Wrong Priorities

Maybe you heard about the accident in Africa. It made all the major news sites and public outcry came from all corners.  People demanded,  how could this happen? And the question was, what can be done to prevent it from happening again? If you heard, maybe you felt the outrage as well.  The media reported that the Google Street View car hit and killed a donkey in Kweneng, Botswana.  Google obviously denied the report but there are still those demanding answers. 
Meanwhile, a week later in Ghana, a loaded passenger van was involved in a head on collision with a truck carrying cattle.   The final death toll. . .twenty four, with two more on life support.  You can read about it, if you live in Ghana or use a Ghanaian news site.  But for the most part the news was ignored by the world.
There was a lot to be outraged about, a twenty-three passenger van overloaded, nobody wearing seat belts, a truck passing another vehicle without clear visibility, a recipe for disaster and yet it didn’t even make the news?
Where have we come as a society when the death of a donkey is more newsworthy than the death of 24 humans?

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.   

Putting Away Childish Things 2

Leaving Childish things 2
Rev. Denn Guptill
His name was Mickey Cohen. 
And he was a crook.  And not just
a little crook either, Mickey Cohen was the top man in the Los Angeles
underworld during the forties and fifties. 
He had his finger into everything: gambling, extortion and
prostitution.  At his word heads were
cracked, bones were broken and people were killed.
Cohen had risen up through the ranks, born dirt poor in New
York he became a punk and strong arm man in the New Jersey Crime scene.  Later he moved to the west coast and became a
gangster in the style of his hero, Al Capone. 
He was the number one bad boy of L.A., his life became a commodity and
he survived several attempts on his life including having his home bombed and
his car machine gunned.
Mickey was a menace to society.  He could be charming one minute and as mean
as a snake the next.  If he had of been a
dog society would have shot him.  He
counted among his friends Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Humphrey Bogart and
then mayor of L.A. Fletcher Brown.  He
loved to be seen with famous people and he jumped at the chance to meet the
young preacher everyone was talking about, Billy Graham.  Billy shared the claims of the gospel with
Mickey and gave him a Bible; it gave Mickey something to think about during the
five years he spent in a federal prison for income tax evasion.
In 1955 Mickey Cohen was introduced to Jesus Christ, Bill
Jones a leading lay man in L.A. shared the gospel with Mickey and led the
gangster through the sinner’s prayer. 
Jones was convinced that Mickey Cohen had made a genuine commitment and
news spread through the evangelical church, after all it was quite a coup.  As a follow up to his decision Mickey flew to
New York and met with Billy Graham on several occasions as Graham sought to
explain the significance of the decision that Mickey had made.  Time magazine quoted Cohen as saying “I am very high
on the Christian way of life. Billy came up, and before we had food he
said—What do you call it. that thing they say before food? Grace? Yeah, grace.
Then we talked a lot about Christianity and stuff.”
After his trip to New York Cohen returned to L.A. where he
dropped his contacts with Bill Jones and started hanging around with his old
underworld contacts again.  Jones called
him up on it and told Mickey that he needed to be putting some distance between
his old life and his new.
“Jones” Mickey replied, “You never told me that I had to
give up my career, you never told me that I had to give up my friends.  There are Christian movie stars, Christian
athletes, and Christian business men.  So
what’s the matter with being a Christian gangster?  If I have to give up all of that if that’s
Christianity, then count me out”
I remember when I read that story for the first time in an
autobiography of Billy Graham.  I thought
that is the dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard. 
How could Mickey Cohen possibly think that Christianity could not make a
difference in His life?  But you know if
it’s dumb then there must be a whack of dumb people out there, because there
are a pile of people in the world who would use Jesus Christ as a fire escape
from hell and never think of it as a life changing commitment.
They ask Christ to forgive them, get their ticket to get
them through the pearly gates and then its life as usual.  But the question remains, “Is that the way
Jesus wants us to live?”  I don’t think
so.
Last week we began looking at 1 Corinthians 13:11 in regards
to leaving Childish things behind us and focused on the fact that Paul was talking
about our spiritual lives and not our physical lives, that he was telling us to
grow up spiritually.   But what does that
mean?  What are the childish things that
we are supposed to be putting away?
