28:1–7 [cf. Luke 24:23]; John 20:12–13; cf. 1 Tim 3:16). Angels appeared in the heavens to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9, 10).
 
Angels could also encounter humans physically. An angel struck Peter on the side to awaken him in prison and supernaturally freed him from his shackles (Acts 12:7). The apostle nevertheless presumed he was experiencing a vision until he found himself outside the jail alone on the street (Acts 12:7–11). The circumstance of an angel of the Lord appearing to Philip (Acts 8:26) is not qualified as a vision, and so a physical appearance is a possible reading of that encounter. Angels ministered to Jesus after he resisted the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13). An angel rolled back the stone covering the tomb of Jesus and subsequently used it for a seat (Matt 28:2).
 
These instances are all consistent with portrayals of angels in the Old Testament. It is not surprising, in view of this earlier revelation, that the New Testament has Jewish characters expressing the belief that angels could appear and speak to people (John 12:29; Acts 23:9). As the writer of Hebrews notes, an angel’s true identity in such an encounter could be completely imperceptible: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). The implication is that angels could not be distinguished from ordinary men. The writer is apparently thinking of Old Testament episodes such as Genesis 18–19. However, explicit references to angels as men are rare in the New Testament (Luke 24:4 [cf. John 20:12]); Acts 1:10; 10:30), and when they do occur, the “men” wear dazzling, luminous robes, suggesting they were extraordinary.
 
One of the more pronounced ministries to people in which angels engage is that of interpreting visions or divine decrees. We saw earlier that this thematic portrayal (the “interpreting angel” motif) occurred in Old Testament apocalyptic literature. The same is true of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament, particularly the book of Revelation, where angels regularly interpret the visions seen by John (1:1; 4:1; 10:7–10; 17:1, 17; 21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). As one specialist of this motif notes:
 
The book of Revelation is the archetype of the apocalyptic genre, and as such it largely conforms to the norms of the type. It presents itself as a revelation (αποκαλυψη, apokalypsē) given through the mediation of heavenly beings.
 
Angels are also described in an advocacy role, popularly referred to as “guardian angels.” Earlier we saw that the Old Testament referred to holy ones as “mediators,” a role that involved explaining divine decisions and functioning as witness on behalf of the innocent in their suffering. The New Testament contains hints of this same idea, though it is clear that believers no longer need an advocate mediator, because Jesus himself now intercedes for us before God (1 Tim 2:5).
 
Matthew 18:10 reads, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” This statement of course precedes the high priestly work of Christ and draws on Old Testament concepts of angelic mediation. Barrett notes, “Judaism believed in protecting and guiding angels.” Pseudo-Philo (Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 59.4) and the Testament of Jacob (1:10) draw on Psalm 91:11–12 (cf. Luke 4:10) to express the guardianship of angels. In the book of Tobit, when Tobit and his wife send their son on a journey, he tells her:
 
Do not worry; our child will leave in good health and return to us in good health. Your eyes will see him on the day when he returns to you in good health. Say no more! Do not fear for them, my sister. For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health. (Tobit 5:21–22 nrsv)
 
Acts 12 apparently has some aspect of angelic oversight in view. After an angel freed Peter from prison, Peter went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). A servant girl named
Rhoda responded to his knock recognized his voice but, in her excitement at hearing Peter, ran to tell those gathered instead of letting him inside. Despite their prayers, they didn’t believe her report, replying, “It is his angel!” Peter kept knocking and was finally welcome (12:15–16). The believers gathered that night believed that Peter had a personal angel.

 

The idea of guardian angels apparently includes protection, as angels did rescue people, but angelic “oversight” in the human sphere also includes keeping track of evil perpetrated on the innocent for later judgment or a record of those who will inherit eternal life. Recall that the “books in heaven” concept was associated with the divine council in the ancient Near East. Jesus says specifically of believers in Revelation 3:5 that “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” The reference to angels speaks of both “council validation” of those who belong to Christ (see below), but also of angelic witness to such a verdict. Elsewhere in the book of Revelation, this “confession” (or rejection) has to do with the “book of life” (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). In Luke 10:20 Jesus told the seventy disciples, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Other believers are recorded in the “book of life” (Phil 4:3). This may be the context for a verse like Luke 16:22, where, upon death, the poor man was carried by angels to the afterlife comfort of “Abraham’s side.” Given that some of these passages in Revelation are naturally associated with the apocalyptic eschaton, it is relevant to note that angels are also tasked with gathering the elect—those found in the book of life—at such time (Matt 13:39; 24:31; Mark 13:27).[11]  
 
As we saw in our first chapter, the terms malʾākı̂m (“angel”), keruḇı̂m (“cherubim”), and śerāp̱ı̂m (“seraphim”) are not interchangeable. They are, in effect, job descriptions performed by different spirit beings. In biblical literature, cherubim and seraphim are never sent to people to deliver messages. That task belongs to angels. Cherubim and seraphim are heavenly throne guardians, a role that at times brings them into contact with humans, but they are not sent to earth to instruct people. Conversely, angels are found in the divine presence as well. Old and New Testament writers place them there. Rather, the terminology distinguishes roles.
 
We have also seen that whenever angels encounter humans in their messaging role, they appear in human form. In the Old Testament their appearance makes them indistinguishable from men. It is only when they do something unearthly that their transcendent nature becomes apparent. The only visible exceptions in to this pattern are found in the New Testament, where members of the heavenly host appear to people along with luminous glory (Luke 2:9, 13) or dazzlingly white clothing (Matt 28:3). Angels are never described as having inhuman features (wings, multiple faces) like cherubim and seraphim are. The reverse is actually the case. Cherubim and seraphim may share human traits, but angels do not have creaturely attributes. The conclusion can be drawn, then, that angels—those divine beings sent to earth to interact with people—look like people and do not have wings.
 
Zechariah 5:9 is often offered as an exception to both the human (and male) portrayal of angels:
 
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.
 
Despite the fact that even some scholars speak about these women with wings as angels, there is no textual basis for identifying the women as angels. The “women” (Hebrew, našı̂m) are never described as angels. In the very next verse the prophet speaks to an angel (malʾāk), a figure distinct from the women (Zech 5:10). When the angel speaks (Zech 5:11), the writer used the masculine form of the verb (yōʾmer), not the feminine form (tōʾmer). The text is clear.
 
