Sermon Fourteen How to recognise the new birth

john                                                                                  audio clip

 

Wesley has four elements to the new birth – faith, peace, hope and love.

How wonderful is that, doesn’t it make you jump for joy and grin wildly. We have faith, we have peace and we have love all given to us as gifts from the Lord.

We are children of God, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven – we shall be glad, we shall rejoice and we shall jump for joy. And we do, daily, hourly, by the minute and second because to be a child of God is to live differently.

Now in previous sermons Wesley has honed in on faith so I won’t go over old ground. We are to be reminded though that because of faith there is power over sin, we are not slaves to sin as we were in past lives we have been set free from the burden of sin and we give thanks for that.

This freedom leads to maturity and that is the process we are all in. We mature over time just like fruit on trees. Those fruit need water, food and sunshine. We need the bible, fellowship with other believers, sound teaching, prayer and worship to the Lord. With these tools we mature so that the sinful past becomes a shadow and in time even we forget.

What a privilege we have to be adopted into the family of the Living Lord. Do you feel that privilege today? Or do you think of it as unimportant, are you taking it for granted that you are saved?

We have peace in our hearts that transcends our understanding, we cannot even begin to describe it, nothing we say will ever come close. But it is wonderful isn’t it. Do you feel it today as you face uncertainty, trials and tribulations?

Our hope is in Christ Jesus, in him alone. It is a living hope, and very real. It is not the hope, like oh I hope to go to Cork tomorrow. It is that very real deep down hope that we shall see Jesus, and in the meantime we walk with him in simplicity and sincerity.

We love because first he loved us, it keeps coming back to love. Because love was there in the beginning and it will be there forevermore. It is a love that surpasses all human knowledge. There is no earthly reason why I can turn to my abuser and say I love you, I hope only good things for you, God loves you too, There is no earthly reason why anyone could find something to love in me. But God loves me and because he loves me I am able to love and because I am able to love so others love me. What a wonderful love we have. What a wonderful Saviour we have. Thank you Jesus.

So to be born in God means to believe in God through Jesus as to be free from sin and to enjoy the peace which passes understanding, so to hope in God is to have the witness of a good conscience and the witness of the Holy Spirit; so to love God as to love every human being as you love yourself, making your whole life a labour of love.

Wesley finishes on a note of caution to not backslide, to not become children of the devil once more but that if people do they can fall on God’s mercy again. And he gives an altar call to be saved in Christ.

Sermon Twelve the ways of obtaining God’s blessing

john                        audio clip

 

We have a God of abundance, he is not skimpy in giving blessings to us. He is generous and abundant.

Now for me blessings are the tools given by God in order that I can be steadfast in the storm with his help and guidance. Wesley goes at it from a different angle.

He begins with the rituals of the church, specifically the sacrament of Holy Communion. He begins at the beginning of Christianity, when believers lived together with a common purse. He often comes back to this model of living and I concur with him that it is the ideal. When streetpastors go out on a Saturday night there is a core group praying for them and praying for the people they meet. When a remnant, or core group gets together in fellowship, great things can be done for his glory. The people in the New Testament, the early church were blessed and they blessed others and because they blessed other they were blessed more and the more they reached out to other.

But people like hierarchy, they like power, human power and the church became a monstrous edifice mirroring the world, it was not set aside and blessed. It was grunt work, a struggle, weighed down by the centuries of ritual. The reformation blew new life into old Christians. It shook up the world first in Europe and then spread. It threw away the pomp and ceremony and became simple again, referring back to the early church. Different factions grew up into different denominations of which Methodism is one.

There are things done in a Methodist church that are not done elsewhere and likewise there are things of other churches not done in the Methodist church. BUT…

God’s Blessings for us Has Always Come Through Faith in Christ

It is not about bricks and mortar church, it is about the body of Christ church. People. So denominations don’t mean squat.

The church now and in the past has mistaken the means for the end. Mistaking outward performance of ritual rather than seeking the truth in the renewal of our lives in the image of Christ.

It is all about Jesus.                      Not you.                       Not me.