As part of our message last week
we ended up at Hebrews
6:1-2
So let us
stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on
instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start
again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing
our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying
on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
In those two verses the Bible
discusses the basic teachings of our Christian life, the beginning, the new
birth.  But it is those very things that
the Bible tells us to leave.  The verse
next verse tells us Hebrews 6:3 And so, God willing, we will move forward to further
understanding.
So the first thing is to make sure you’ve done what you need
to do to start.  We need to make sure that
we have repented of our sins, have you done that?  Do you have faith in God?  Have you been baptised as a Christ
Follower?  Last week I asked the question;
if you have chosen to follow Jesus but haven’t obeyed his commandment to be
baptised why not?  There is no good
answer to disobedience .   But those
things aren’t all there is to our Christian life, they are only the beginning,  we aren’t always supposed to be new
Christians. 
Paul has told us that not only
do we need to have a new beginning, not only do we need to “get saved”, but we
need to leave that and go on to maturity. 
We need to grow in our faith.  And
how do we do that?  Well one of the ways
is To look ahead to where we are going and take our eyes off where we have
been.  Jesus tell us in Luke 9:62 But Jesus told
him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the
Kingdom of God.”
 Yesterday is done, it’s
gone, salvation is called a new birth, and a new life in the Bible and that
signifies starting over.
2
Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who
belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has
begun!    Is that a description of your Christian
walk?  When you made a commitment to
serve Jesus Christ did the old go?  Did
the new come?  It’s not enough to simply
make a commitment, there’s a life change as well.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 9:17 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For
the old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the
skins. New wine is stored in new wineskins so that both are preserved.”
You can’t take your new life style and pour it into your old
life, it will ruin them both.  On one
hand the commandments of the Bible will make you feel guilty if you continue to
live the way you had before salvation. 
And your actions will separate you from God and keep you from having the
fellowship with Him that you need as a Christian.  The end result then is that you ruin both
lives.  You are a miserable pagan and a
miserable Christian. 
Instead Jesus said you have to put the new wine, or your new
life into a new wine skin, that is a new life style.  You can’t be a Christian gangster.  You can’t be a Christian thief.  You can’t be a Christian adulterer, or a
Christian drunkard, or a Christian tax cheat, or a Christian murderer.  Instead when you become a Christian part of
that repentance is putting the past behind you. 
There are other people that take the first step but don’t go
any further.  They’ve been converted,
they’ve left their old life behind but really haven’t gone any further.  They may no longer be a new born Christian but
they haven’t progressed much beyond being a Christian toddler. 
Brother Jones used to stand up and testify every Sunday in
church and he would say, “I’m not making much progress but praise God I’m
firmly established.”  Well old brother
Jones was a farmer and one day he got his tractor good and stuck in the
mud.  Two of the teens from the church
happened to be walking by and spied him and one yelled out, “Hey brother Jones,
you’re not making much progress but praise God you are firmly established.”  The old man had been stuck in the mud for
years and didn’t know it.
Paul tells us to go on to maturity.  That basically means, Grow Up.  Those of us who are parents know that the
older our kids get the more we expect from them, right?  In other words you wouldn’t expect them to
exhibit the same behaviour at six as they did at three or at ten as they did at
six.  In the first year of their birth
you have to do virtually everything for them, and you don’t mind because you
know that a three month old isn’t really capable of much more than looking cute
and crying.  By the way I have discovered
a long time ago why kids cry at that age. 
It’s either too much moisture at one end, not enough moisture at the
other end or gas in between.  So you
gotta pour it in, wipe it up or burp it out and things are usually cool again.
And God knows that when a person first gets saved that they
are like a newborn, pretty helpless in their faith, but in the same way that we
expect an infant to mature into a toddler and then a preschooler, a primary
aged child, an adolescent and finally an adult God expects that you will mature
in your Christian faith.  But you know on
occasion I have met believers who have been on the way and in the way for
twenty years but are no further along the path then when they started. 
I heard a story once about a teacher who applied for a job
as a principle and didn’t get the position and so he was lamenting to a friend
and said, “I don’t understand it, after all I have twenty years’ experience.”  To which his friend replied, “Do you, or do
you have one year of experience twenty times?” 
Strike a chord?  Sometimes I think
that some people’s Christian experience has gotten stuck at salvation.  That they have never gone on to experience
Christian maturity, they have just stayed where they were.  They think that they have twenty years’
experience, but what they really have is one year of experience twenty times.