Zechariah 5:8–11 therefore provides no biblical evidence for the notion that angels have wings or come to humans in female appearance. While it is clear that wings mark the women as being from heaven (as opposed to earth), the point is not “these are angels.” Rather, the point is to highlight their contrast with the wicked woman in the basket a few verses earlier (Zech 5:5–8). Akin to the removal of the filthy garments of Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3, the women represent God’s removal of wickedness from his land and people to Shinar (Babylon), where evil belongs.
 
One could actually make a more reasoned case for the women being cherubim. In addition to their creaturely attribute of wings, Zechariah 5:9 notes, “The wind [rûaḥ] was in their wings.” The term rûaḥ is frequently translated “Spirit”/“spirit.” This is the same “locomotion” of the winged cherubim in Ezekiel 1:12, 20; 10:17. Like Ezekiel 1, the context is oriented to Babylon, the source of cherubim iconography.
 
Since Zechariah 5:8–11 cannot validate that angels are winged creatures, the passage also fails as evidence that angels can appear as women (biblically speaking, at least). If the women are not angels, then Zechariah 5:9 cannot teach us that angels can appear as women.
 
The assumption presupposes the idea that angels have gender. They do not—indeed they cannot be gendered, since they are spirit beings and gender is a biological attribute. When angels assume visible form or flesh to interact with human beings, Scripture always has them male. The flesh they assume is gendered because it is flesh, not because that corporality is an intrinsic part of angelic nature.
 
With respect to the New Testament, the primary appeal to angels having wings comes from Revelation 10:1:
 
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

 

The argument goes: the passage never mentions wings, but because the angel “comes down from heaven,” he must have wings. The same argument (and omission of any reference to wings) is characteristic of Revelation 14:6, 17, where angels emerge from the heavenly temple and altar, respectively (cf. Matt 28:2).
 
The flaw in this argument is its dependence on descent language. It is not difficult to demonstrate its terminal weakness. Are we to conclude that Jesus has wings? After all, he descends from heaven (1 Thess 4:16). Does the Holy Spirit have wings? He descends on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). The point with both examples is that for supernatural beings, descent from heaven does not require wings. The point may be a floating descent, or an urgent one, depending on the context. It may also be figurative language designed purely to denote point of origin—God’s abode. For example, the same language is used of Jesus’ first coming, which we know was by virtue of being born of Mary, having nothing to do with wings: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). It is quite evident that descent language for divine figures does not require wings and so provides no support for angels having wings.[12]

 

FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Sam Emadi, “Angels,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
 [2] David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 62–63.
[3] Ibid., 64.
[4] Ibid., 65.
[5] Ibid., 68.
[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 399–400.
[7] Ibid., 406.
[8] Ibid., 407.
[9] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 401.
[10] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 64–66.
[11] Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 132–136.
[12] Ibid., 164–167.
 

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Supernatural (Week 1)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #1: Angels: God’s Messengers!

 
Janet Miller reads Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 and prays.  
 
From the Bible, what we can learn about angels and their perspective on the greatest miracle to ever happen, “Christmas: When Heaven came to Earth”?
 
A clarifying note: This sermon series is focused on angels, whom I am calling the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” These messages are not focused on the fallen angels, known as demons, who are destined for judgment because they call Satan (the Devil) their lord and not God. In this series, I cannot cover every issue of the supernatural realm—of angels and demons, cherubim and seraphim, seen and unseen. Needless to say, the more I study the Bible on this topic, the deeper it becomes and the more I realize there is much more to this discussion than I first suspected. Let’s take a big picture look by answering 3 questions about angels this morning:  
 
  1. What are angels and where did they come from?
 
  With the notable exception of the “Angel of the Lord” (a wonderful topic beyond the scope of this study) angels are not God! Angels are divine (called the holy ones, heavenly ones) spiritual (disembodied) beings, supernatural members of God’s family with a job to do for God. Angels are created beings with a specific job description, just like we are created beings with a job description! Angels are the messengers of God (that is what both the Hebrew and Greek words for angel actually mean). Angles are also called “watchers” in the OT (Daniel 4 and Job 7).
 
Angels are older than humanity. We know this from Job 38:4-7, when God is speaking to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
 
God calls angels “morning stars” and “sons of God” and teaches us that they were in full function at Genesis 1. They are not as old as God for God is pre-existent meaning God has always been. God is the beginning and end of all things. As John 1:3 says of Jesus, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This includes angels. But what so many people forget is that while angels are completely separate from us and older than us, they are also created by and subordinate to God.[1]
 
The Loyal Host of Heaven shouted for joy at Creation, witnessed the Fall of humanity, are actively participating in the restoration of humanity, have key jobs to fulfill in the consummation, and we will be with them for all of eternity. Angels are distinct from humans and are not interchangeable with us, nor us with them (in form or function). Jesus says that we will one day become like the angels, but please be very clear in knowing that Jesus never says we will become angels (Matthew 22:30).
 
At this time of history, angels are a part of a different realm than us, but they interact with this realm by God’s command and empowerment, which we will see throughout these sermons. But as powerful as angels are they are not all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful like God. God has created the angels for divine purposes, to be in His presence as His heavenly host, but we are not to pray to angels, bow to angels, or worship angels. While we were made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7), we will one day (in the Eternal Kingdom) judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3).
 
  1. How many members of the “Loyal Host of Heaven” (angels) are there?
 

Obviously, Gabriel is named as the angel in the Christmas story (Luke 1:19), but did you know that there are only 2 angels named in the Bible? The first is Gabriel (e.g. current passage and Daniel 8:16; 9:21) and the second is Michael (called the “chief prince” in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; “archangel” in Jude 9; and leading in battle in Rev. 12:7).  

But are there only 2 angels? No! John in Revelation 5:11 teaches us, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (cf. Hebrews 12:22). In addition to our discussion on angels, this verse also references “the living creatures and the elders” so I just want to acknowledge that there are other heavenly beings that are not part of this study. There are also specialized forms and functions of heavenly beings such as the cherubim (Gen. 3; Exodus 25; Ezekiel 10) and seraphim (Isaiah 6). While some argue that these are angels with a specific form and function, a key question is whether their description is representative of all angels because most angels, when they appear to humanity, appear human.
 
