The Power of Assurance

THE POWER OF ASSURANCE    Romans 5:1-8

Introduction

Audio:

Ever since the first time we became aware of sin in our lives we have been caught in an eternal struggle. We want to belong to God and live for him. We want to do things that dishonor that relationship.

 James 1:14-15 …Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Matthew 9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

We have been strong, weak, and in between. Our Christian lives have not been steady, but rocky and often we believe we are no good at it. So how can we ever have the power of assurance – of confidence that God has saved us and is saving us and will save us?

The Tragedy of No Assurance. When we have no assurance…

We suffer a disconnect with God … we do not trust that He is able to save us.

We suffer a disconnect with Prayer … we do not trust that He will hear us.

We suffer a disconnect with the Gospel … we do not trust that it is Good News for US.

We suffer a disconnect with the church … we do not trust them to understand our issues with sin.

We suffer a disconnect with the Bible … we do not trust that it contains the help we need to be victorious.

We suffer a disconnect with ourselves … we do not trust ourselves to become the person we desire to be.

A lack of assurance is a tragedy in many ways, but it does not have to be our perspective.

Romans 5:1-8 gives us four assurances of our assurance!

1. ASSURANCE OF PEACE WITH GOD (Romans 5:1)

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

AMP Therefore, since we have been justified [that is, acquitted of sin, declared blameless before God] by faith, [let us grasp the fact that] we have peace with God [and the joy of reconciliation with Him] through our Lord Jesus Christ.…

Romans 15:13  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace …”

Romans 15:33 “May the God of peace …”

Romans 16:20 “The God of peace…”

2. ASSURANCE OF GRACE (Romans 5:2)

Romans 5:2 …Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.

Access is entry, or introduction. At a certain point of time we entered into the state of grace; we were introduced into it by Jesus Christ. We presently stand in this state of grace. Grace is not a revolving door, it’s a place to STAND FIRM. Grace seems so unfair… we do not deserve it. But thats the definition of grace.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Barclay: Jesus ushers into the very presence of God. He opens the door for us to the presence of the King of Kings; and when that door is opened what we find is grace, not condemnation, not judgment, not vengeance, but the sheer, undeserved, incredible kindness of God.

The Hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling; Naked, come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace; Foul, I to the Fountain fly; Wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

Five times in this chapter and almost 20 times in the book of Romans Paul writes about grace.

His epistles are filled with the message of grace. Do we wonder why? Did Paul ever hit rock bottom? Paul’s claim was to be the chief of sinners saved by the glorious grace of Jesus. Grace is God’s gift to the unable – unable to save myself, unable to overcome on my own, desperate for His presence.

3. ASSURANCE OF VICTORY (Romans 5:3-5)

Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Tribulations/Troubles tend to make us doubt our salvation… wonder if God has abandoned us … if it is all a myth. Trials and Troubles are productive in the Assured Life:

Suffering produces endurance (3b) patient, endurance, steadfastness, the ability to bear up under.

Endurance produces character (4a) – the state of having been tested or proved and thus of being approved. (Proven Character -NASB).

Character gives us hope (4b)God has not allowed us to be defeated in the trial of our sufferings.

It is not a promise that struggles will be easy, it is a promise that you will be victorious in ways you cannot produce on your own. (These Christians will see persecution under Nero take the lives of Peter and Paul and others.)

4. ASSURANCE OF SALVATION (Romans 5:6-8)

Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. …But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God’s love is demonstrated while we were yet sinners. Powerless – helpless, without strength. We were in a state of moral sickness. We were totally helpless to do anything about it; unable to help ourselves. We were ungodly: in a state of opposition to God and his law, totally undeserving of his loving forgiveness. The reality of the cross is set over against whatever sufferings may come upon us. Love is not reserved for the lovely – it moves toward the powerless, the undeserving, the difficult. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Conclusion

Assurance is such a wonderful gift from the God who give.

