Where’s the Outrage?

Where was the outrage? Unless you were in a cave over the past week, then you are aware of the attack on the Mosque in Quebec city on Sunday.
Those things aren’t supposed to happen in Canada.  And yet they do.  And if the attack had of been against a church there would have been all kinds of outrage from the right and if the attack had of been against a gay night club there would have been all kinds of outrage from the left.  But, where was the outrage?
In the place of outrage we saw vigils happening across our country.
Vigils that said “lives matter”.  And it doesn’t matter whose life is it, it still matters.  These were men who had gathered for prayer, business men and educators, fathers, brothers and sons.  And their lives mattered.  
And when lives are taken it is wrong and it is evil, regardless of whose life is taken and regardless of who takes their lives.
And so we grieve with the Muslim community of Quebec, not because they are Muslim but because they are Canadians and across Canada we saw the outpouring of support and love for our fellow Canadians, and we grieved because we are Canadians.  And I guess I will take that over outrage.

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

Sola Gratia, by Grace Alone.

I was sixteen when Gary Gilmore died it was January 17 1977.  And maybe some of you are thinking:  That name sounds familiar.  Gilmore was a petty criminal from Texas who would have lived and died in complete obscurity except for one thing.  He became the first person in the United States to be executed after the supreme court reversed a 1972 decision that had ruled capital punishment to be a cruel and unusual punishment. 
In July of 1976 Gary Gilmore committed two armed robberies in the state of Utah and in both cases shot and killed the people he was robbing.  He was sentenced to death and because he refused to appeal his sentence he was executed six months later. So we only know about Gary Gilmore because of the medias fascination with him being the first American executed in five years. 
And even though it was forty years ago I still remember all the media hype that the case generated.  
As a side note the United States has executed 1444 people since then and if you kill a white person you are 3 times more likely to be executed than if you killed a person of colour. Just saying.  
The other thing that captured the attention of the media and society was that Gary Gilmore was executed by firing squad. Which seemed to me as kind of strange at the time. 
Utah and Oklahoma are the only two states that allow execution by firing squad and in this case Gilmore actually requested that he be allowed to die that way.
And there was a reason, you see Gary Gilmore’s mother was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, that is she was a Mormon, and that had a profound effect on how Gary would choose to die.  
Gilmore’s brother Mikal would write that his brother’s decision was because he wanted “To spill his blood on Mormon soil, as an apology to God.”
Which might seem a little strange to us but was based on the LDS theology of Blood Atonement that had been taught by Brigham Young.  And while blood atonement is no longer required by the church in 1978 LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie, claiming to reflect the view of church leadership, wrote that he still believed that certain sins are beyond the atoning power of the blood of Christ.
And while we might not hold to the theology of Blood Atonement there are those who still believe that some sins are beyond the Grace of God.
This is week four of our “Old Foundation” series. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
In 1517 a catholic priest by the name of Martin Luther took the church to task for what he felt were theological errors that needed to be corrected.  He wrote a list of these errors and nailed them to the door of the largest church in the area, the Wittenberg Cathedral. 
Now a couple of things that we need to understand.  Martin Luther did not start down this road in order to start a new denomination.  His intention, as a priest and theologian was to start a healthy debate within the church which would ultimately bring the church back to its roots. It was “The Church”, after all.
The second thing is that the Catholic church of 500 years ago isn’t necessarily the Catholic church of today.  Any more than the Protestant Church of today is the Protestant Church of 500 years ago.  In both cases for better or for worse.  
When theolgians speak of the central teachings of the protestant reformation they refer to them as the “Five Solas”.
Sola is simply the Latin word for “One” or “Only”.   And while there was no attempt by men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other reformers to define what they were doing, church historians have gone back and kind of reverse engineered their beliefs and came up with the Five Solas.
And so, in week one we looked at Solas Fide, or By Faith Alone, and this was the belief that it is faith that is the main component of our salvation, not works or good deeds and certainly not a belief in purgatory.  So, we are saved by faith alone.
Then we looked at Solas Scriptura, or in the Scripture Alone.  And that was the belief that the final authority for our Christian life is the Bible.  And while the reformers would allow room at the table for tradition and the teaching of the church only the scriptures would be considered infallible and it would be by scripture that those other traditions and teachings would be measured.  
Last week we took some time with Solus Christus, through Christ Alone and looked at the power that is available only through the name of Christ.  And that power that was there for the church in the book of Acts is the same power that was there for the reformers 500 years ago and the same power that is there for us today.
And that brings us to Sola Gratia, by grace alone.  That is belief that our salvation comes completely by the grace of God, that it is not dependent on anything we do, other than believe in and accepting that Grace.  
And that is spelled out in the scripture that was read this morning was Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
There is no one scripture that sums up the teaching on grace more than these two verses.
Let’s personalize it and read it together: Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved me by his grace when I believed. And I can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things I have done, so I cannot boast about it.
The words come from the book of Ephesians which was a letter written to the church in Ephesus by the Apostle Paul.  But Paul’s teaching on grace wasn’t limited to this one letter. Grace is mentioned in every book that Paul was the author of in the New Testament, which would kind of make us think that grace must have been fairly important to Paul and that he wanted it to be important for the early church.  
And that sentiment is reflected in Martin Luther’s statement “This grace of God is a very great, strong, mighty and active thing. It does not lie asleep in the soul. Grace hears, leads, drives, draws, changes, works all in man, and lets itself be distinctly felt and experienced. It is hidden, but its works are evident.”
So the first thing we discover is,  For Paul, Grace was Personal  You have to know Paul’s story to really appreciate this.  The first time we see Paul is in the book of Acts and when we first meet him he isn’t called Paul he’s called Saul.  The first mention of Saul is when Stephen becomes the church’s first martyr.  
And if you know the story an angry crowd stones Stephen for preaching the gospel and before they stone him we read that they took off their coats, sounds a little strange but I’m not really up on stoning etiquette, and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.  In the next chapter we read this Acts 8:1-3  Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria.  (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.)  But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. 
I repeat it over and over again, Justice is getting what you deserve, mercy is getting less then you deserve and grace is getting what you don’t deserve.  
If I was God, Saul would have died a long and painful death, lonely and scared.  Just saying.  His mission in life was to destroy the church, if he didn’t throw the stones that killed Stephen he was certain complicit in what happened that day.
In many jurisdictions, there is something called Felony Murder and if you are involved in a criminal activity and someone dies, you are guilty of their death, even if you didn’t actually kill them.  So if you and two of your buddies were robbing a convenience store and you were driving the getaway car and one of the guys inside accidentally shot and killed the clerk.  You would all be guilty of murder, even though only one of you pulled the trigger.
And understand, there was nothing legal about the stoning of Stephen, nothing.  He was killed for being annoying.  And although Saul didn’t pick up a stone he was still guilty of Stephen’s death.   
And so, justice for Paul would have been to answer for his crime and two thousand years ago the penalty for murder was death.
Mercy would have been that Paul wouldn’t have been executed for Stephen’s death, but he would have had to answer to God for his crime.
Instead God reaches down and offers Saul a new beginning and a new life.  The church’s greatest enemy becomes its greatest ambassador.  The man who was at least complicit in the death of Stephen would become instrumental in bringing thousands of people to a saving knowledge of Christ and whose teachings would shape the church for two thousand years. 
And that’s not an anomaly, it’s not just one bad person who is offered God’s grace.   If it was just Paul, we’d write it off and say:  Sure but you don’t know what I’ve done.   
There was Peter, you know Peter who denied knowing Christ, not once but three times.  When Jesus had been arrested and put on trial and needed the support of his friends, there was Peter cursing and swearing that he had never even met Jesus.  And that same Peter became in many ways the father of the church.
And remember Thomas?  The one who is called Doubting Thomas because he doubted the resurrection?  Tradition tells us that it was doubting Thomas who started the church in India.
And the book of Matthew was written by a man who had been a corrupt tax collector.  And the Gospel of Mark was written by a young man who Paul took under his wing as a protégée, but halfway through their journey John Mark got homesick and bailed and went home.
Time and time again God reaches down to the ones who are the least deserving and offer them what they deserve the least, his grace, his unmerited favour. 
But God’s grace wasn’t something that Paul just experienced once.  For Paul, Grace Was Something that was Ongoing  
Sometimes folks seem to see Grace simply as a ticket to eternal life; as so they sing “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”  But they never seem get beyond the first verse.  And then it’s almost as if they put the grace of God up on a shelf and don’t think about it again.  
And yet Paul was always reminding his readers of how God’s Grace was at work in his life.  For example, we read in  2 Corinthians 12:7 . . . So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.   
And we don’t know what the thorn was that Paul is talking about.  All kinds of theories, the temptation to sin or doubt, head-aches, the persecution that he was always facing, his eye sight and even malaria.  One Scottish commentator even suggested it was his wife, I have no idea where he came up with that idea.  
A friend of mine recently wondered if it was just a thorn, a really nasty splinter that Paul couldn’t get out of his flesh.  But we don’t know.  But if we keep reading we discover this.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  
Whatever the thorn was it was by God’s grace that Paul was able to rise above it.  And when Paul wrote to the church from prison he said it was only God’s grace that allowed him to endure prison.  
Here is the reality, when you don’t think you can’t handle it, whatever “it” is, you are probably right.  But God gives us what we need, through his Grace.  Not because we deserve it because God doesn’t just want us to survive he wants us to thrive.  
None of us will get out of life unscathed.  And we don’t always know or understand what people have gone through or are going through.  We look at folks and think, “Well sure they are great Christians but they haven’t had to deal with what I deal with.”  Really, do you really believe that you have it so much worse than everybody else?
And whether we grow through our troubles or simply go through our troubles will be determined by God’s grace.  And if we come out the other end better or bitter it will be determined by God’s grace. 
And that grace is available to all of us, not because we deserve it but because we are God’s children.
And if you’ve tasted of God’s grace and turned your back on it, here’s the good news it’s still there.  It is a gift and like all gifts it needs to be received.  But understand, the grace of God isn’t something that is only needed at the beginning of your Christian journey, if you are going to make it to the end, it will only be as you lean on God’s grace.
For Paul, Grace Wasn’t Something to be Abused  Paul asks an interesting question in  Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?
This seemed to be an ongoing discussion in the church at Rome because Paul had addressed it earlier in Romans 3:7-8 “But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.
It is a twisted logic that leads us to the rationale that our sinful behaviour actually becomes a public service by introducing more of God’s grace into the world.  And so Paul asks the question: Romans 6:1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?  And then he answers it in the very next verse by stating Romans 6:2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?
This type of argument and debate was common in the era that Paul was writing and was referred in Latin as: Reductio ad Absurdum  And the definition of that term is: The process of refuting an argument on the grounds that absurd – and patently untenable consequences would ensue from accepting the item at issue. In other words, reducing the argument to the absurd.  
For example, sometimes someone will say something that just doesn’t make sense or is unlikely to happen.  “If I won the lottery, all my money problems would be over.”  And I will respond one of two ways, both of which fall into the class of Reductio ad Absurdum.  So I will either say “And if wishes were horses beggars would ride.” Or I will respond “And if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a wagon.”
So taking it to the extreme, if we do continue to sin it is an opportunity for God to demonstrate his grace over and over again, however we are told that God hates sin and the ultimate consequence of sin is spiritual death and so while sin provides the opportunity for grace it ultimately leads to our destruction.  
We fall into the same trap when we are intentionally disobedient, counting on God’s grace to cover that sin.  Father forgive me for what I’m about to do.
But we are told that we are to avoid temptation, that if we love Jesus then we are going to want to obey him.
For Paul, Grace Something to be Shared  And Paul wanted everybody to share in God’s grace.  It was his life’s mission and why he travelled across the known world.  He had tasted this marvellous grace and wanted others to taste it as well.
Over and over again through Paul’s writing we hear him telling people about the grace that had been offered to him and urging them to accept God’s Grace.
And Paul was the first to admit that he didn’t deserve it at all. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:12-14  I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,  even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.  Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. 
And until we realize just how much we need God’s grace it’s difficult to share that grace with others.   
There are times that I hear people ask,  “Well, why can’t God just accept everyone?”  What they are asking for is universal salvation.  
But that really creates a different problem with fairness.  That means that God wouldn’t care about injustice and evil.  How good would you have to be to get in? And how bad would you have to be to be kept out?
I was listening to some old country music the other day, don’t judge me, and I heard a line in a Statler Brother’s song that said “Maybe she ain’t good enough to go to heaven, But heaven knows she’s too good to go to hell.”  
And if the truth was known most of us feel that way about ourselves and the ones we love.  That we might be bad but we aren’t that bad. 
And to prove I’m not a complete Philistine when it comes to music, the same day that I heard the Statler Brothers’ song I heard a U2 song that said “I woke up at the moment when the miracle occurred, I get so many things I don’t deserve”
Remember, Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.  That is the gift that God offers, that regardless of how good or how bad you are, God’s grace is offered to you.
Someone once said that evangelism is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.    And we have a responsibility to share the grace we have received.  
If I buy a pizza and share some with you then I have less pizza for Denn, but when I share God’s grace with you, then I have even more.  It’s kind of like new math.  
So, where you at?  Have you accepted the Grace of God in your life?  