Back to the number of angels, David Jeremiah summarizes well, “To give you a perspective on how many angels this is, the average football stadium in America holds about 50,000 people. It would take some 2,000 stadiums of that size to hold 100,000,000 people. The total number of angels John saw may have far exceeded 100,000,000–10,000 was the highest numerical figure used in the Greek language. ‘Ten thousand times ten thousand’ may have been John’s way of describing an inexpressibly large company of angels” (David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven, 2015, 38). While the common view is that there is an “innumerable” number of angels, there are only 2 of the Loyal Host of Heaven named in the Bible. Why?
 
  1. What is the perspective of the angels on the Christmas story?
 
The Bible teaches us that the angels excitedly waited to see what God was going to do with His creation. Only God knows the plans of His own mind and He reveals them as He chooses. The angels longed to know what was on God’s mind for the descendants of Adam and Eve. For thousands of years they have watched, they have delivered messages, and they continue to give God unceasing worship.
 
I imagine that on that 1st Christmas morning the angels were like children on Christmas morning—anticipating and hopeful! They longed to see what God would do to restore His creation. Remember, the angels are messengers, but they do not have full knowledge. Could they even imagine what God would do? Gabriel is faithful to deliver the messages to Zacharias about John, and as we will see next week to Mary about Jesus. Anticipation grows! Hundreds of years of messages and thousands of years of watching are coming to a head… HOPE!
 
The mystery is about to be revealed! Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (cf. Romans 16:25-27).
 
Would they be amazed and awe-struck to see Jesus Christ take on flesh and become lower than them so that God could dwell among people that Christmas morning in a promised new way? The angels know Jesus in His glorified form! The revelation of Christmas is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas Miracle of Immanuel—God is with us, once again! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but justly removed them from His presence upon their rebellion (Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. This is the Christmas miracle that the angels are now participating in.  
 
Gabriel knows the goodness and love of God, but he is about to see another level of the depths of God’s love poured out on humanity. When Gabriel enters the Holy of Holies in Luke 1:11, he is moving forward the plan that God had him tell Daniel over 500 years prior (see Daniel 8 & 9). This message God gave Gabriel to deliver to Zacharias is good news for Gabriel, as much as it is good news for all humanity, because it is God making all things right, from all the rebellions. It is what Gabriel and the innumerable of Loyal Host of Heaven, have been longing to know. The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching this story unfold and will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them. They have front row seats in the very presence of God, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known for it was only known in the infinite mind of the triune God—the cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…  
 
The perspective of the angels on that 1st Christmas was one of increased awe and wonder of God, if that is even possible, and renewed hope and anticipation for humanity.  
 
What is your perspective on Christmas and how does it affect your worship of God? Have you lost the awe and wonder of God?
 
The angels, more than any human, know the meaning of Christmas and their perspective should lead us into worship and celebration of God.   The angels know that our best days are ahead of us! To have HOPE is what it means to live in Advent! How does your perspective on Christmas affect you and those you encounter on a daily basis?
 

————————

[1] For further study, do a Hebrew word elohim, take a journey of understanding the divine council of God as overtly witnessed in Job 1:6 and 1 Kings 22:19 and referenced (but misunderstood) in Genesis 1:26, as well as Psalm 82. Additionally, explore the terms in the Bible that speak to the nature, status, and function of the loyal host of Heaven. I exhort you to not be scared to learn directly from the Bible because your Bible will never contradict your doctrine if your doctrine comes from the Bible. May the Spirit reform you through the renewal of your mind. There is such a diversity of opinion, even amongst evangelical scholars and theologians.

 

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Follow (Week 7): “Following Jesus Transforms Everyday Life!”

Main Scriptures:  Mark 1:17, 1 John 2:6, & Mark 5:1-20
 
Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” A guiding image of this series is the children’s game: “follow the leader.”  
 
Who are we to follow? A politician, a celebrity pastor, a sports hero or famous actor, a favorite author or musician… There is no end of the list of people who want you to “follow” them, but there is only one invitation that transforms everyday life. There are so many people making promises, but only One who can deliver on all His promises! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW. Listen closely because it comes with a promise: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17).  
 
Jesus invites us to become His disciple/apprentice/learner. Jesus’ call to those original fishermen was pretty obvious. Jesus stood there and looked them in the eyes… in response they dropped their nets and followed Jesus, meaning they walked where He walked, learned what He taught, ate what He ate, and tried to do what He did. A disciple is a person who FOLLOWS Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
 
We see this clearly taught by John in 1 John 2:6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b, 6).  
 
To follow is to be on a journey with Jesus, one step at a time. In the church, we call this discipleship. Discipleship is simply the process of becoming… of being under construction… Discipleship is a life-long journey of a person following Jesus to become more and more like Jesus Christ from the inside out. The invitation of Jesus Christ is to “Follow Me” and the promise of Jesus is that He will transform us along the way. Jesus transforms us as we follow Him, but He also transforms the world around us [how?] through us!
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Last week, the elders discussed with us the importance of leading like Jesus Christ. They talked about how we are to lead like Jesus in the church, but they also talked about how we are to live like Jesus in everyday life. Scott Underwood, one of our elders, introduced three points about what it looks like to walk like Jesus. Jesus is practical, intentional, and relational as He walks with us.  
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! We live differently when we are practically, intentionally, and relationally following Jesus Christ. Because every time you attempt to practically follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit asks you do something for someone in the real world. Because every time you attempt to intentionally follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit is going to lead you into a very real situation to show that God is real too. Because every time you attempt to relationally follow Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is going to ask you to love a real person who you can see and touch, and who is possibly not as easy to love as the God you cannot see but claim to be following. The rubber must meet the road somewhere and with someone if we are truly following Jesus.
 
Following Jesus transforms everyday life! Now, let’s take a snapshot of Jesus’ life to see what it looks like to be practical, intentional, and relational. Please turn with me to Mark 5 to watch Jesus at work.  
 