A little old lady ran into a police station yelling, “He
kissed me, he kissed me.  I was just
standing on the corner minding my own business and he ran right up and kissed
me on the lips.”  The desk sergeant said “That’s
terrible ma’am when did it happen?” “forty years ago” she replied “But it’s was
so exciting that I just love to talk about it.”
I know that the salvation
experience is exciting.  The fact that
you were a sinner and Jesus saved you and washed you and made you new.  But after that He expects you to get on with
life.  That is why Paul said in Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop
going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on
instead and become mature in our understanding.
Growth is Not
an Option in our Christian Lives.
 Did you catch it? We
are supposed to stop doing one thing and start doing another thing.  Leave one and go to the other.  Leave the basics and go on to maturity.  They are two different places.  If you are going to Saint John from here then
you have to leave Halifax.  If you are
going to move on to maturity then first you have to leave immaturity.
I’ve spoken before of  1 John 1:7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light,
then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son,
cleanses us from all sin.
 And when we mentioned
it we talked about the verb, living, it’s not stationary and static but it is
moving.  There is an expectation that we
will be moving in our Christian faith because Jesus is moving.  Remember the will of God is a beam of light
which we are in the centre of.  It begins
with our repentance and at that point when we’ve come to the place that we’ve
asked forgiveness and accepted that forgiveness then we are smack dab in the
middle of the will of God.  And then the
light begins to move and as it moves it reveals areas around us that need our
attention, perhaps a habit here or a fault there.  And we have the option of moving with the
light and deal with those areas of our life or ignoring them.  And if we stand still and ignore them then
eventually the light will move so that we are no longer in  the centre of its beam, and pretty soon we will
be on the fringe and  if continue to
ignore the light eventually we will be in darkness again.  And that simply means you gotta Be Obedient.
A number of years ago back I developed the Guptill principle
of spiritual growth, and it’s based on the Peter Principle a principle first
expounded in 1969 by Canadian-born University of Southern California education
professor Laurence J. Peter, in a book of the same name, Peter stated: “In a hierarchy
every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”  Right? 
So the part time sales man is good at his job and so he is given a full
time sales position.  And he does an
excellent job in sales so he is made a store manager and he excels there and he’s
made an area manager and he is really terrible at that job, he just can’t seem
to get the hang of it, and so there he stays. 
He doesn’t get promoted, but because of his seniority they can’t fire
him.  He hates his job, it gives him
ulcers and grey hairs but he has a family to support and so he can’t really
quit and if he asked to be demoted to his previous position he’d lose face, and
so there he stays, miserable, unhappy, discontent and stuck.
Under the Guptill Principal of spiritual growth “Each of us
grows in our spiritual walk to our own personal level of disobedience.”  So we get saved, we are obedient to
the spirit of God in our life, and we begin to grow and God shows us this and
we deal with this and he shows us that and we deal with that, and we continue
to grow.  And then one day God says, “Hey
sport what about this area,” and it might be anger, or our language or habits,
or immoral behaviour or attitudes and we say “Uh-huh, you leave that alone.”  And our spiritual growth stops dead in its
tracks.  And because we know that we are
disobedient we are grumpy and miserable and unhappy.  And at that point we have three options; one
is that we just stay there, miserable and stuck.  God won’t take us any further in our
Christian walk then that point of disobedience. 
Or we say “forget this” and we backslide, we just walk away from God.”
or we surrender to His will in our life and become obedient and move on in our
Christian life and continue to grow.
What is your point of personal disobedience?  Where are you stuck?  Or maybe you’ve come to the place where you
have sold out to God and you continue to grow and he continues to show you
areas in your life that need to be dealt with and you deal with them, no ifs
ands or buts.
Obedience is the bottom line of
Christianity, it really is and that is why Jesus said things like John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my
commandments.
John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say.
My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.
Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my
own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.
John 15:10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my
love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
Growth is
Evidenced in Our Obedience to God

Pretty basic isn’t it, time and time again Jesus says if you
obey me you love me, if you don’t obey me you don’t love me.  Do you love Jesus?  “Of course I do, don’t be silly.”  OK, then Jesus has said that the evidence of
that love is obedience to Him and to His word.  The Word of God.  And how do you know what is in the word of
God?  Hang on because the answer is
really deep and you should write it down so that you don’t miss it, OK you
ready?  “You learn what is in the word of
God by reading it.”  Heavy isn’t it?
You see the word of God has all
kinds of instructions for being a Christian. 