Watch my Plug

It was bound to come out.  In a recent study it was reported that “Doctor-assisted suicide could save Canada tens of millions of dollars annually by avoiding costly “end-of-life” care.”
The study looked at the cost of medical care that was needed to treat terminally ill patients, estimated at $14,000.00 during the last 30 days of his or her life and compared that with the cost of ending someone’s life, which could be as low as $269.00.  
According to the study, the estimated annual savings for the Canadian health care system could be as high as 139 million dollars. 
I wonder how long it will be before we calculate the cost of keeping someone alive vs how much early termination would cost and families and individuals are offered a choice?
On another note, a new TV series on Global is called “Mary Kills People” and is about a Doctor who according to one source “Is an angel of death who helps terminally ill patients slip away on their own terms.”
So, physician assisted suicide has become an economic benefit to our health care service and prime time television is celebrating the heroic efforts of a brave doctor who takes the lives of her patients.
The slippery slope argument doesn’t sound so far-fetched now, does it?
Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Solus Christus Through Christ alone

What is in a name? The question was asked by Shakespeare when he wrote
In Romeo and Juliet, “What’s
in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  To which Anne Shirley responded  “I read in a book
once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been
able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a
thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
For those of you who don’t know, my name is
Dennison.  I was named after my father’s
uncle.  And yet the only person who has ever
called me Dennison was Austin White when he was little.
For the first 19 years of my life I was
called Denny, and I still am by some who knew me then.
When I went to university I decided that
Denny was a little boy’s name and so I changed my name to Den, spelled with one
“N”.  And for the next 15 years’ people
would correct it for me and spell it  Dan
or Don.
In 1994 just before we left Australia,
someone asked my what Den was short for, when I told them Dennison they asked
how that was spelled and when I told them they asked “Then shouldn’t Den be
spelled with 2 “Ns” and three months later when we returned to Canada I became
Denn, with 2 “Ns”.
I thought the misspelling of my name was a
thing of the past, one of the first thing I applied for with my new spelling
was my library card.  And it arrived in
the mail two weeks later, addressed to Dean Guptill.  
Oh well, I guess it just goes to prove the
truth of W.C. Fields’ words “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to.”
In the scripture that was read this morning
Peter was defending himself in front of the Jewish religious leaders.  And his message that day shared the common
theme that most of his messages in the book of Acts revolved around.  “God sent his Son, you killed him, now say
you are sorry.”
And he ends his message with these
words.  Acts 4:12  “There is salvation in no one else! God has
given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
 In
case you missed it let’s read it again, “There is
salvation is no one else!  God has given
no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”  The name he is talking about is the
name of Jesus.  And that is not a
comfortable concept in 2017 where people feel like there should be many names
by which a person can be saved.  But the
Bible, the word of God tells us that God has given no
other name under heaven by which we must be saved. 
This is week three of our “Old Foundation”
series.  2017 is the  500th anniversary of the
Protestant Reformation.  Which was the
point in history that the Protestant church saw it’s beginning. 
And while there were other people who were
seeking to reform the Catholic church at that time, history tends to point to a
Catholic Priest, named Martin Luther, who challenged the church on some of its
teachings that he felt were in error, as the father of the reformation.
Luther didn’t start down that path so that
he could start a new denomination, although eventually he did.  He didn’t start down that path so he could
leave the priesthood, marry and become a father, although eventually he did.
Luther was simply trying to open debate
within the church on some of these topics, which he thought would ultimately
strengthen the church and make it better. 
But the church didn’t feel that way and eventually the church
excommunicated Luther.
Often the central beliefs of the protestant
reformation are referred to as the “Five Solas” 
Sola being the Latin word for “One” or “Only”.   And while there was no attempt by men like
Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and other reformers to define what they were doing,
church historians have gone back and kind of reverse engineered their beliefs
and came up with the Five Solas.  In hind
sight, this is the foundation of the reformation.
And so, in week one we looked at Solas Fide,
or By Faith Alone, and this was the belief that it is faith that is the main
component of our salvation, not works or good deeds and certainly not a belief
in purgatory.  So, we are saved by faith
alone.
Last week we looked at Solas Scriptura, or
in the Scripture Alone.  And that was the
belief that the final authority for our Christian life is the Bible.  And while the reformers would allow room at
the table for tradition and the teaching of the church only the scriptures
would be considered infallible and it would be by scripture that those other
traditions and teachings would be measured. 
This week we are looking at Solus Christus,
through Christ Alone.  And there are a
number of scripture that teach us that there are not many ways to God, or
several ways to God or even two ways to God but only one way to God.
And while that may seem very exclusive it
is reality of Christianity.  And while
the other Solas may have been seen as a reaction to error in the Catholic
church, the Catholic church very strongly believes in Solus Christus.  More so even than a number of liberal
protestant churches today.
If there was one difference in how the
Catholic church and the Reformers would view the centrality of Christ it would
have been in how they viewed the priesthood. 
For the reformers, there was nobody standing between the believer and
Christ, everyone had direct access to Christ. 
However for many Catholics the parish priest was seen as the intermediary
or the go between them and God.
Which was why Luther
would remind priests of his time: “You are not
lords over the pastoral office.… You have not instituted the office, but God’s
Son alone has done so.”
And Solus Christus is drawn and taught from
the many scriptures that speak of the “Name of Jesus”.
Throughout the New
Testament we see this concept of the “Name of Jesus” being brought up again and
again. By Peter, by Paul, by James and by Jesus himself.
There is something
about the “Name of Jesus” which is unlike any other name.  So what is it?
The first
thing we need to realize is that The
Name of Jesus is a Descriptive Name 
Remember
how we started with the quote by Shakespeare, who said that if you called a
rose by a different name it didn’t make it a
different thing?    Well in the same way simply calling something
a rose that isn’t a rose will not make it a rose.
Abraham Lincoln was fond of asking people “If you call a
dog’s tail a leg, how many legs would a dog have?”  And when people would respond with “Five” Lincoln would
say “No, four.  Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”
If someone
handed you a tulip and said it was a rose, you would know right away it was not
a rose.  But only if you knew what a rose
looked like.  However, if you had never
seen a rose it is conceivable you would think the flower you had been handed
was indeed a rose and you might even tell other people it was a rose.
But would that
make it a rose?  No.  it would still be a tulip.
And so, we
have churches and those who are part of those churches who say “Here is Jesus,
but he’s not the Jesus who was born of a virgin, because we don’t believe
that.  And he’s not the Jesus who was the
Son of God because we don’t believe that. 
And he’s not the Jesus who was raised from the dead or who will return
again because we don’t believe that either.”  
Then I would
tell them that you are looking at a tulip and not a rose.
When the
Gospel Writers talk about the name of Jesus they were talking about a very
specific Jesus.  They are writing about
the Jesus who always was and always is.  They
are writing about the Jesus who is not only the son of God but is God.  They are writing about the Jesus who was born
of a virgin. They are writing about the Jesus who lived a sinless life.  They are writing about the Jesus who died on
the cross. They are writing about the Jesus was raised from the dead and ultimately
they are writing about the Jesus who will someday return.  That is the Jesus who is named in the