Whatever rituals we go through from ceremonial footwashing, to raising our hands when we sing. They don’t mean anything if it is a habit alone, or ritual, or because everyone else is doing it, we have to be free in the Spirit to learn the way God wants us to worship him, it may be the same way as the person next to us but it might be different. My balance is impaired, I cannot clap in time to music, watching me dance is painful, a mere shuffle at the edge of a dance floor and then in my kitchen as I scrub my floor my toes are tapping in time to imagined music in my head, I stop to clap, I stand to jump up and down, I fall on my knees and cry out to the Lord, thanking him for immeasurable blessings in my life, I count some but there are too many to mention.

Reading the bible and understanding how those ancient words can apply to our lives – that is a gift of God’s grace

Praying, communicating with the Living God – that is a gift of the grace of God

Baptism by the Holy Spirit – that is a gift of God’s grace

Holy Communion – that is a gift of the grace of God

If we are ritualistic or habit forming in our worship then we are not free to change, to move as the Spirit wills us.

We place our trust in the Lord not in the ceremonies. We take part in the ceremonies to remember what Christ has done for us, that it is his blood that was shed to free us from the slavery of sin.

In Christian circles Methodists are seen as people who do. We seem to be seeking salvation through good works, but the outside does not see what motivates us. We do not do good works to outweigh our sin on the eternal scales of justice.

We do good works as a response to the change that has taken place in our lives, we give, we feed, we visit, we live simple lives as a response to the immeasurable love of God.

A person who has been convicted by the Holy Spirit so they become an unwilling sinner sitting under the law, suddenly needs to find a church, suddenly needs to begin studying the bible, suddenly begins to hear more and seek more and read more and pray more until they come to the realisation, possibly through the taking part in the Lord’s supper, they are using all the means of grace, until they fall on the ground before the Lord and give their lives to the Lord, they are then living in a state of grace.

Let our song forever be of the lovingkindness of the Lord

Sermon Six Trusting God is the right Way to live

         john                                                audio clip

In this sermon Wesley is contrasting the covenant given to us through Adam, which he calls the covenant of works and the covenant of grace through Christ. The Adamic covenant was what the Pharisees were trying to achieve, perfection in their lives, in their whole being, there was a belief that if everyone could be perfect for one hour the Messiah would come.

But they were doing this in their own strength, there was no dependence on God in this scenario. There is nothing we can DO to earn God’s love, there is nothing we can DO to prepare ourselves to be in his presence. We will never be able to keep all the outward appearances of following the law, let alone the inward ones. And when we do things in our own strength we get disheartened quickly, if we organise a meeting and no one comes. If we do things in our own strength, our words have a hollow ring to them. If we do things in our own strength it doesn’t feel quite right so we look at the other people, we look around and see the one who is not pulling their weight, or the one who doesn’t pray as earnestly as us, or doesn’t sing as loud, or doesn’t play their instrument as well.

In my own strength I am weak, able to function but tiring easily, giving up easily, not even bothering because hey, who cares anyway. In God’s strength, when I rely on him for direction, for the next word I write, for the next words of comfort on a visit, for the next anything, I can do it because he fills me up so I will study for Him, I will visit for Him, I will sing for Him, I will preach for Him. None of this is for me, but for Him alone and all glory goes to Him.

Wesley was around people who were trying to get themselves sorted before coming to the Lord, he told them it was impossible. A sister in Christ once told me that on telling her mammy she was about to embark on a journey for the Lord her mammy said something like, “but you are not good enough to do that,” None of us is good enough, so why wait, ask Christ into your life, now.

Wesley at this time believed that once we transformed into new creations we were unable to sin, that free will was gone. But that isn’t quite correct and he adjusted his thinking in later years. We have salvation and faith because of the gift of grace bestowed on us. That grace from God is a most precious gift. Without it we would be subject to the wrath of God but because of the grace of God and the mercy of God our sins are forgiven. Because of his great love for us we are set free from sin, no longer slaves to sin but free to live in the Spirit of the Living God.

He made a very astute observation in this sermon: “I am not sorry enough”

That is so true, once we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Saviour our sorrow increases but mixed with the joy of new life. Until we truly in every fibre of our body understand and know what Jesus did on the Cross, we can never be sorry enough. But that should not stop us from asking.

Jesus is the only way to eternal life with the Father, we can only reach God through his great sacrifice. Without Christ we are condemned to death, with him we have life.