It tells us about things which we shouldn’t do and it tells us about things
we should do.  Attitudes that we shouldn’t
exhibit and attitudes that we should exhibit. 
For example Galatians
5:19-21
When you
follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual
immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility,
quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension,
division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me
tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not
inherit the Kingdom of God.
So here the word of God is tell us that these particular
things are not acceptable actions for his Kids.
On the other hand the rest of
the passage reads  Galatians 5:22-24 But the Holy Spirit produces this
kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these
things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires
of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
Therefore by reading the word of God in this instance we
learn of things we shouldn’t do and things that we should do. 
And I know that I talk about that scripture a lot, but the
reality is this.  If we didn’t do what is
mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 and we did do what is mentioned in Galatians
5:22-24 we would be better Christians, better friends, better spouses, better
parents and better children.  And that’s
why it’s there and that’s why I am constantly reading from it.
Philippians
4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one
final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and
pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and
worthy of praise.
 So here the word of
God give us guidance about how we think. 
Neat huh?  the Bible is not a book
of suggestions, God doesn’t say, “Hey it would be kind of neat if you did this”
or “It would be nice if you did that” 
Instead He says if you love me you will demonstrate it by obedience to
my word.
Maturity is putting our will on the back burner and accepting
God’s will for our lives, not Denn’s will, but God’s will.  Because God has our best interest in
mind.  He is not a spoil sport who wants
to make our lives miserable, He is a loving God who knows what is best for us
because He created us.  Maturity is not
only saying “yes God I will do what you want me to do.” Maturity is not
resenting doing God’s will.
You cannot be a Christian and be consistently disobedient to
the will of God in your life.  The new
birth is supposed to make a difference in your life.  And if it doesn’t make a difference in this
life then you have to wonder if it will make a difference in your eternal
life. 
Our Growth is Revealed
by Our Behaviour
“Pastor isn’t that being
judgemental?”  Nope don’t think so, the
Bible tells us that the way to tell if a person is a Christian is by the fruit
that their life displays.  Good fruit
good life.  Bad fruit, bad life.  Don’t take my word for it, Jesus tells us the
same thing in Luke
6:43-44
“A good
tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree
is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on
bramble bushes.
James echoed his brother’s
words when he wrote in James
3:11-12
Does a
spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig
tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh
water from a salty spring.
And in the passage that was
read for us earlier the bible tells us Hebrews 6:7-8 When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the
farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is
useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.
The farmer was judging the
field based on what it produced and that’s fair.  The purpose of the field was to produce a
good crop not thorns and thistles.
When we first moved to Australia our first home had a pile
of fruit trees in the back yard, we had bananas, mangos, mulberries, lemons,
mandarins and peaches.  You could go out
back and pick fruit salad for breakfast. 
Now I may not be a genius but if I was to go out back and look at a tree
that had mandarin oranges growing on it I would not be judging that tree if I
said that is not a mango tree it is a mandarin tree.  That’s not making a judgement that is simply
making an observation. 
When a person consistently
exhibits the fruit of disobedience and we say that person isn’t a child of God
we are simply making an observation, the same observation that Paul made when
he wrote in Titus 1:16 Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way
they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything
good.
 “Denn how could you
make a statement like that?”  I didn’t
say it, Paul did but there are times I wished I did.
In the final analyse maturity means obedience.  If we are to leave behind the basics and move
in the direction that God wants us to go it will entail being obedient to his
commandments.  How you doing?  Are you obedient to God in each area of your
life?  Have you moved beyond the infancy
stage of your Christian life and moved on, growing as God leads you.
You’ve been born again, but are you growing up?

Putting Away Childish Things

If I were to mention 1
Corinthians 13 to most of you, it would be recognized as the “Love
Chapter”  and that is true.  The main part of the chapter is about love
and we hear it preached on and read at weddings, in particular the section
between  1
Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own
way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not
rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never
gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every
circumstance.
And that is a great passage of
Scripture, I have preached on it numerous times, referenced it countless times
have read it at every wedding I have performed over the past thirty some
years. 
However that is not the passage
we are going to look at today, instead we are looking at one verse toward the
very end of the passage and that is 1 Corinthians
13:11
When I was a child, I spoke and
thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish
things.