Bible.   
And for two
thousand years churches around the world have embraced that Jesus.  
And we are
told in the Bible in Hebrews 13:8  Jesus Christ
is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 
And then in the very next verse we are told: Hebrews 13:9  So do not be attracted by
strange, new ideas.   There is a reason why
for two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus was born
of a virgin and why for two thousand years the church has taught and believed
that Jesus lived a sinless life and why for two thousand years the church has
taught and believed that Jesus died on the cross. 
And why for
two thousand years the church has taught and believed that Jesus was raised
from the dead and and why for two thousand years the church has taught and
believed that that Jesus will someday return.  Because Jesus Christ is the
same yesterday, today, and forever.
You might
remember five years ago when Mitt Romney was running for President of the US
there was some discussion about whether or not he was a Christian because he
was a member of the church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, the group
popularly referred to as the Mormons. 
And when Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist
Church of Dallas, called Mormonism a “theological cult” he was vilified by the
press for being judgemental. 
But he was
correct.  Because the Jesus of the Latter
Day Saints is not the Jesus of the Bible. 
On the other hand I think Jeffress was over the line when he went on to
declare “Evangelicals ought to give preference to a
Christian instead of someone who doesn’t embrace historical Christianity.”   Mitt Romney might have made a great
president. 
I think
history has shown that you just because you are a good Christian doesn’t mean
that you will make a good national leader. 
And vice versa.
Lifeway
Research a Christian research firm in the states did a survey and found that
among Protestant pastors 75 % disagreed with the statement that Mormons were
Christians.    But hopefully most of us
would agree with the president of Lifeway Ed Stezer who stated “Though pastors believe overwhelmingly that Mormonism is
not Christianity, their opinions should not be confused with personal scorn for
Mormons, A person can respect a religious group and even appreciate their
commitment to traditional moral values without equating their beliefs with
Christian orthodoxy.”
But understand
that it’s not enough to claim the name of Jesus without claiming the Jesus of
the name.
The Name of Jesus Is a Holy Name  This goes back to
what we believe about Jesus, if we truly believe that Jesus is God then his
name deserves the same respect as the name of God.
 And that takes us back to Exodus 20:7 “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not
let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.   and we’ve talked
about this before.  To misuse God’s name
is to use it in a frivolous manner, to misuse Jesus’ name is to use it in a
frivolous manner.  It’s not an
exclamation, or a statement of surprise or anger.  It is a holy name and deserves to be treated
as such. 
It’s not just a command about the way we speak, it’s also a
commandment concerning the way we live. 
When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a
follower of Christ, you are in effect taking his name, his name, and attaching
it to yourself and to your behaviour.  
And when your life does not reflect your commitment as a Christian then
you are misusing his name.  So, when you
call yourself a Christian then live like the devil what does that say?  What are you doing to the name of Christ with
the way you are living?
Not only is his name descriptive his name is holy, but more than
that:
The Name of Jesus Is a Powerful Name  If you read
through the book of Acts you discover that the early church depended on the
name of Jesus.  It was in the name of
Jesus that the message of the Gospel was preached, it was in the name of Jesus that
demons were cast out and it was in the name of Jesus that people were healed.
I love the
story about Peter and John going to the temple one afternoon to pray and they
encounter a crippled beggar outside the temple gate.  And when he sees them approach he asked them
for money.  And this was their
answer:  Acts 3:6  But Peter said, “I don’t have
any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus
Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”   And he was healed.  But it was
done in the name of Jesus.
And it was in
the name of Jesus that tyrants were rebuked and it was in the name of Jesus
that people found the strength to be martyred for their faith.
And there are
great scriptures that we claim and hold unto to, scriptures like John 14:14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will
do it.   How
often have we heard that promise, and how often have we claimed that
promise?  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. Wow! 
But did Jesus
actually mean that you could ask for anything in his name and it would be
yours?  That you and yours would never be
in want, that you would never be sick that you could ask for anything in Jesus’
name and it would be yours?  Because if
that’s the case I want an electric smart car convertible, and a giraffe. 
That’s how it
is preached sometimes and that is a heresy and a mockery of the words of
Jesus.  Seriously you can’t just cherry
pick verses like this and let them stand on their own.  You can’t just take a sentence out of the
bible and look at it in isolation. 
The very least
that you can do is look at the verses that immediately surround that verse.  That’s called taking the verse in context.
In this case,
we need to look at John
14:12-13
I tell you the truth, anyone
who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater
things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you
ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.   What is it talking
about here?  It is talking about doing
what Jesus did.  That your prayers and
your life would bring glory to God. 
And you are
thinking “Well sure Denn, but if I won the lottery that would bring glory to
God.”  Do you really believe that? 
This goes back
to the line in the Lord’s prayer that says “Your will be done on earth as it is
in heaven.”  There is power in Jesus name
and that power is living in Jesus name and means that we live in such a way
that our requests are requests that Jesus would honour.  John 15:16 You did not
choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that
will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.   
We sure like
the last part.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.   But you can’t isolate
the last part from the first part of Jesus statement and that is that you will
bear fruit that will last, because that is what your requests are supposed to
lead to. 
When you pray
for the power and desire to live the life that Jesus would have you to live, then
then power that you need is there.   When
you pray for the strength to resist temptation then that strength is
there.  When you pray that you will be
better able to bear the name of Jesus and that your life will produce the fruit
that Jesus wants you to produce, that request will be answered.
As a young pastor,
I thought that praying “Your will be done” was a cop out, that if we were truly
to pray in faith, believing that whatever we asked for in Jesus name would
happen that we were just given ourselves an out by praying “your will be done”
because if our prayers weren’t answered then we could just say “well I guess
that it wasn’t in God’s will” 
But what if we
truly believed that God is smarter than us, and ultimately that God wants the
very best for our lives, even if at this point in our lives it doesn’t seem
that way? 
Sometimes we
are like children who feel that we need every shiny new toy that captures our
imagination and every cone of ice cream or candy bar that tickles our fancy and
that doesn’t bring glory to God. 
But have you
ever wondered what would happen if every prayer you ever uttered had been
answered in just the way you wanted it to be answered? 
The power that
is in the name of Jesus is the power to live as a new creation, the power to be
a witness to his name, the power to bear the fruit that he would have us to
bear. 
Paul wrote
these words to the believers in the Colossian church, Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the
Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.   Now listen to how it
is said in the New International Version,  
NIV Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do
it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  
So, you understand that if you are a Christ
follower, then whatever you do, whether in word or
deed, you’re supposed to do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God
the Father through him.  The question of
course is: Do you? 
So to finish this morning let’s go to the
book of Romans, where Paul writes Romans 10:13  For
“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”   Have you called on
the name of the Lord?