Read Mark 5:1-15. Jesus starts by meeting the practical needs of the man who was stuck in his lifestyle. This means we practically meet people in their daily needs and concerns. In the counseling ministry that I am blessed with here in New Castle, this means that when I can I help people with their “presenting problem” before I go to their deeper need. We all have “presenting problems”, but we don’t all have the same ones. I very intentionally try to help people where they are. Yes, all people are in need of Jesus, but let’s treat them like individuals (relationally) and build a bridge (intentionally) into their lives because each person is made in the image of God who deserves basic human dignity. People feel looked over when we go straight to our evangelical agenda and don’t meet them where they are.
 
Let me illustrate from Mark 5 by looking at what Jesus did in this story: “Presenting problems” can be ugly! The needs of this man were very off-putting (to anyone!). Mark 5:2-5 describes, “When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.”
 
The “presenting problem” was dealt with as evidenced by Mark 5:15: “They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the ‘legion’; and they became frightened.”  
 
You’ve heard it said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It’s true! This is why we must be intentional. We must know why we do what we do. We are building stronger bridges between us and others for Jesus!
 
Listen to the story as it continues, from Mark 5:16-18, “Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to implore Him to leave their region. As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.” While the city was more concerned about the swine and their economic well-being, Jesus had a bigger purpose in mind. Jesus got a foothold (e.g. D-Day beach head) into the town that rejected Him. He left as they asked him, but not in defeat or by their leave! Jesus left the man behind to do that which only a man of the town could do (This was D-Day and Jesus knew V-Day was coming). Just because you aren’t called to the other side of the globe doesn’t mean you aren’t called to the work of missions.
 
You have heard me say that the Kingdom of God is a relational kingdom. Did you notice that Jesus sends us to do His work even in places He has been disinvited? Listen to the conclusion of this story from Mark 5:18-20, “As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, ‘Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.” But this is not the real end of the story! Jesus did not deny this man’s request out of exclusion, but for the sake of this man becoming a human bridge between himself and others for Jesus! He was the foothold!
 
This one formerly demon-possessed man would go on to impact his town and the whole region. Matthew 4:25 teaches us that later, “Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan” (cf. Mark 7:31-37). You are called to transform your everyday world by being practical, intentional, and relational. What does this look like? Husbands help with the dishes. Wives say thank you and tell them they did a great job. Children love your parents. Parents listen to your kids and do not provoke them to anger. We are commanded to love one another in practical ways. You can make a difference!
 
The mission of God may begin around your kitchen table, but it must leave the building. Just like at church, the mission of God may begin with the people in your pew or small group, but you shouldn’t contain your love for Jesus by keeping it inside the four walls. Christ sends us to those in our homes, churches, workplaces, schools, sports and hobbies, neighborhoods and communities. There are no boundaries for Jesus when He has you! You are the foothold in the schools, workplaces, government, clubs and organizations, families…
 
As we leave the four walls of our homes and churches, go and love your neighbors by being a blessing and not a curse. Bring thriving to our community be helping people along the way. Show the world that God loves them by you loving them in practical, intentional, and relational ways. Keep your eyes open to the needs that are presenting themselves. Meet “presenting problems” in order to build a strong bridge into the person’s life.
 
Let us, the people of God, build stronger bridges, not higher walls.
 
Why?
 
Because that is what Jesus Christ did for us when He went to the cross. Jesus is the bridge back to God. He is the mediator between sinful humanity and a holy God. As we follow Jesus, let’s strengthen that bridge by the way we follow Jesus in everyday ways.

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Follow (Week 3): Pray Like Jesus!

KEY VERSES:  Mark 1:17 & 1 John 2:6
 
Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” A guiding image of this series is the children’s game: “follow the leader.”
 
It’s important that we review some of the basics. Not just for those who are just joining us, but because there are basics that we all must be reminded of every week. Such as answering the question…
 
Who are we to follow? To whose invitation are we responding?
  • A pastor, a worship leader, a personality or a style…
  • A group of friends… A cultural (tribal) pressure…
  • A denomination or brand loyalty… Family and tradition…
  • A cause to champion… A bandwagon to jump on…
 
We are invited to FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17)

 

What does it look like to follow Jesus?

 

Jesus invites us to become His disciple/apprentice/learner. Jesus’ call to those original fishermen was pretty obvious. Jesus stood there and looked them in the eyes… in response they dropped their nets and followed Jesus, meaning they walked where He walked, learned what He taught, ate what He ate, and tried to do what He did. A disciple is a person who FOLLOWS Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
 
We see this clearly taught by John in 1 John 2:6, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:5b, 6).
 
To follow is to be on a journey with Jesus, one step at a time. In the church, we call this discipleship. Discipleship is simply the process of becoming… of being under construction… Discipleship is a life-long journey of a person following Jesus to become more and more like Jesus Christ from the inside out. The invitation of Jesus Christ is to “Follow Me” and the promise of Jesus is that He will transform us along the way. This is the promise of the Holy Spirit who we learned last week is our Helper. As Jesus taught in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” The Holy Spirit has some tried and true ways to do this work in us and Jesus modeled it for us. He led the way. We are invited to follow Jesus…
 

Jesus modeled definite patterns of prayer in his life and ministry.

 
The goal of our prayer life is not to gain credits to our account. Never forget, God credits (imputes) his favor to your account by grace, not by works. When you accept the invitation to follow Jesus, you come into relationship with Him. Now, prayers are one of the ways to know Jesus better, to talk to Him. You know what it is to want to talk to someone when you are in love; prayer has the same heart, the desire for intimacy—to know and to be known.
 

Over 45 passages in the Gospels record how Jesus often slipped away to pray and there are four simple principles about prayer that can be learned from Jesus’ definite patterns of prayer. Always remember that our goal is to develop a lifestyle of prayer in which we continually share our heart with God; to know Him better.

 

1. Jesus prayed before the important events and decisions of His life.

The Gospel of Luke 6:12-13 records, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles.”

Are there any decisions we should make apart from prayer? What is the role of prayer in every aspect of your life, your work, and the places of your responsibilities? How do we make it a pattern of our lives to pray before we make decisions?
 