So what are the childish things
that Paul is talking about here?  He’s
not talking about his physical life, he is in the midst of a spiritual
discussion and he’s talking about the natural progression of our spiritual
life.  Time and time again the analogy is
used of a new life, a new birth a new beginning in regards to our relationship
with God.  But it doesn’t stop there; the
New Testament teaches us that our relationship with God may start with a new
Birth but it doesn’t end there.  Just
like our natural birth is followed by a maturing process, that is growing up,
should be the same with our spiritual life.
Let’s see what the Bible says
about the process,  Hebrews 6:1-2 So let us
stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on
instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start
again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing
our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying
on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
Paul
is telling us that there are basic teachings each one of us needs in our
life.  And he’s telling us that we
shouldn’t get stuck at that point in our spiritual lives.  I was going to say that sometimes as
Christians we are like a stuck record, playing the same thing over and over
again, and then I realized that analogy would be lost on most people
today.    
And we
need to know the basics before we move on, but once we do know the basics then
we are supposed to move on.  So what are
those basic teachings?
1)
Repentance From deeds That Lead To Death
So
the first thing that we need to learn about new beginnings is repentance.  But the question is, what is repentance?  Well it literally means “a reversal”.  Peter defined it best in Acts 3:19 Now repent of
your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
 Do you see it? 
Repent then, and turn to God.  The
changing of direction.  You see all too
often we confuse repentance with remorse, that is being sorry.  And well remorse is a part of repentance it
is certainly not all of repentance. 
Because we can be sorry that we did something but continue to do it,
right.  Repentance though is being so
sorry that you’ve done something that we stop doing.
Friend
of mine has a sister who had a son who liked to play in the toilet when he was
about 18 months old.  It was kind of
neat, a bucket of water that was always full. 
And so on various occasions she would discover him elbow deep in the
loo.  Well you know the story she would
slap his hand, tell him that he was naughty and he would say “sorry mommy”.  End of story, not quite.  Because he still liked playing in the
toilet.  So even though there was
remorse, there wasn’t repentance because the next time he got a chance he was
back doing it again.
It’s
amazing how many toilets we as grown and supposedly mature adults can find to
play in.  And when we get caught we say, “I’m
sorry” and we are, right up to the point that we can find another toilet to
play in.
And
so we need to repent.  But what do we need
to repent of; well the bible says we need to Repent of Acts that lead to
death.
  Ok what are they,
things like jumping off tall buildings, stepping out in front of speeding
trucks, teasing pit bulls.  Nope because
Paul’s not talking about a physical death as much as he’s talking about a
spiritual death.
Paul
tells us in Romans 6:16  that sin
leads to death, and James tells us in James 1:15 that sin gives birth to
death, and of course we can’t forget the scripture that everybody knows and
that is Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death.
And
what is sin, well theologically speaking 
sin is a “transgression of the known law of God.”  So basically sin is disobedience to God.
Well
preacher I don’t have to worry about that because I’m not a sinner, oh yes you
are, the bible, God’s word says in Romans
3:23
For everyone has sinned; we all fall
short of God’s glorious standard.
And
all means all, so all means you.  So we
repent, we turn away from sin, and we turn to God, and turning to God means
that we seek to be obedient to those things that he wants us to do.
Well
you say how do I know what God wants? 
Well sometimes God speaks to our heart and through the Holy Spirit
convicts us of something in our life and we know that it is wrong.  Those are areas that usually aren’t spoken
directly to in the scriptures.  But
realize that there are many areas of our lives that the Holy Spirit doesn’t
have to convict us personally because he’s already given us the book.
The
Holy Spirit shouldn’t have to tell you that you shouldn’t kill somebody because
the book says “thou shalt not kill.”  You
shouldn’t need personal convictions about witchcraft or astrology because the
book says that those things are of the devil.
Shouldn’t
need God tapping you on the shoulder about sexual sin because the book says
that the beauty of the sexual act is reserved for members of the opposite sex who
are married, to one another.  Hatred
discord, jealousy, drunkenness, idolatry, adultery, covetousness, lust.  All of those things are covered in the
book. 
When
you repent of deeds that lead to death you are saying “I am going to endeavour
by the power given to me by God to no longer do those things that displease
him.”  So instead of doing things which
are contrary to the will of God we turn and seek to do things which are of the
will of God.  And if we spend our time
doing what God wants us to do that should keep us out of trouble.