A Few Bad Apples

I have read a number of disturbing stories recently about teachers and administrators in schools, in Canada and the States, who have been charged with possession of child porn or with being sexually involved with students.  What I haven’t read is reaction by people who say that they will no longer send their children to school or support the education system as a whole because their trust in the system has been shattered. 

What people seem to understand is that not every teacher is a pervert, as a matter of fact only a few are, and they can’t judge the entire education system on the behaviour of a few bad apples.  And yet, people judge the Roman Catholic church based on the behaviour of priests who have betrayed their vocation, their church and their God by preying on children. 

I often hear people tell me they have no use for the Church in general and the Catholic Church in particular because of the abuses of a few deviant priests. Come on. Most teachers are committed to educating our children and the majority of Priests are committed to serving God. And it’s not right to judge the entire institution based on the behaviour of a few criminals.     

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

Sola Scriptura: By Scripture Alone

Sola scriptura  On Scripture Alone
Do you own a bible?  Do you read the bible you own?
Who or what is the final authority in your
life?  You know,  The one thing that you won’t or can’t argue
with?  If you were a fan of “Rumpole of
the Bailey”, a British Television series about a lawyer named Horace Rumpole
than you’d know he privately referred to his wife Hilda as “She Who Must
Be Obeyed.”
My Grandfather Guptill used to say “Beware
of the man who says he’s boss of his home, if he’ll lie about that he’ll lie
about anything.”
But beyond your spouse or your parents who
or what is the final authority in your life?
500 years ago, a priest by the name of
Martin Luther decided that for him the final authority would be the word of God
and not the pope or the church.
Martin Luther wrote “Let the man who would
hear God speak, read Holy Scriptures.”
You may have noticed that in my messages I
use a lot of scriptures and that is because through the years I have come to
understanding that nothing that I or anyone else has to say has the potential
eternal consequences of God’s word.
You don’t come to church on Sunday Morning
to hear the collected wisdom of Denn Guptill you come to hear from the Bible,
the word of God the Holy Scriptures, so I don’t want to take the time you have
entrusted me with to let you know what I think.
For all practical purposes that was the
beginning of what would ultimately be called the “Protestant Reformation” and
the birth of the protestant church.
This is week two of our Old Foundation
series.  2017 is the 500th anniversary of
the Protestant Reformation, and we are looking at the foundation that our
church was ultimately built on.
These are called the 5 solas.  Solas being the Latin Word for “Alone” or
“Only”.  And so, last week we began with
Sola Fide, or By Faith Alone.  And I
spoke about how we need faith to begin our Christian Journey, to Live our
Christian Journey and to finish our Christian Journey.
And that statement of faith came from
Luther’s certainty of the truth of Romans 1:17 The Righteous shall live by
faith.
Luther had come to the point that he
declared that the final authority for what he believed and how he defined his
faith wouldn’t be the church, or church tradition or the Pope it would be the
scriptures.  And that would become known
as “Sola Scriptura” or “By Scripture Alone”.
Now that didn’t mean that Luther and the
other reformers were saying that the Bible was the only authority in the
church. Rather, they meant that the Bible was the only infallible authority in
the church.
They didn’t necessarily feel that
traditions were the problem but that unbiblical traditions were the
problem.  And so they would measure all
authority and teaching by the scriptures. And some of those teachings that they
found didn’t measure up were celibacy of the priests, authority of the pope,
the sinlessness of Mary or the reality of purgatory.
In 1517 bibles had primarily been
translated from the original Greek and Hebrew into Latin, the language of
scholars.  But Luther felt that everyone
should have the opportunity to hear God speak on their own, and not simply
through the church and her priests.
And so he translated the Greek and Hebrew
text into German.  We are told that he
would often make trips into the market place to hear how common people were
speaking and the words they were using.  
He wanted to place the word of God in the hands of everyday people.
We live in a world that wants to say there
are no absolutes and that what you believe to be true is as valid as what I
believe to be true.  Sola Scriptura would
say that all of our truths need to be laid against and measured against the
truth of scripture.
Which takes us to the scripture that was
read for us earlier.  This summer if you
were lucky enough you would have heard Pastor Stefan preach on this passage and
here we are again.
And I would be naïve to think that everyone
agrees with me on the validity or the value of this book. A number of years ago
I was asked to take part in a debate on CBC radio concerning the Oxford
translation of the Bible.
This particular translation worked very
hard at trying to offend nobody. So they were very gender unspecific.  Now I understand some of that, he and her
become they, mankind becomes humanity or should that simply be hu-people-y.  I can even concede a little bit on us
becoming Son’s of God becoming Children of God, although socially and
culturally speaking, 2000 years ago being someone’s son was a whole lot
different than simply being someone’s child and was understood as such.
But the translation kept going, it removed
any mention of the Jewish leaders asking for Christ to be crucified instead it
was simply the religious leaders. Because it didn’t want to be
anti-Semitic.  But historically it wasn’t
just any religious leaders who demanding the execution of Christ it was the
Jewish religious leaders.
That’s not to put any blame of Jews who
live today that is simply the historic reality. 
To deny that is akin to just referring to the authors of the holocaust
as political leaders and not mentioning that they were German political
leaders.
In the Oxford translation, the right hand
of God was no longer the preferred place to be because that would imply that
left was wrong or bad.  The parable of
the blind guides was left out because it was offensive to blind people, you get
the gist.  And I was asked to debate
another pastor who thought the Oxford translation was the greatest thing since
sliced bread.
And I challenged her saying that regardless
of how you viewed the Bible it was wrong to take that much liberty with
it.  If it was the word of God how could
you make such radical changes, if it was just a historical document how could
you justify tampering with it or if it was only great literature we wouldn’t
change the wording of Shakespeare’s plays simply to make them more appealing
for today.
But to her the Bible was just a book, a
good book but just a book never the less. 
And I couldn’t fathom how a pastor, a minister could view the word of
God as just a book.  What did she say
when she stood up on Sunday Morning? 
What could she possibly offer her congregation if it wasn’t from the
word of God?
And so in the scripture that was read this
morning Paul is writing to a young pastor by the name of Timothy and what we
have here is a personal letter; it wasn’t addressed to the congregation in the
Ephesian church it was addressed to the pastor of the Ephesian church. We are
reading someone else’s mail.
Paul is in prison in Rome facing execution
and he’s writing to Timothy in the city of Ephesus, which is in what we now
call Turkey.
These are very close to the last words that
Timothy would ever have from his friend and mentor and Paul was writing to
encourage Timothy and to remind him of his calling.
And part of what Paul reminds Timothy of is
his heritage, how he was brought up in a Godly home with a foundation
established on the scriptures.  And that
goes back to the promise we are given in Proverbs 22:6 Teach your children to
choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.  In other words parents do your best when they
are little and hope for the best when they grow up.  And Timothy had that heritage, it would
appear that his Mother Eunice and his Grandmother Lois were followers of Christ
and that they had brought Timothy up in the faith.
Now understand that these ladies came to
their faith through a Jewish background and so that is how Timothy would have
been raised. The scriptures that he would have been taught would have been the
Jewish scriptures, what we know as the Old Testament, because for Timothy the
New Testament was still a work in progress.
Historians tell us that at a time when 90%
of the world’s population was illiterate, that every Jewish boy over the age of
five was learning to read.  And while
most of us do our best to struggle though with one language, Timothy was
undoubtedly learning in both Hebrew the language of his people, and Greek which
was the language of the marketplace.
On His first day of school Eunice would
have included a honey cake in His lunch to remind Him of how sweet learning was
and His teacher would have given him a taste of honey and told Him, “The study
of God’s word is sweeter.”  But Timothy’s
education in the scripture would have begun long before that, in his own home.