2. Jesus prayed after the significant achievements of His life.

The Gospel of Matthew 14:22-23 witnesses of what Jesus did after the miracle of feeding the five thousand, “Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.”

Do you pray as much after the time of crisis or achievement as before the events? Do you schedule special times of prayer after you have fulfilled significant responsibilities? Why is this important?
 

3. Jesus prayed when life was unusually busy.

The Gospel of Mark 1:35 demonstrates, “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”

Professor at Moody Bible Seminary, Dr. Bill Thrasher states, “Time alone with God can be one of the greatest time-savers of your life.” How does your personal experience line up with this sentiment, if not practice? What happens to you when you let your busyness take over your heart and mind? How do you invest your time? Do you know the difference between what is urgent and what is important?
 

4. Jesus prayed when He was overwhelmed with need.

The Gospel of Matthew 9:35-38 illustrates Jesus’ lifestyle of prayer and how we are to imitate Him by His own command, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’”

No one ever just decides to be a person of prayer. God awakens people to this lifestyle through their sense of needs and through a burden or broken heart for the needs surrounding them. Has God awakened this in you? What burdens you? Where is God breaking your heart?
 
 

Following Jesus means we press into the lifestyle of Jesus Christ. We are to imitate Jesus, and this includes in our most private and personal of places, including our prayer life. Let us end our time this morning by praying together as the Lord Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV): “Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.”


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Follow (Week 2): Jesus Followed Someone, Too!

KEY VERSES:  Mark 1:17 & 1 John 2:6   Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” Last week, I introduced the image of the children’s game, “follow the leader.” Who are we to follow? To whose invitation are we responding?

  • A pastor, a worship leader, a personality or a style…
  • A group of friends… A cultural (tribal) pressure…
  • A denomination or brand loyalty… Family and tradition…
  • A cause to champion… A bandwagon to jump on…

We are invited to FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW:   “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17)   Read more…


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Follow (Week 1): Respond to Jesus’ Invitation!

KEY VERSES:  Mark 1:17 & 1 John 2:6       Big Word #2 is “FOLLOW!” [opening illustration: Have you ever played follow the leader?]   We have learned the importance of why God GATHERS us. We are His Church—the ones who have been gathered by God’s grace, out of the world and into a peculiar community of God’s people. We come by an invitation…an invitation to FOLLOW!   Who are we to follow? To whose invitation are we responding?

  • A pastor, a worship leader, a personality or a style…
  • A group of friends… A cultural (tribal) pressure…
  • A denomination or brand loyalty… Family and tradition…
  • A cause to champion… A bandwagon to jump on…

We are invited to FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST! Listen to Jesus’ invitation to FOLLOW:

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men'” (Mark 1:17)   Read more…


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GATHER (Week 6): We Gather to Celebrate!

KEY VERSES: Acts 2:37-47 (NASB)
 
Why do we gather? God gathers His Church for His purposes and His glory! Today we will learn that God gathers us to celebrate His work in our lives. We have been homesteading in the book of Acts 2:37-47 and there is much to learn from the early church in its beginning days. I call those early days the honeymoon phase of the Church, but no relationship stays in the honeymoon. Struggles happen that require a normalization of life. The early church soon realized that Jesus’ return may not happen in the first or second generation of believers like they presumed. Now, 2,000 years later, Jesus has still not returned. That is why we gather—to remember Who brought us together, to celebrate Jesus, and to anticipate the promised Victory that is ever before us!
 
 
We gather to celebrate God and the work God is doing actively in us and through us! We do that by sharing His story by teaching the Bible and by sharing our testimonies. When we share testimonies as we gather, we join with the Apostles and the early church in doing so. The sharing of testimonies is an ancient practice that goes all the way back to the very beginning of the Church, but it is also a means of grace by which we will overcome evil. Listen to Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”
 
 
We are to share our testimonies with one another. Watch Merissa’s Testimony:
 
There are different kinds of testimonies. Testimonies are an essential part of why we gather:
  • When we share our testimonies, we glorify God for the blood of the Lamb by which we are saved. Testimonies first and foremost proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of God!
  • Testimonies also teach about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ through stories. Stories are powerful! We get a glimpse from one another of how the Christian life is filled with power in the everyday ways. We learn from one another how to put into practice our faith and why hanging on to our faith is so important. Sometimes, we are the only Bible people will read. What does your life teach?
  • Testimonies encourage each of us to persevere in love and good deeds. It’s hard out there and very often testimonies shine God’s light in dark places that each of us experience! We need to see that it is true that we can overcome; that faith does work, that we do have a living hope worth hanging onto. When we gather, we are building one another up in love so that we can be love to our world!
Listen to what we, our gathering at FBC, can be like by God’s grace. From Paul in Colossians 3:14-17, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
 
 
Sharing stories help us live out this truth. We are not celebrating ourselves when we share our testimonies; we are celebrating the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit at work in each of us and in our church. When we gather faithfully, we have greater power within us to scatter faithfully.
 
 
Ed & Delora Hartsock to share their testimony.
 
We gather to scatter so while we gather let us do so in a way that help us be faithful in our everyday lives in the everyday ways. God loves you! God sees you in all of your situations! God is at work! God will use all of you… All of your story… Will you trust God will all of you and all of your story? Will we trust God with all of FBC and all of our story?
 

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GATHER (Week 5): We Gather to Love!

Key Verses:  Acts 2:37-47 (NASB)
 

Why do we gather? God gathers His Church for His purposes and His glory! Today we will learn that God gathers us to obey the teachings of Jesus Christ, namely to love. Read Acts 2:37-47 (NASB).

 
 

Homecoming Bonfire

 
I want you to keep an image in your mind as I share with you this morning: think about the gathered in the Church as a big bonfire at Homecoming. People are invited to the bonfire to come together to relish in the tradition and to anticipate the victory that the bonfire represents. There is a past, present, and future dynamic at the bonfire. The bonfire brings people together to celebrate as a gathered community, to remember the past and what brought them together in the first place, and to anticipate the future victory. When it comes to bonfires, the bigger the better!
 