So
then we’ve repented  as a beginning to
our new life, so what next?  Well the
next thing the book says in 2) Faith in God,
It
was 1978 and I was fishing with dad on the Ralli 2, a 132 foot fishing boat out
of Québec city.   We had put into Paspébiac
Québec for a few days to do some painting and general repairs  on the boat and I was put in charge of
repainting the name on the stern.  Well
we had finished one side of the boat and we let the lines go, went out in the
middle of the harbour turned around and came back alongside the wharf.  We had left one of the fellows on the wharf to
take the lines and make us secure when we came back and John ran from rope to
rope making them secure to the bollards on the wharf. 
After
we had shut the engines down we all got back to our assigned tasks.  I collected my small brushes and my tin of blue
paint and sauntered on back to the stern. 
And as I had done countless other times I placed my can of paint and my
brush on the rail, and then to get in a better position to perform my artistic
endeavours I vaulted over the rail and landed on the rope which held the stern
to the wharf, I was younger, thinner and much more agile.  Do you remember I said that John went from
rope to rope making sure that they were secure? 
Right, he missed one.  It was like
a road runner and coyote cartoon because I distinctly remember hearing the rope
hit the water before I became aware of the fact that it was no longer under my
feet.  And so I dropped and caught the
rail by my fingertips.  There I hung, by
my fingertips, the stern swept in low and so I had nothing to put my feet
against to pull myself up and so there I hung. 
I
didn’t want to yell because I was afraid that if I yelled I would panic, and I
knew that if I yelled and I panicked then I would let go.  Now normally that’s not a problem, I can swim
and it was only a four foot drop into the harbour, but I was wearing work
boots, and coveralls, and the harbour was home to a fish processing plant which
wasn’t all that environmentally sensitive. 
I knew that if I fell into that mess that dad would probably find it easier
to let me drown then to clean me up and so there I hung.  And very quietly and very calmly I said “help”
and so there I hung. 
It
was then that I heard the conversation between my father and his twin brother “Where’d
Denny go?” Clint asked, “Oh he’s squatting down on the stern line” replied my
father and very quietly and very calmly I said “help” and so there I hung.
Then
I heard words that restored my faith in my blood relatives because my uncle
said, “I wonder how he’s making out, let’s check” and they began walking to
where I was. And I said “help” very calmly and very quietly and there I
hung.  It was only a fifty foot walk back
to where I was but Clint and dad stopped every so often to look at and comment
upon various pieces of equipment, and there I hung.  Finally after several eternities they arrived
and I can still hear my father’s voice as he leaned over, looked at me and
asked, “what are you doing down there?” 
and without thinking I replied, “oh, just hanging around.”  And then dad & Clint reached over and
took a wrist each and said very plainly “let go”.  Right! 
But before they could help me I had to believe that they could hold me
and lift me.
Before
your repentance will do any good you have to believe that God truly has the
power to forgive sin.  Remember that
scripture in the book of Acts when Peter was preaching, he said Acts 3:19 Now repent of
your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.
When
you repent, God wipes out your sins but you have to be willing to believe
that.  You have to let go of everything
else and place your faith in the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. 
Paul
says it best in Hebrews 11:6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who
wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who
sincerely seek him.
Repentance
is the first beginning of our new life, but you will need to have faith in God
to believe that repentance will actually work, and that your sins will be
forgiven. 
Ephesians
2:8
God saved you by his grace when you
believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Did  you catch that?  It is by grace that you have been saved, the
grace of God.  But it is through faith
that grace is able to save you.  God can
only save you when you are willing to pull your fingers away from the rail.
And
so we have started down the path of our new life, we have repented from our
sins, we have had the faith to believe that with that repentance comes
forgiveness and that is given by God’s grace. 
So what is the next step?  What is
the next component in this foundation we are laying.
Well.  Paul tells us in this verse that the next
step is 3) Instructions About Baptism.  We
really don’t put enough emphasis on baptism; I am as guilty of that as
anyone.  But we have to remember that when
Jesus gave us his last command,  we weren’t
just supposed to tell people about Him.  Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.   So, after we
had told them about Jesus and after they became Christians then we were
supposed to baptise them.