But what are some of the things about the
scriptures that Timothy and we by default are reminded of here in regards to
God’s word.  2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture
is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize
what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is
right.
First of all we are told that The
Scriptures are Inspired by God  This is
the crux of the entire sermon.  If you
can’t believe that this book was inspired by God then what good is it for
you?  It’s not just another self-help
book, it’s not just another book on morality, it’s not just another “Good
Book”.  This is the word of God.
And it’s not enough to say “Well I believe
that parts of the Bible are inspired.” 
What parts?  The parts that you
agree with?  The parts that make you feel
good but don’t make you feel guilty?  Do
you get your pick of the Ten Commandments, so you’ll pick do not murder and do
not steal but skip lying and adultery. 
This book is either the word of God or it’s not and if it’s not then why
waste your time with it?
We hear the word inspired tossed around a
lot these days, artists are inspired, musicians are inspired, and interior
decorators are inspired.  But does that
mean the same as the bible being inspired by God?  No.  In
most cases when we speak about someone being inspired it means they are very
creative, that they are able to draw some special inspiration from within
themselves or from their Muse.
But the thought of the original language in
saying the scriptures were inspired comes from the two Greek words which meant
God and breathed, God breathed the scriptures into being.  As a matter of fact if you were to read 2
Timothy 3:16 in the New International Version it begins by saying All Scripture
is God breathed.   You have 40 different
human authors who put pen to paper, so to speak, who contributed to this book,
and we believe that they were inspired by God in what they wrote.
23 years ago I was introduced to the son of
one of our Wesleyan Pastors in Australia, and I was told he played the
trumpet.  (show video clip)
His name is James Morrison and he opened
the Olympics in Sydney Australia.  The
music he plays is created with his breath. 
The trumpet is just tool, it’s what turns his breath into a recognizable
sound.
When he plays the trombone, it is still the
breath of James Morrison, but it sounds different.
In the same way the breath of God is played
through various human writers in the Bible, same breath but we hear it in
different ways.
So Moses writes different than David, who
writes different than Amos who writes different than Jonah, who writes
different than Matthew.  But the initial
inspiration or breath is from the same source.
So it’s inspired, but why?  Do we have the Bible, the inspired word of
God just to have a good book to read? 
And it is great reading, there is mystery and intrigue and romance and
betrayal, poetry and songs, inspiration, philosophy and theology all wrapped up
in this book we call the Bible. No it’s not just a good read there needs to be
a purpose to our reading.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Teach us What is True   There has to come a time when we ask: What
is truth?  Is it something that is
defined by politicians?  God help us if
it is.  Or do we leave it up to nine
appointed judges in Ottawa to decide what truth is and by default what morality
is?  Can truth change?
Ten years ago, I was in a public meeting
over the same sex marriage issue, by the way I am opposed to same sex marriage
as is the Wesleyan Church, in case you needed clarification on that. I was in
the meeting and asked Geoff Regan what protection was in place for me as a
clergy if I was asked to perform a same sex marriage.  To which Mr. Regan insured me that I was protected
by the Supreme Court Ruling.  And so I
asked if the Supreme Court ever changed its mind.  And he said it did.  Not much protection, but the point being is
that truth is not supposed to change.
Jesus promised in John 8:32 Jesus said “And
you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  But how can the truth set you free if the
truth is ever changing and what is true today isn’t true tomorrow?  Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the
truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” And we
are told in Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and
forever. The truth is the same yesterday, today and forever and this is where
you find it.
So what else is the bible good for? 2
Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is
true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out
and teaches us to do what is right.  The
Scriptures Make Us Realize What Is Wrong in Our Lives.  It’s not enough that we get our creed from
the bible we also need to go to it for our conduct.  It’s is the source of both our belief and our
behaviour. It should make a difference in how we live.  And if it doesn’t then there something wrong.  Christians are referred to as being born
again, having a new beginning and being new creations.  That would signify new behaviour, how we act,
how we live, what we do.
Throughout the Bible our behaviour is not
taught to be a way to our salvation, as a matter of fact in Ephesians 2:8-9 God
saved you by his special favour when you believed. And you can’t take credit
for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things
we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 
So our salvation is not dependent on our behaviour, but our behaviour is
dependent on our salvation.  Does that
make sense?  No, ok.  You don’t become a Christian because of what
you do, but when you become a Christian that determines what you do, there are
specific things Christians do and specific things Christians don’t do.  And they are found in the book.  We are not left without guidance.
True story, this is too good to make up and
while I’ve told it before it’s too good not to repeat.  I was talking to a friend of mine one day and
he was telling me about how he became a Christian.  No church background, a friend of his
introduced him to Jesus, he had just started attending church.  His friend gave him a bible and he starts to
read it.  At the time, he was living with
his girlfriend and one night they are lying in bed, he’s reading his bible and
comes to a word he doesn’t understand. 
So he turns to his girlfriend and says “What’s fornication?” Now if’n
you’re wondering the same thing, fornication is sexual activity outside of
marriage, sex is God’s wedding gift.
So he asks his girlfriend “what is
fornication?”  and she replies “That’s
what we do.”
The scriptures tell us what is wrong.  But more then that let’s keep reading  2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by
God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong
in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right.
The Scriptures Straighten Us Out, So the
next morning Bill moves out, if they were fornicating and fornicating was wrong
then he knew that he should stop fornicating. 
Pretty simple right?  So what’s
the problem?  And maybe that’s the reason
we don’t read the bible, because we don’t want to find out what we are doing
wrong and what we should do about that behaviour.
When people talk about being accepting of
people they talk about Christ’s love and forgiveness.  They remind us of the woman caught in
adultery, how Jesus told those who wanted to judge her to cast the first stone
if they were without sin.  And then
people tell us how we should be like that accepting and forgiving of people
regardless of what they do or how they behave. 
What they forget is what Jesus told the woman when everyone had
left.  Do you remember?  Sure he told her in John 8:11 “Go and sin no
more.”   In other words stop doing what
is wrong.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians
5:17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons.
They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has
begun!  Not only is there a new life but
the old life is gone.
And finally 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is
inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize
what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is
right.  The Scriptures Teach Us to Do
What Is Right.   Sometimes people say
that the Bible is full of Don’ts but there are actually more dos in the bible
then there are don’t so if you spend all your time doing the dos you won’t have
time to do the don’ts.  If you want some
place to start try Galatians 5:22-23 But when the Holy Spirit controls our
lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is
no conflict with the law.  So I’ll tell
you what, work on those nine and when you get them down pat let me know and
I’ll find you some more.
Here’s the secret if you want to know
what’s in this book then you have to read it. 
It can’t just sit there.  If you
don’t have a bible I would recommend the New Living Translation or the New
International Version.  And if you don’t
have one and would like a copy just let me know, we have some really nice NIVs
available.
So let’s go back to the questions I asked
at the beginning:  Do you own a
bible?  Do you read it?
Charles Spurgeon was the pastor for 38
years of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London England.  During the time he was there the church grew
to over 5,000 in attendance and he became known around the world for his
preaching and this was before the interwebby thing.  And Spurgeon once said “There is dust enough
on some of your Bibles to write damnation with your fingers.”  I hope that’s not true of you, let’s pray.