 1 John  5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

“God loves you unconditionally, as you are and not as you should be, because nobody is as they should be.”  Brennan Manning, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir

Fellowship With the Spirit

The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit   Acts 2:42-47

Audio:

Introduction

Last week we traced the promise of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Joel 2 to Acts 2. Three thousand people heard the gospel call and gave their lives to the Lord, being baptized and receiving forgiveness and the indwelling Holy Spirit. This infant church had some growing to do and they were ready to follow Christ into new Kingdom expressions. The book of Acts is our historical record of the beginning and growth of the church that Jesus established. The first Christians should not be viewed as idyllic …they were real people with real struggles.  

For the earliest church community, the apostles become de facto religio-political leaders, taking the place normally ceded to the Sanhedrin leaders in Acts. (Aymer)

This caused friction both with Rome and with the Jewish leaders – but this would develop more a little later. This text presents new disciples as they began their walk with Christ.  A Spirit filled Church  looks like this:

1. IT WAS A LEARNING CHURCH 

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The fervor and devotion of this church is an inspiration. 

NASB:  They were continually devoting themselves

Can you imagine them using some of the excuses we use today to stay away from the assembly? How would we describe our devotion as compared to theirs? They were devoted to learning – listening to the apostles.

“If we are not continually growing to understand and apply the doctrines of God’s Word, we are not growing in devotion to the Lord.” (Cole)

2. IT WAS A CHURCH OF FELLOWSHIP 

Fellowship is not a meal – but the sharing, love, conversation, care, and camaraderie being offered as we gather together.

CEB: The believers devoted themselves …  to the community.

Fellowship …  and eating together, mundane as they seem, are not activities we just happen to do but are essential acts of Christian life. (Shauf)

Our life together is so important because it is one of the empowering realities of life in the church. We are individuals, but we share a common hope, a common Spirit. 

Christian fellowship is two-dimensional, and it has to be vertical before it can be horizontal. We must know the reality of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ before we can know the reality of fellowship with each other in our common relationship to God. (Packer)

3. IT WAS A PRAYING CHURCH 

The initial Christians faced some heavy struggles. They were rejected by their fellow Jews. They would face deadly persecution from Romans. They would sacrifice their homes and lives for Christ. Luke is telling us that in its very early days the saints in Jerusalem diligently persisted in the observance of the stipulated times of Jewish prayer at the temple. (Deff).

“They always went in to God before they went out to the world; they were able to meet the problems of life because they had first met him.” – Barclay

4. IT WAS A REVERENT CHURCH

Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

A sense of awe was their view of the church.

NASB: Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…

No doubt this related to the miracles of the Apostles but I believe it was much more – everything was new. Can we be a reverent church without miraculous signs? We must be! God has not stopped working!

“If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God things happen. More things would happen if we believed that God and we together could make them happen.” – Barclay

5. IT WAS A SHARING CHURCH 

Acts 2:44-45 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

They had an intense feeling of responsibility each other. The spirit of Care and Compassion finds it’s way throughout the NT, though the communal lifestyle  not. It was important for that moment in time, though.

6. IT WAS A WORSHIPING CHURCH 

Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts

“God knows nothing of solitary religion.” Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people. 

7.  IT WAS A HAPPY CHURCH

Gladness was there. A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.

8. IT WAS A CHURCH OF INFLUENCE.

Acts 2:47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Real Christianity is a lovely thing.  There was a winsomeness in God’s people. The community is well regarded by the outsiders. … However, the growth and salvation are not the work of the community; these are the works of God. (Ayer)

Conclusion

That’s the picture of the earliest church and who wouldn’t want to be a member of that church?  It wasn’t a perfect church because there aren’t any of those.  And it isn’t long before there are some struggles in the church but God is present to help bring togetherness and strength to them as they trust in him.

The question for us- Does this describe our church?

Further – Does this describe me?

2 Corinthians 13:14  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Resources

Main outline from William Barclay Commentary

Margaret Aymer   

Scott Shauf 

J. I. Packer

Bob Deffenbaugh Characteristics of a Healthy Church

Steven J. Cole Snapshot of a Healthy Church 

Filled With The Spirit

Filled With The Spirit 

Audio:

Five Hundred Years before Christ, Joel the son of Pethuel prophesied to Judah concerning a great locust plague that was about to wipe out all of their resources – a judgement from God because of their sin and their alignment with wicked nations and their worship of Baal. Jeremiah said of sinful Judah:

Jeremiah 4:22 “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

Joel’s prophecy was a warning of a coming day of the Lord. He told them to put on sackcloth, a sign of repentance.