Now I
know that we can get into great long discussion about how a person is
baptised.  The Anglican pastor and the Wesleyan
pastor were discussing that very thing. The Anglican pastor asked “is knee deep
enough”  and the Wesleyan  said “no it has to be all the way”  and so the Anglican said “well is waist deep
enough”  “no” said the Wesleyan  “all the way” 
“well” said the Anglican, “how about just above the eyebrows.”  “No, no, no it has to be all of them, all of
them do you understand” yelled his exasperated companion.  “See” said the Anglican “all that really
matters is that little bit on top.”
Sometimes
we waste so much time arguing over how we should baptise them when they get
saved that we never get around to helping people get saved.
Not
only am I a Wesleyan but I come from a Baptist background so I believe in
baptism by immersion.  They were good and
bad, they ought to get good and wet.  But
listen up, really when it comes right down to it, we can argue the “how to” of baptism
day and night and I’m not going to change your mind and you are not going to
change mine.  It’s kind of like golf,
gives you something to do but really isn’t world changing right? 
On
the other hand I am unmovable on the issue of believer’s baptism.  In the New Testament when somebody got saved
they got baptised.  And they didn’t get
baptised before they believed.  Baptism
by itself won’t do anything but get you wet. 
You go down a sinner and come up a wet sinner.
There
is no saving grace in baptism; baptism is simply an outward demonstration of an
inward decision.  And so even though
baptism won’t save you, Jesus has said that once you are saved then you need to
be baptised.
So
here is the question:  if you are a
Christ follower and you have never been baptized, why not?  And there is no good answer.
And
Paul goes go, after baptism he mentions 4) The
Laying On Of Hands
.  “I don’t know
pastor sounds faintly charismatic to me.” 
In the context of the New Testament there were various reasons for the
laying on of hands. 1) for healing 2) the Apostles used it for the bestowing the
Holy Spirit  3) for ordaining for
ministry and 4) the giving of gifts.  “Boy
that all sound faintly charismatic doesn’t it.”    Well actually it’s biblical.  You see the bible talks a lot about gifts,
and not just gifts like tongues and healing and prophecy.    Paul tells us in Romans 12 that there are
the gifts of serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, leadership, and
mercy. 
And
in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul tells us about some more gifts like, healings,
prophecy, and yes tongues (although me might differ on what those tongues are
with some you can’t deny that they are in the bible.)  The gift of helps, administration and
hospitality.  Do you see where we are
going, every one of us is gifted in some area for the good of the body.  The concept of laying on hands is simply the
fact that we need to acknowledge that every one of us needs to recognise their
gift and be willing to use it for the good of the kingdom.
The
last two things mentioned are the 5) Resurrection
of the Dead, And Eternal Judgement

In the long term we are all going to die.  Every one of us is eventually going to die,
and the last part of the foundation of our faith is simply an acknowledgment of
why we need the first parts. 
From
the very beginning Christianity has been a religion of immortality.   Not only is there a life to be lived on this
earth but there is another life when this one is through.  People say “Praise God, I have been born
again I’m going to live forever.”  Got
news for you, you are going to live forever whether you have been born again or
not.  The only difference will be the
address. 
It is
your choice whether you will spend eternity with God, or without God.  And that is the last point, eternal
judgement.  Regardless of what you hear
about reincarnation there is only one trip around and then we face God.  Hebrews
9:27
And just as each person is destined to
die once and after that comes judgment.   die once, not twice,
not three times, but once.  And that
judgment will be based on whether or not you have laid the foundation properly.
So
where are you at this morning?  Have you
got the basics down?   Is there anything missing?  Repentance, Faith, Baptism?   And are you ready to leave childish ways
behind you?

Lack of Vision Stinks

I was in a stinky Irving bathroom the other day.  And it’s not the first time, but it wasn’t always that way.  I remember when Irving stations were renowned for their clean restroom., They had signs that advertised the fact that their bathrooms were clean and it wasn’t just an idle boast.  And so for years when we travelled we knew that if you went to an Irving station, you would be assured of a clean bathroom, but no longer. 
A number of years ago the Irving convenience stores and restaurants were taken over by Circle K and apparently they have a different vision and different priorities.  Which is too bad because I am a clean restroom fan.

That  reminds me of a couple of lessons to be learned. Once the vision is lost at the leadership level, it’s not long before the vision is lost by everyone and that applies to churches, as well as, service stations. Secondly, in people’s minds, it is the owner, Irving, who has lowered the standards, not the management Circle K. And so we have to be careful, because when the church stops behaving as it should, it is ultimately a reflection on the owner, Christ, and not the management, us. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.