Baby it’s Cold Out There.

It suddenly dawned on me how cold it was.  I was filling my car up and realized that I was cold and not just a little cold either…… I was really cold.  And then I had an epiphany. It was minus 14 and I was pumping gas with my leather jacket wide open and no hat or gloves on.  Now to be fair, I do own a winter coat, hats and gloves.  I had simply chose not to wear them.  So, whose fault was it that I was cold?  Duh!  It really wouldn’t have been right to blame God for making the day so cold or the service station for not heating the pump area when I could have dressed warmer. 

But how often in our lives do we get into trouble and blame God even though He has already provided us with all the resources we need and we choose not to avail ourselves of those resources?  Whether it is instruction from His Word, encouragement from fellow believers or strength and power from the Holy Spirit, much of what we need is readily available, if we want it.  But sometimes it’s just easier to find someone else to blame.  

Although heated pump areas would be a great idea.

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

2016, Good or Bad?

I recently heard someone commenting on what a bad year 2016 had been.  I was a little intrigued so I asked what had made the year so bad.  So they began to list off the celebrities who had passed away in 2016.  I wasn’t sure how many there were or even who they were so I googled it, and sure enough there were a pile of celebrities, major and minor, who died over the past 12 months.  Some I knew and some I didn’t have a clue who they were.

But if 2016 was a bad year, and I’m not convinced it was, wouldn’t it have been a bad year because of the 16,913 civilians who died in Syria or the hundreds of thousands of other innocents around the world who lost their lives at the hands of despots and terrorists?
Without wanting to minimize the death of anyone, sometimes I think we grieve for celebrities because it keeps our eyes off our failure as humanity.

Regardless of your political views, there were 34,696 Syrian refugees who came to Canada in 2016 who may very well have been killed if they had stayed in Syria.  And I would suspect that made 2016 a pretty good year for them.