The same is true for when the church gathers for public worship services. There is a past, present, and future dynamic in our services. The church service brings us together to celebrate as a gathered community, to remember the past and Who brings us together in the first place, and to anticipate the future victory we have in Jesus Christ. God keeps His promises and we come to celebrate, remember, and anticipate!
 
There is a difference though between the Homecoming bonfire and the church service: at the homecoming you are a spectator drawn to the bonfire, but in the church service each of us is a participant gathered (like fire wood) as a fuel source for the fire. The problem is that most of us look at our church service engagement with the same level of commitment that we look at the Homecoming bonfire. If I feel up to it. If the weather allows. If there is not a better opportunity. If I am feeling up to seeing those people. If it will be worth my time.
 
When you have a spectator mindset, it may not seem like a big deal to not show up at church, but if each of us is a fuel source for the bonfire (a participant), the effects are cumulative when we don’t gather: Would FBC be missed if our fire went out? Who would notice and why? Would New Castle and Henry County be a better or worse place if another church wasn’t here?
 
This is why the author of Hebrews commanded in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
 

Neighborhood Time:

Thank one another for coming to church today and that it is important they be here. We are commanded to not forsake gathering as the Church because we are to “hold fast (to hold on to like a possession) the confession of our hope without wavering”—Jesus Christ, the Faithful One who promises us the abundant life! The early church in Acts knew in tangible terms that it was Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who gathered them and in gathering they knew that it was a new community that was different from the world. It was a community gathered to remember Jesus Christ and how He had established a new people—the Church—the called-out ones who are gathered at the cost of the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
 
It is not surprising that the language of Hebrews says, “not forsaking the assembling together” because the Church is the assembly or the gathering of those who are called out of the world and assembled or gathered together. You are the Church and to forsake the assembly is to forsake your very identity as a member of the body of Christ. Without all the coals in the fire, we have no ability to be the very Light of the World that Jesus calls us. It not only affects us, it touches your life when you don’t gather because any coal taken out of the fire goes from being bright to being dull. That is just a reality of being out of God’s will. God’s will for your life is for you to be the best version of you—burning true and bright for the world to see His love through you!
 
What about when people cannot consistently be here due to medical reasons? Remember, we are to give LOVE in practical and tangible ways to build up and support the community of God’s people! This is why the prayer ministries, the practical helps ministry, the prayer shawl ministry, the meals ministry, the shut-in ministries, the visitation ministries into homes, nursing homes, and hospitals are so important. When people are unable to come and gather with us, then each of us is called to BE the Church to them. This is why we do Neighborhood time (look around and see who is missing): call or text them, send a card, bring them a meal, invite them over your place or out, be a good neighbor. Remember, Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
 
How does it feel to you when you miss gathering with us and no one reaches out or seems to care? Honestly, you have to choose how you are going to respond to that emotion: like a spectator or like a participant. Spectators sit back and watch the game critiquing the participants and discussing the decisions. Participants are in the game making decisions and seeking to be a part of bringing about the anticipated victory.
 

Gather to stimulate one another to love and good deeds

 
We are gathered “to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” We are gathered to bring God glory and God’s glory is visibly brighter and bigger when we all prioritize the gathering! Our gathering has a positive ripple effect on the community because we leave hotter and brighter than when we came. Listen again to Acts 2:44-47: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
 
What are we so supposed to be like when we gather? [sometimes we come to this place with barely a light left in us from the week, but when you are thrown back in the fire, ON FIRE!] What are we supposed to look like when we scatter? [how can you stay hot throughout the week? 7:1 Initiative – we all need 7 friends and 1 place of service as the Church. We can’t make it about us (spectator mentality) so we must get in the BIG GAME!]
 

Gather to encourage one another

 
Finally, we are gathered for the very reason of “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Acts 2 is a picture of the birth of the Church and anyone who had read through the book of Acts or has read the letters of the New Testament knows that the honeymoon of early church fellowship did not last. Quickly, these gathered believers had to learn how to handle the reality of staying in community, where not everyone was honest about sharing their stuff and people complained when they didn’t feel they were getting enough attention from the leaders. The church community had to organize and figure all this out. 2,000 years later, we are still trying to figure it out by not only reading through Acts and the letters of the New Testament, but we now have hundreds if not thousands if not millions of opinions of how to do it ranging from studying church history or contemporary scholars, from books to blogs to social media posts. The problem is not a lack of information, it is that we have too many spectators and not enough participants!
 
I leave you with this one thing: LOVE! You want to know the role of a pastor, elder, deacon, overseer: LOVE! You want to know how decisions are made in a church: LOVE! You want to know who to love: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF! You want to know to what length we are to go: LOVE LIKE JESUS LOVED US! We are to build a community of love that is built upon Jesus’s new command to love. We are to LOVE in practical and tangible ways to build up and support the community of God’s people!
 
In John 13:34-35, Jesus, the Son of God, with all the authority of the Heavens gave us the new command: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
It is by our love for one another that the world knows that we are His disciples. We gather to love! We scatter to love!  Is it scary to think about loving like Jesus? In practical and tangible ways? Not theoretically, but getting into other people’s lives with them? Hurting with them, loving with them, praying with them…
 
It should be scary because it’s real and messy when you do life with people! This command should make everyone one of us sweat! Spectators don’t sweat, but participants do… Being obedient to God’s plan for the Church made Jesus sweat…
 
As Jesus thought about the sacrifice of love His Father was calling Him to Jesus sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane because Jesus knew exactly how He was called to LOVE: in practical and tangible ways to build up and support the community of God’s people!
 
If you are just a spectator standing back from the homecoming bonfire, then there is a good chance you are not going to sweat. You might feel the heat coming off the fire, but it won’t get inside of you! But if you are a participant and are a part of God’s holy fire to the community through the Church gathering, then how can you do anything but sweat? You will sweat from the inside out like Jesus did because you’ll have blood in the game.
 
 
If the love you are being called to give in practical and tangible ways to build up and support the community of God’s people is not making you sweat a little bit, then you have to ask yourself if you are following the new commandment Jesus gave: “Love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
 

Let’s respond… draw near to God and He will draw near to you… Jesus is calling you into a life of full participation, that is abundant life He promises in John 10:10! No one sweats when they stand back and watch from a distance…


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GATHER (Week 4): We Gather to Give!