Joel 2:14 “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. Alas for that day! For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.”

This was a prophetic call of alarm and the need for immediate repentance and prayer. God said, “Even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:12, 13)

God promises to return his people to a station of blessing and plenty, if they will only turn back to him after their great sin and the shame they were bearing up under.

Joel 2:27 “Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.”

Isn’t the grace of God amazing even in the Old Testament? He offers them these amazing promises not only of the lifting of shame, but an outpouring of  love and the promise that he would live among them and they would experience deliverance from their enemies.

Joel 2:28-32 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

That promise of deliverance would have to wait, as Judah did not turn away from her Baal worship, no matter how the prophets pled with them. God’s Holy People would be swallowed  up by invading nations because of their unfaithfulness. Ultimately they would be released from Babylon and there would be four hundred years without a prophet.

We look ahead five centuries after Joel’s prophecy to some men in a field at night.

Luke 2:8-15 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They did see the Christ child who came to earth to bring deliverance and peace to all men. Scripture says about him…

Luke 2:52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Although Jesus brought truth and light, kindness, grace and healing into the world, he was met with great resistance and even hatred. Those who should have been watching for his arrival instead denied that he came from God. The rejection that came from his own broke his heart. At one point we read of him sitting above the city and weeping over their blindness:

Luke 13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings and you were not willing.”

We might recall the prophet Joel weeping that Judah was not willing to turn to the Lord. Through a series of dishonest and illegal means, the leading Jewish authorities ultimately had Jesus arrested, beaten, and brought before the rulers of his day. They called out for him to be executed but even the Roman governor Pilate was confused by this.

Luke 23:22-25  …He spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty.  … But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. …and surrendered Jesus to their will.

Beaten and bloodied, Jesus was forced to carry his own cross until he could not any longer. Simon of Cyrene carried his cross for him. At the crest of Calvary Jesus was nailed to a cross between two thieves. Enduring the taunts and cruelty of men he prayed for them to be forgiven. He promised a penitent thief that he could see paradise. He asked John to care for his mother.

Luke 23:44-49  …About noon … darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last. 47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Luke 24:1-8 [Three days later]On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Later in an appearance to his disciples he told them ..

Luke 24:45-49 …“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the  third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

In the beginning of Luke’s second volume Jesus gave this command before he ascended to the Father:

Acts 1:4-5 “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:12, 14 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives,… They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. While they are praying Jews from all over the world are gathering in Jerusalem for Pentecost. It is the second feast day on Israel’s calendar… celebrating harvest… for some it is celebrating the coming of the ten commandments. They come to the temple to bring offerings. It is seven weeks after the resurrection of Jesus.

Acts 2:1-4  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues [languages] as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:14 – 24 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.18 Even on my servants, both men and  women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. … And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’  “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

Acts 2:36-41  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Today we seclare through Scripture that being Filled with the Holy Spirit…

Is a Matter of Prophecy.

Joel prophesied to sinful Judah that if they would repent and turn of their ways that God’s blessing would be poured out over them. This is the promise claimed by Peter on Pentecost. It was God’s plan to send His Spirit to His people.

Is a Matter of Repentance.

Both in Joel and in Peter’s speech, a recognition and turning away from sin is a part of what it is to have a relationship with God. He cannot overlook sin. This is so much true that one only has to consider the great price he paid so that we could be forgiven. The death of his son on the cross is an indication of what God thinks of sin.  Are we looking into our own hearts today and wondering why we do not experience God’s Spirit when we have refused to repent of our sins in a specific manner?

Is a Matter of Connection with God.

Judah was too busy connecting with Baal to connect with Jehovah God. Today we are connecting with our world, with our culture, with our own sin and it is keeping us from connecting with God. But when the Jews on Pentecost were confronted with the death of Christ at their hands, they were cut to the the heart. What can we do? Repent and be baptized. … there is forgiveness there… and filling with the Spirit.

Is a matter of response.

God invites us to come to Him, but he doesn’t force us. 3,000 people were baptized that day and those who believe in Christ and want to respond to Him have been being baptized ever since, even to today!