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

I am Resolved

Well it’s 2017, who would have
thunk it.  And I would suspect that there
have been a pile of New Year’s resolutions made in the past 11 hours and if the
truth was known there have probably been a pile of New Year’s resolutions
broken in the past 11 hours.
We have probably all verbally or
silently, publicly or privately resolved to do something different this year than
we did last year.  Some will finally
decide to give up the demon tabbacy, other’s myself included have decided to do
battle with a more acceptable vice and that is food.
For many years I resolved to lose
weight and then I discovered that I wasn’t overweight I was under tall, and so
I changed my resolution to getting taller. 
And while you think I’ve lost weight, I’m actually just 7 inches taller
than I used to be. 
So what are your resolutions for 2017?  Big, little, practical, impractical, what
have you decided to change about your life in the next twelve months?  On December 31st of this year will
you be the same person you are now? A better person? Or a worse person?  Will you have won a victory over some area of
your life or will you have gone down to defeat? 
I want to go on record right now
as saying I believe you can do it.  And I
know that you are sitting there thinking “But Denn you don’t even know what I’m
struggling with.”  You’re right, I don’t,
but I know my God and I know that he can give you victory.  Do you believe that? Do you believe that you
are a partner in faith with the Almighty God? 
Do you remember what Gabriel told
Mary in Luke 1:37?  That’s right, Nothing
is Impossible for God. Luke 1:37 “For nothing is impossible with
God.”  And if no thing is impossible with God then all things will be
possible with God.
When Paul wrote his letter to the early believers in Philippi this
is what he told them  Philippians 4:13 For I can
do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
It doesn’t say “I can do some
things” or “I can do the easy things” or “I can do certain things.”
What the word of God says is “I
can do everything.”
Perhaps as we step into a new
year you need to apply those words to your particular situation.  Perhaps you need to write your goals down
this way 
“I can quit smoking, with the
help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can lose weight, with the help
of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can stop being negative, with
the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can learn to love the
unlovable, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
“I can become a stronger
Christian, with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.”
You know there are a lot of
things in life that are impossible, there are a lot of things in this life that
you will never be able to accomplish by yourself, but when God is your partner there
is no limit to what you can accomplish.
Each year we resolve to be better
parents, better spouses, to give up this and start that but how about making a
commitment to walking deeper with God? 
To becoming better and stronger Christians? 
Perhaps by December 2017 it could
be said of you as Paul said of the believers in the city of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted
speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to
excel also in this gracious act of giving. 
And so, Paul begins this
statement with these words: You excel in so many
ways:  Paul is writing to the
believers in the city of Corinth, which was located in what we now know as
Greece.
And even though the letter was
written specifically to the believers in that church 2000 years ago, because
God in his infinite wisdom included it in what we now call the New Testament it
applies to us today. 
Paul has just finished a litany
of praise for the churches in Macedonia which were just north of Corinth.  He talks about how even though they were
going through some tough times they were still joyful, that even though they
were poor that they were very generous. 
He tells about what great people and terrific Christians they were. And
I’m sure that those reading the letter were yeah, yeah, yeah.  Macedonians this and Macedonians that.  Have you ever been in a situation like that?
Standing and listening to how great somebody else is. Feels great, doesn’t it?
It’s probably a character flaw of
mine, because as much as I like to hear positive things about people when it
drags on and on inside I’m thinking “Yeah whatever.”  And here’s Paul laying it on with a trowel
about how good the churches in Macedonia are. “Wow guys you would really like them
they are a great bunch of Christians, you couldn’t help but love these
Macedonians.”  And probably the
Corinthians are thinking, “yeah, right I’m sure.”
It was in 1988, I had just
performed a funeral for a church member the day before and I was out for coffee
and ran into a friend of mine from the church, he sat down and ordered a coffee
and said “You did a good job yesterday on the funeral” I thanked him and then
he added, “Let me tell you about the best funeral sermon I ever heard.” And
before he starts he realizes what he just said and quickly adds “you probably
don’t want to hear about it.” He was right.
Well it would appear that Paul
suddenly realizes that he’s been going on and on and he switches gears and
says: You excel in so many ways. What a
compliment, the word that Paul uses here in the original language literally
means to super excel or to excel to the point of flowing over.  We’re not talking about almost enough or even
barely enough or a bare minimum instead Paul is talking about having so much
that you are unable to contain it and it runs over the top.
When Christ promised the believers in John 10:10 that we would
have life and have it abundantly  he used
the same root word that Paul uses for excel. Here were Christians who didn’t
want just enough to get by, they wanted it all and they more than excelled in
what they had.  Is your Christian walk
one of fullness or do you feel like your spiritual gas tank is permanently on
empty? 
One of my bad habits is running
my car on empty.  I think it’s a throw
back to my student days when it was a necessity, “yeah put in 2 bucks and check
the oil would you.”  Can any of you
actually remember seriously buying two dollars’ worth of gas let alone having
someone else pump it for you?   And all the time my gas gauge is on empty I
wonder: “Am I going to make it or will I run out of gas? Just one more errand
and then I’ll go get gas, if I can make it.”
But when you are running on empty
you’re never really comfortable, never really sure that you will have enough to
last you. When your spiritually gas tank is on empty you never really have the
joy you are supposed to have as a Christian. You are never really convinced
that you are where you are supposed to be spiritually.
But after the car has been tanked
up and I’ve given a little bit of my forty dollars to the service station
owner, and a little bit of my forty dollars to Esso and a little bit of my forty
dollars to some prince in the middle east or Alberta. and a whole lot of my forty
dollars to Mr. Trudea and Mr. McNeil I don’t have to be concerned about running
out of gas because my tank is full. 
Now the neat thing about filling
your spiritual tank is that God comes to you. 
And so in 2017 my aim is to excel, no to super excel in spiritual
qualities.  I want so much of the Lord
that I’m like the old lady who said “I can’t hold much but I can overflow
plenty.”
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and
your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. 
I am Resolved to Excel in My Faith
The first thing that Paul said
the believers in Corinth excelled in was their Faith.  Now in the New Testament faith is used to
mean one of two things.  The faith that I
most often preach about is faith the way that it’s defined in Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will
actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. 
And I love to preach on a seeing
faith, of a believing faith of dreaming God given dreams and believing in faith
that no matter how big those dreams might be that they can be accomplished
through our God.
That is the first type of faith
that is commonly mentioned in the New Testament, but that isn’t how Paul was
using the word faith here.  Instead Paul
was using the Greek word Pistis which referred to a conviction of religious
truth.  It is simply the depth of belief
that you have in what you believe. 
Paul was saying “You excel in the
belief of your salvation and the truth of the Gospel.”  We would say that these people were well
grounded in their faith.  When I was a
teenager my parents made sure that I was well grounded several times, but that
has nothing to do with what we are talking about here. We Need to Excel in our Faith.
After I graduated from Bible
College Angela and I moved to New York and one morning after a major windstorm
we looked out our back window and there was a great big spruce tree laying
across our back yard.  Now when that tree
was standing it was tall, strong and majestic. 
It looked like nothing could knock it down. But when it had fallen down
you could see that the roots were only about six inches under the surface in a
sandy soil.  The tree hadn’t been
grounded well and the only reason it had stood so long was that the wind had
never hit it from that direction before. 
