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Grace Alone

The gospel can be threatened. The Good News of how a person can be saved can be threatened by persecution or obscured by false teaching. False teaching changes the good news, adding to or subtracting from God’s clear message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Acts 15 is the story of how the early church answered a threat to the clear message of the gospel and applied the truth of salvation by grace through faith to their lives together as believers in the church.

This passage answers some key questions for us:
What is the gospel?
What must a person do to be saved?
Who is included in the “people of God”?
How should we go about defending the truth of the gospel?
How does the gospel influence the way we show love for other believers?

Scripture: Acts 15:1-16:5; Amos 9:11-12; Leviticus 17-18; Galatians 2

The Promised Sign

Christmas is proof that God is a promise maker and a promise keeper. This is the first message in a series of four for Christmas as we study some of the promises God made and kept about the coming and work of Jesus from the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 7-12 is one unit of thought, but we will study it over three sermons. In Isaiah 7:1-8:10 the big idea is that in the midst of our greatest crisis we can experience the saving presence of God through faith in Jesus. But unbelief leads to lonely ruin.

In the midst of a terrible crisis, the King is anxious and working to save himself. God graciously promises to secure him and encourages the King to ask for a sign, an assurance that God will be faithful. But the King refuses and makes a faithless decision. God gives him a sign anyway. The promised sign is a son. “Behold a virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Immanuel…” This Son, proving to Ahaz that “God is with us” would be born in the King’s day. In the end, the Son would be a sign that God is with His people, not only in salvation, but also in judgement. 700 years later, Matthew, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, sees the ultimate fulfillment of that sign in the birth of Jesus, the Son of God with us, saving us from our ultimate crisis.

Scripture: Isaiah 7:1-8:10; 2 Kings 16:1-9; Matthew 1:20-23; Romams 8

The Patriarch Abraham

Abraham is a larger than life figure in both the Old and New Testaments. He is also called the father of our faith.

What was it that made Abraham so special? Was he perfect? Far from it. Abraham had an unmistakable quality; most of the time, he trusted God even with the hard events of life.

Abraham’s life is a dramatic illustration of grace. He was called by grace, kept by grace, and remained faithful to the end by grace. What an illustration for us all.

Scripture: Genesis 12

God’s Grace In Judgment

When you think of the word “judgment” does grace, mercy, or love come to your mind? Probably not! But in Genesis 11 God shows His grace to sinners by preventing them from doing what their heart desires. If God didn’t care for us He’d let us do whatever we want, but God is a good parent and He loves His kids.

Scripture: Genesis 11

God Through Judgment Brings About New Beginnings

The world is quickly unraveling as sin reaches its tentacles into every nook/cranny of civilization. Chapter 4 Cain, in hot fury, murders his brother. Chapter 5 Lamech shows himself to be an arrogant and ungodly individual and sin seems to continually have the upper-hand. And then in the latter part of Chapter 5, you see the pronouncement that such-and-such person died, indicating that sin and death reigns. Evil is multiplying and deepening its clasp of humanity. In Genesis 6 we see that “God through judgment brings about new beginnings.”

Scripture: Genesis 6:9-9:17

Desperate for God

God said “Go,” but Jonah said “No” and ran. God wasn’t going to let him go, so he graciously brings Jonah down: physically, emotionally and spiritually. He did this not to pay him back for disobedience, but to bring him back to faithfulness. At the bottom of the sea, in the dark belly of that great fish, Jonah sees more clearly than he has in some time and he learns this lesson: God alone saves desperate people who cry out to him from desperate circumstances of their own making.

Scripture: Jonah 2; Matthew 12:38-42

Knowing Who We Are Through Difficulties

Peter wants to establish that Christians are people of hope — a living hope that is rooted in the resurrection of Jesus — so that as they go through suffering they’ll have a perspective that compels them to:

  1. continue to live obedient lives and
  2. not despair…as this is part of following Jesus.

No matter how disciplined, organized and faithful we are, the reality is that we are sinners living in a sin-cursed world with other sinners. Nothing we can do will ever change that reality. We are surrounded by discouraging, hurtful and sinful realities – Jesus is very candid about our diagnosis; it’s bad and we need help; we need a Rescuer AND he is that and so much more. All things need to be made new, but we are not the ones who will accomplish that renovation (Rev 21:3-5). We are exiles and strangers who see the promises from afar and believe them (Heb 11:13), but we are walking by faith now and not by sight.

Yes, a new day when everything will be put right, but in the meantime, while we’re living in the not yet, we need grace; we need Jesus; we need his help, his truth. And we don’t just need it a tiny bit; no, the truth is we are desperate for buckets of it. We need it every hour of every day. We need it when we remember that we need it AND we need it when all we can see before us is futility and trouble and disappointment, suffering, hardships. We need grace.

Scripture: 1 Peter 1:1-2

Doing Flows from Being

The Bible commands good behavior BUT good behavior flows from good character (Matthew 7:17). Doing flows from being—keeping this order is very important IF you want to understand the gospel well AND deepen in your love/pursuit of Jesus.

Our affluent society is an afflicted society for lack of love. Just imagine how many marriages would be spared the heartbreak of separation of divorce if there were true love in the hearts of men and women! Think of what comfort and encouragement would brighten the lot of the poor, sick, lonely and sorrowing, if only there were more love in this world. Who can tell what new vitality would stir the church, and draw others into its fellowship, if there were real love among the professed followers of Christ? It is love we need—Christian love.

Affection Breeds Activity

As we abide and understand the love of God poured out in the gospel of Jesus our affections we’ll increase and we’ll exude God’s love.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 12:17; Phillipians 2:4-11; Proverbs 25:28

Citizens of the Kingdom Reflect the King’s Love

The love we’re called to exude is a love that does patience, kindness and doesn’t do boasting or envy and doesn’t do arrogance.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4; Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4, 11:22; Ephesians 4:32; James 4:1-2