Conclusion

I pray this gives us more insight into what happened on the day of Pentecost and the connections to Joel and his urgency in appealing to Judah to repent. When we think of being filled with the Spirit we may focus on the wind, fire, languages. Instead we should focus on

God’s call to repentance

God’s call to connection through baptism and indwelling

God’s call to belong to Him

Brand New Life: Blessed

BRAND NEW LIFE SAME OLD WORLD

BLESSED   1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:6-11

Audio:

Introduction

Peter’s message is that living a brand new life in this same old world is a real challenge. Christ has given us a brand new life and has set us free from the shackles of the past; paying our ransom. We gain strength by craving His word. We experience healing as we walk in his steps. In spite of challenges the Brand New Life is a Blessed  life. Blessed does not mean without troubles, it’s a life that rests in the power and strength of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. This is no surprise to longtime Christians. Peter says it should not surprise us.

1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

One way we glorify God in our life is by hanging on to faith when the bottom drops out.

1 Peter 4:13-14 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is  revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

AMP 14 you are blessed [happy, with life-joy and comfort in God’s salvation regardless of your circumstances]

We will have inward struggles and there will be days when we just push through because we are committed to  Christ. The life that is blessed – that is resting in the power of God – is described as Peter closes out his letter in 1 Peter 5:6-11. 

1. Be Humble  (Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.)

Humility is a correct estimation of who you are in light of who God is; it means being without pretension.x Being humble under God’s mighty hand has the idea of a “deep reverence toward God; letting every conscious thought be in submission to His will…” W. E. Berkley.  Being humble is “not self-hatred; it does not involve a denial of my potential or my good choices and character. Humility is a true, an honest view of who and what I am. Colossians 3:12 says we must put on humility…Thayer …: ” . . . to submit one’s self in a lowly spirit to the power and will of God,” (Thayer’s, 614,615). W. E. Berkley. John the Baptist was called humble – not because he was quiet and unassuming, but because he was humbled to the will of God in his life. Encountering the storms of life requires humility. Pride will have us trying to fix everything without God’s help! Humility will have us turning to God who has the ability and power and strength to bless us in our time of trouble.

2. Be Calm. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. [AMP all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns once and for all]

Anxious – the state of being pulled apart. Every time a new burden arises, we must by faith remind ourselves that we have already turned it over to God. Peter doesn’t give us a dozen reasons why his, just one. He cares for you. Is this a deeper statement than God LOVES you? Maybe, but it is certainly more personal. He cares. He is interested. He is paying attention.

[AMP with deepest affection and watches over you very carefully]

George MacDonald, the great nineteenth-century writer, had a mother who put this idea into practice. Her written prayer, dated May 29, 1820 reads:

We come dear Jesus to thy Throne

To open all our grief;

Now send thy promised mercy down,

And grant us quick relief.

Though Satan rage and flesh rebel,

And unbelief arise,

We’ll wait around his footstool Still,

For Jesus hears our cries.   (Via Helm)

All of us are sometimes at the mercy of our anxieties but let’s let them serve the purpose of a red flag! Time to turn them over to God!

3. Be Alert.  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Be alert and of a sober mind. CEB “Be Clear-headed, keep alert. NRSV  Discipline yourselves, keep alert. There is an enemy who desires to destroy the faith of all the family of believers – including you. Be alert… To your own feelings and beliefs. … To the sources of input you are allowing to shape your thoughts…. To the potential that any specific weakness could be the Enemy at work. To the truth that God is powerful and our survival is in His hands. Resist the Enemy by standing firm in the faith.

4. Be Strong. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

The God of All Grace has called you to eternal glory in Christ – keep that in mind as you endure challenges. What is God doing? Restore You – the idea here of ‘mending’ – it’s the same word used when Jesus approaches his disciples and finds them mending their nets. Now Peter the fisherman uses this term to speak of what God will do for each one of us. He will mend us. Strengthen you. Firm up your faith. Make you steadfast. When facing suffering people often think God is absent, but it’s the opposite. He is there and at work if we will turn to Him.

Conclusion

 The Actions of a Blessed Life are Be Humble, Be Calm, Be Alert, and Be Strong. All of this teaches us to lean on the mighty arms of Jesus.

11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.