Key Verses:  Acts 2:37-47 (NASB)
 
Why do we gather? God gathers His Church for His purposes and His glory! Remember the theme verse for this series of teachings called, “Gather!” Read Acts 2:37-47 (NASB).
 
Verses 44-45 describe a very peculiar aspect of the Christian community: “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
 
We gather to give because of the One who gave us everything! The early church knew in tangible terms that it was Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who gathered them and in gathering they knew that it was a new community that was different from the world. It was a community gathered to remember Jesus Christ and how He had established a new people—the Church—the called-out ones who are gathered at the cost of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. They gathered to remember Christ and in remembering Christ to live differently! The Church is gathered for God’s purposes for God’s glory! One of the ways (of the many we have already discussed in the first 3 weeks of this series of messages) is to give. Give God glory, YES! But to also give so that the world would know that we are His disciples—what are we to give? We are to give LOVE in practical and tangible ways to build up and support the community of God’s people!
 
In John 13:34-35, on the night that Jesus instituted the second ordinance of the Church, He gave us the Church’s one final command, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
 
Giving is not an ordinance of the Church because Jesus Christ said giving is the COMMAND of the Church! We learned last week that the 2 ordinances of the church are baptism (which you do once to declare your loyalty to Jesus and His Kingdom) and the Lord’s Supper which we do often to remember our baptism and the cost of our gathering as the Church!
 

Ordinances are public declarations of our identity! Giving is different! Giving is a symbol of something more than the money because every time you give you are declaring a rebellion against this world and the worldly systems that are against God’s Kingdom. Giving is a sign of your loyalty because every time you give you are declaring whom you serve—Jesus Christ and not money or people. Giving is a step of Christian discipleship because every time you give you are taking a step of faith to trust God more than yourself and your plans.

 
Yes, this is a sermon on financial giving just as we saw the early church members selling property and possessions to build up and support the community of God’s people! We are gathered to give because our giving is the way God has designed the church to be built up and supported! We are commanded to give! Not out of duty nor under compulsion; not as a way of getting right with God or staying right with God! We give because our giving not only declares our loyalties, our giving determines our loyalties. Let me explain…
 
Jesus famously said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
 
What most people miss about this teaching is that what you give to is where your heart goes! Many people think that they will give to those they love, but that is not true! Often people give to what demands their attention or what cries the loudest or what is most pressing (to the urgent, not to the important!). What Jesus is saying is that your heart will follow your giving… your identity will follow your generosity! What you give your time and money does more than describe your loyalties, it determines your loyalties!
 
Jesus calls these things treasures: What are your treasures? What grabs your heart and mind? I invite you to audit your money flow to tell you the truth about your loyalties. 
 
Jesus knows! Your identity is meant to be in Him alone; therefore, He commands your loyalty! Not for His sake, but for your sake. You don’t give because He needs what you have to give, but because you need to give to Him what He commands you to give! Your experience of the abundant life is totally dependent on this…
 
We are gathered to give because it is our identity! Giving is more than an ordinance of the Church; giving is the identity of the Church! If you are not giving, you are not living the abundant life that Jesus promised in John 10:10, when Jesus teaches us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Abundance is not about receiving, it is about giving (Acts 20:35)! Jesus’ promise for His Church is not one of survival (staying in the black in the books or playing it safe by being a good boy or girl and not getting into any messy situations). Jesus’ promise for His Church is a life that lives and gives for eternity today: A life of sacrifice, faithfulness, and generosity!
 
Giving is the abundant life of freedom from all forms of slavery: Are you a steward of God’s resources or are you owned by stuff? Do you use people to get more stuff or do you use stuff to win people? When is the last time you made a financial sacrifice for God to declare where you real hope for the future is found?
 
John the Beloved of Jesus teaches us of the very practical nature of showing your loyalty as a follower of Jesus. In 1 John 3:16-18 the Beloved Disciple of Jesus commands our right response to Jesus’ gathering the Church by the cost of His precious blood, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
 
John practically shows us that his heart response to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is a lifestyle that gives in practical ways—with all that we have! At the very end of John’s letter in 1 John 5:21, the Beloved Disciple of Jesus Christ commands something that seems to come out of left field: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” But it’s not out of left field at all, because his whole letter is about God’s love experienced in Jesus Christ and how we are to love by living generously, sacrificially, and faithfully. We guard ourselves from idols by giving in real and practical ways! Anything you are not willing to give away or anything you put your hope and trust in for abundance, apart from Christ, is the idol you need to guard against. For the sake of your life.
 
Let me share with you some sobering facts from a recent Ted Talk, “Suicide rates among adults ages 40 to 64 have risen nearly 40 percent since 1999. Job loss, bankruptcy and foreclosures were present in nearly 40 percent of the deaths, with white middle-aged men accounting for seven out of 10 suicides. What [the speaker] learned is that our self-destructive and self-defeating financial behaviors are not driven by our rational, logical minds. Instead, they are a product of our subconscious belief systems rooted in our childhoods and so deeply ingrained in us, they shape the way that we deal with money our entire adult lives” (Tammy Lally).
 
Brothers and sisters, I am calling you to obedience to Jesus’ command so that you can experience the abundant life of Jesus Christ! I am not trying to take anything from you, I am guarding you against idols and the devastating results of our culture’s addiction to the pursuit of prosperity that we are experiencing all around us. It is killing our nation and our communities!
 
That is the point of the the Story of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27). A rich man came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to live the abundant life that He promised. Luke records in Mark 17:21-22, “Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.”
 
In this story, Jesus is dealing with idolatry in the heart of this person; Jesus recognized his religious faithfulness and loved him, but He loved the person enough to tell him the truth—you are not free of an idol that has you enslaved—get rid of it and be mine! Jesus’ invitation is to abundance; the pathway to abundance is giving!
 

What you give to will capture your heart! You buy a thing; your heart goes with it and focuses on it. You give to God’s work, you will pray and think about and give more time to God’s work. You give to God’s people, you will pray, think about, and want to spend more time with God’s people.