But the day the wind blew hard enough and blew in the right direction
down came the tree.
Christians aren’t always grounded
deep enough, some people put their faith in the good things that happen to them
as a Christian.  “Why since I have been a
Christian everything has been just peachy keen. My marriage has improved, I got
promoted, my children always behave and never talk back and we have more money
then we’ll ever need and Jesus is a wonderful God because he has made our life
wonderful.” 
And then one of your children
arrives home and informs you that you’re going to be a Grammy or Grampy and you
haven’t even gotten used to being a daddy or mommy yet and another kid winds up
in jail, you lose your job and end up in the hospital and now things aren’t wonderful
anymore and you start to question the reality of God.
Or you have your roots set in
Jesus Christ because Denn Guptill preaches that you should and you have the
utmost faith in Denn Guptill and what he says. 
And then he runs off with all the money in the building fund and buys
himself a motorcycle, a really used motorcycle there’s not much in the building
fund right now, and your faith is shattered.
It bugs me when a scandal happens
with a major church figure and someone says “My faith has been destroyed.” If
that’s all it took to destroy your faith then you didn’t have that much to
destroy. You ever talk to backsliders, you know someone who used to serve God
but doesn’t now.  And they usually can
pinpoint at what moment they walked away from God, and often it’s because a
Christian disappointed them in some way.
That big old tree stood in our
back yard for a lot of years before the wind blew just hard enough from the
right direction. If you roots are shallow then Satan knows how the wind needs
to blow to bring your faith crashing down. 
The old hymn says “My faith is built on nothing less than Jesus blood
and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus
name. On Christ the solid
Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
Apparently some people have a
belief in God but not the faith to back it up.  
R.
Buckminister (Bucky) Fuller said “Faith is much better than belief.  Belief is when someone else does the
thinking.”
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act
of giving.   I am Resolved to Excel in My Speech
The second thing that Paul
commends the Corinthians for excelling in is in their speech Now there’s one thing most of us don’t
lack in and that’s words.  But that isn’t
what Paul is talking about here, and he’s not saying they have good
preachers.  What Paul is talking about
here is not the quantity of speech it is their purity of speech. 
It is a speech that builds up and
doesn’t tear down, it is a speech that is full of love and encouragement, not
jealousy or maliciousness. Controlling
our tongues is probably one of the most difficult things that most of us
endeavour to do, and it is probably a commendable resolution for 2017.  Listen to what James the brother of Christ
writes in his letter James 3:2 Indeed, we all make many
mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could
also control ourselves in every other way. 
How many people here have ever
said something they later regretted? I have and there are people in this world
that I will never be able to minister to because of something I’ve said.  And I will be held accountable for that.  James goes on to write James 3:10-11 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the
same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!   Does a spring of water bubble out with both
fresh water and bitter water? 
You can’t stand and sing “10,000
Reasons” and then go home and talk about what a dummy the preacher is. You
can’t testify to the wonderful love of Jesus in your life and go home and run
your spouse or children down.  We need to
heed the advice of Mark Twain who said “Keep your words sweet because you never know when you might
have to eat them.”
The scriptures tell us that everything should be done in love, it
could very well say let everything be said in love.   As a matter of fact it does in Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we
will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ,
who is the head of his body, the church.
 When you excel in speech does it make people
better or bitter? Do your words draw people closer to God or push them further
from God?  It’s your choice.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act
of giving.  The third thing that Paul commends these believers for was their knowledge.  The knowledge that Paul speaks of here is
head knowledge, something acquired something learnt.  These people were knowledgeable about their
faith.
I am
Resolved to Excel in My
Knowledge Our greatest failing as evangelicals is a lack of sound biblical
knowledge.  If I was giving a course in
Remedial Nuclear and Molecular Physics and you only came to half the lectures
and never opened the text outside of class what type of mark do you think you
would get? You would fail.
Most of us will be in serious
trouble if God pops a surprise Biblical Knowledge quiz on us when we get to
heaven.  And I know that some of you are
thinking, “But Denn Bible study comes hard for me.” I’ve got news for you;
Bible study comes hard for me too and if the rest of this bunch was honest
you’d find out that it comes hard for most people. 
And I’m pretty sure that anyone
who has an education especially a post-secondary education would concur that
there is very little in this life that we don’t have to work at learning.
I went to college with a fellow
who was asked to leave Bethany in his second term because of his grade point
average. At college a 4.0 was an A, a 3.0 was a B, a 2.0 was a C.  Just to stay you needed a 2.0 and in the
ministerial program you needed at least 3.0 in your major courses This fellow
was from Louisiana and I asked a friend of his where’d Vance go, and this was
his response.  “Vance, Vance, Vance’s
grade point average couldn’t have got him arrested for drunken driving.”  I said “So what’s he doing now?” and he replied
“He’s a fuel injection for Exxon” “Really” “Yeah he’s pumping gas”
Now Vance wasn’t a dummy but he
wasn’t willing to do the work to get the knowledge. I saw some talented young
men and women leave college because they thought that if God had called them to
the ministry then he should unscrew the top of their heads, pour the knowledge
in, screw it back on and turn them loose on the world.  
Well, God called me into the
ministry and there were times that I was wading around waist deep in Systematic
theology that I wished he had called me to be a fuel injection specialist.  Gaining knowledge may not be easy but it is
essential.  Nobody can learn for you
except you.  God doesn’t expect you to
have a doctorate in theology and biblical knowledge but he does expect you to
learn to the very best of your abilities and talents.
It’s unfortunate that Christians
are like everyone else in the world 5% think, 15% think they think and 80%
would rather die than think. In 2017 let’s make every effort to excel in
knowledge.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this
gracious act of giving.  The next thing that Paul talks about is Their
Enthusiasm In some translations the word that is
used is diligence and earnestness and they probably capture better the intent
of the original language. 
Christianity was not
a game to these believers; they didn’t go to church because it was the right
thing to do or they were afraid of what people would think if they didn’t.  By embracing the claims of Christianity, the
early believers were forfeiting their right to worldly happiness. Their work,
their homes, their belongings, even their families and lives could be demanded
of them by the Roman Authorities because of their alliance to Christ.  I am Resolved to Excel in My Diligence
Maybe the reason we
sometimes fail to be as diligent as we ought to be in our Christian life is
that our faith cost so little.  If we
could no longer claim what we give to the church as a tax deduction we’d cry
persecution but there are still countries in the world where believers lose
their freedom and their lives just for being Christians.  In 2017 let us be resolved to become more
earnest in our faith.
2 Corinthians 8:7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your
enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of
giving I am Resolved to Excel in My Love 
And finally Paul
thanks the Corinthians for their love.  The word that Paul uses here for love is
the Greek word Agape which means an unconditional love.   God doesn’t want us to love people because they deserve it he just wants
us to love them.
If God had waited
until we deserved his love before he sent His Son, we’d still be waiting.  And the scriptures are filled with admonitions
for us to love .
John 15:12 This is my commandment: Love
each other in the same way I have loved you. 



John 15:17 This is my command: Love each
other.  


1 Corinthians 13:13 Three things will last
forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.  
1 John 2:9-10 If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates
a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone
who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause
others to stumble.
So in 2017 let us resolve to
overflow with Faith, pure speech, knowledge, diligence and love.