 
It never is about whether you can afford to give! Never, that is the tactic of the devil that is winning in a gross majority of Christian’s lives and keeping them focused on where their money is going. It is never about whether or not you can afford to give, it is about whether or not you can afford to not give!
 
Can you afford to not give?
 

 I can’t! Kimberly and I learned that giving has to be first and the more we give the more we have… If you want to ask me about how my household gives, I am happy to discuss. I am not inviting you to anything that is not true or right. I am inviting you to join me in living the abundant life.  

At the end of service today, we are going to hand out Letter #2 of the 2020 Vision Initiative where I introduce to you Phase 2 of the Finish Strong Campaign. Please read that letter and you can also watch me read it on a video I shot with Dick Kinnaird last week. An email is being sent out at noon today with both the letter and the video link. Please read. Please watch. Please pray. We will be having a special congregational meeting in 2 weeks on September 23 to discuss Letter #2 and Phase 2 of the Finish Strong Campaign.
 
I am inviting you to find your freedom in your identity in Jesus! Above anything else, I am inviting you to obey your Lord and Savior. Just remember how Jesus dealt with the issue of giving and how the Apostles joined with Jesus. I am doing nothing more and nothing less than striving to live before you and this community with integrity to the messages I preach. I am inviting you to join us in and be an Acts 2 community.

  It is my heart’s desire as your pastor that 1 year from now, as we approach the conclusion of the 2020 Vision Initiative, that we look more Jesus and live more like an Acts 2 Jesus-community than we do today. We are in the most important point in the 2020 Vision Initiative. Over 8 year of work has gotten us here and the best days are ahead of us. But for those days to become a reality, we all must respond in tangible and practical ways to build up and support the community of God’s people!


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GATHER (Week 3): We Gather to Remember!

Key Verses:  Acts 2:37-47 (NASB)
 
Why do we gather? God gathers His Church for His purposes and His glory! Remember the theme verse for this series of teachings called, “Gather!” Read Acts 2:37-47 (NASB).
 
In this primary witness of the early church, we learn what the Church is to do when we gather: 1) baptisms, 2) teaching time, 3) fellowship time, 4) breaking of bread, 5) prayer (worship), 6) witnessing & testifying to God’s work, 7) encouraging one another in the Christian lifestyle which included continued gatherings in their homes doing more of the same. The Church is not a complicated business, it is a lifestyle of friendship with God and people. The Church is not a once a week gathering, it is a gathering of people who do life together.
 
We gather to remember Jesus Christ and what He did for us! Today, we are going to focus on the 2 ordinances of the Church that we see in Acts 2—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
 
What is an ordinance? An ordinance is something that has been established and set apart by God (ordained) as a sign or activity that demonstrates loyalty to Jesus Christ as King, that declares you are in His Kingdom now. It is a symbol, a sign, and a step toward. The ordinances symbolize (point to) something far greater than what it is in and of itself. The ordinances are outward signs of inward convictions; the ordinances brand us. Ordinances are steps of Christian discipleship that invite us deeper into a personal and growing relationship with Jesus. Ordinances are remembrances and times of celebration of Jesus Christ and what He has once and for all established for us through His life, death, and resurrection. They remember and point to Jesus, not to us!
 
You already witnessed the first of these two ordinances today when we experienced a baptism and we’ll end this message with an invitation for all who are gathered to participate in the Lord’s Supper.
 

Baptism: A Triumphal Entry!

 
In Acts 2:37-41, we read, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’ And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation!’ So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.”
 
The people who are baptized are not baptized because of the command of Peter alone, but because Peter’s invitation to baptism agrees with the powerful command of Jesus Christ in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. As people are called by God to be gathered into the Church, they are not invited to religious activity that requires weekly attendance to show faithfulness, they are gathered to once and for all become a disciple/follower of Jesus Christ that requires a new way of faithfully living life. We demonstrate that faith conversion (the crossing of the line) through the ordinance of baptism. We are baptized once, but every time we see someone baptized we are to join with him/her and remember our baptism and what Christ has done for us.
 
Baptism reminds us of our call to faithfully follow Jesus Christ; that we are commissioned to a new life because we are now part of a new community that represents a heavenly kingdom that has come in us and is coming in its fullness. Baptism reminds us of the costliness of our gathering. The cost of the Church gathering is nothing less than the blood of Jesus Christ. No one can be gathered who has not come through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Many will visit church services, but the gathered are those who have been washed by the blood of Jesus. The cost was to the very last drop of blood from Jesus’s nail scared hands that now receive you to Himself.
 
Listen to Paul elevate the importance of what baptism symbolizes in Romans 6:3-7, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
 
Don’t forget this—our baptism impacts who we are and how we live! As Paul explains of who we are in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” I invite you today to be baptized as more than a symbol—it is a sign of your loyalty to the King of kings and a step of discipleship! This is who you are gathered to be, and this is what we remember when we gather!
 

The Lord’s Supper: When We Remember at What Cost!

 
Let us now remember the cost of this gathering as Jesus commanded and instituted. How costly is your privilege to be a member of the body of Christ? On the first Sunday of the month we remember at FBC, but in the early church they remembered every time they gathered—daily. Listen to Acts 2:42-47, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
 
How the Church gathered together in the book of Acts directly impacted how the Church lived in the book of Acts. They reaped what they sowed! They gathered to remember, but they remembered for a purpose greater than their own security—they remembered so that they would live faithfully, generously, sacrificially. Are you missing out on the abundant life of Jesus Christ, on being a part of the great harvest of souls in these last days upon the earth? Are you choosing to sow into the Kingdom of God like they did in the Acts 2 Church?
 
We eat of Jesus’ body and we drink of Jesus’ blood. These elements are more than symbols! These are signs of the new covenant for which Jesus gave it all! And this is the call to take Jesus-like steps of discipleship in our own lives. As you remember what Christ has done for you today, as you ask Him once again to forgive you of your sins and to qualify you for this meal by His grace alone, may you also ask Him what steps of Christian lifestyle you must take to look more like the Acts 2 Church.
 
Paul taught us these words of institution. Please listen to these words closely as we prepare to receive the elements of communion and to take them into our bodies as His one body: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which 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 He took the cup also 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” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

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