Monday, January 20, 2014

Follow Me

In case you're wondering what it looks like to shovel snow at twenty below.
Fresh white snow creates a beautiful playland for riding around on a sno-go (Snowmachine for the Alaskans, Snowmobile for everyone else). But when the snow is freshly falling and you are going for a ride there is zero definition in the landscape. You can't tell where the edge of the trail is, if the trail goes up/straight/or down. I went Ptarmigan hunting a couple weeks ago and was following behind another sno-go that, as we were clipping along, suddenly disappeared. They had discovered the the trail suddenly dipped and off they shot, and fell, probably about 10 feet. Thank goodness for suspension systems. It helps to be following someone.

When you follow someone, you are putting a significant amount of faith in them. Do they know where they are going? How to get there? What the dangers are? Do they remember that you are following them so they don't lose you? It takes tons of faith to follow someone.

And it is in this imagery that Jesus speaks of His disciples: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27) It sounds so simple, yet Jesus was saying this to people who would not follow him. The Pharisees saw the miracles that Jesus did, yet could not bring themselves to believe what He said about himself. So there are three things Jesus says which connect us to Him: (1) His divine voice. (2) His divine knowledge (3) Our divine faith.

  • His divine voice: When Jesus says "They hear my voice" he doesn't mean that they can simply audibly hear him. The Pharisees can hear Him, yet they do not believe Him. When Jesus says that His sheep "hear his voice" he means that there is understanding and obedience in those that are His. In the same way a parent giving instruction to their child says "Listen carefully to me as I'm about to speak to you." The expectation is understanding and obedience. Another way to say this is that to hear the voice of Jesus means we believe and repent. Repentance is not simply stopping a bad action, but turning to a Godly action. Apart from true belief we don't know what we are to be turning from or turning to. How do we hear His voice today? Jesus has appointed us to be his witnesses. (Acts 1:8) Our responsibility is to speak as those who have read His Word, heard His voice, and obeyed His commands. We preach, evangelize, teach, share, worship, and serve only out of the abundance of hearing His voice. The very voice of Jesus has been entrusted to those who are redeemed by Him, so that out of experience in Him we can say as the blind man did, "I was...and because of Him I am now..." My Sheep hear My voice.
  • His divine knowledge: What more comforting thing could there be in all the universe than to hear your creator say, "I know you". Jesus says "They are My sheep". A divine "Mine" is placed over us. But it's not an obscure, aloof, unattached "mine". Rather it is Him saying "I know them." He knows who we were made to become, what our strengths are, where we are weak, what our temperament is and what we're going to choose to eat for lunch. In everything about us, He can say, "I know them." There is a marketing push today to "empower" people. Recently someone showed me this in the big DIY box stores marketing. One says "You can do it! We can help." and another says "Let's build something together." Both say you are empowered in yourself to accomplish what you set out to do. The greatest empowerment message we can hear today is that Jesus says "I know him(her), he's(she's) mine." It's were we can find our identity, our validity, and our purpose. We were made to be truly known and Jesus says of those who hear his voice "I know them."
  • Our divine faith: The final statement is that those who hear His voice and are known by Him, follow Him. "Follow me" is how Jesus says we become like Him. 20 times the Gospels record this phrase. It's Jesus saying: go where I go, do what I do, say what I say, behave like I behave, love like I love, give like I give, think like I think, die as I die, live as I live. When Jesus said "follow Me" it was enough for men to drop their livelihoods and find a new life in Him. This is why in John 10:27b-28a Jesus' next statement is "they follow me, and I give eternal life to them." Eternal life is not found apart from following Christ. Herein is genuine faith, supernatural, divinely authored faith. Without His voice, His knowledge, and his command we are lost. Grace alone saves us. And grace alone keeps us. Look what His whole statement is:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30 
  • Before we first heard the voice of Jesus, God gave us to Him. We were loved by God before any action on our part. And we were redeemed by Jesus before any belief, repentance, or obedience of our own. Now in Him, Jesus says that NO ONE can snatch us from His hand. Covering this Jesus says that NO ONE can snatch us from God's hand. So we are in God in Christ double secure. Grace that saves and grace that keeps. No works, no boasting just Jesus. So how then do we know we are saved? 
Jesus says "follow Me."
Do you?
Listen to the full sermon HERE

Monday, January 13, 2014

Joseph: God's will and our change

The story of Joseph in Genesis is a familiar one for many of us. God had a plan and purpose for Joseph that he himself could not have imagined. Without change, sometimes very painful change, we can never see or be what God wills us to be. In this sermon Pastor Chris Kopp explores the narrative of Joseph to see how we can follow God's will for our change. Delivered to the Galena Bible Church, Sunday January 12nd, 2014.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Joy for the sake of the Gospel

Joy for the sake of the Gospel (Sermon)
What word or phrase have you heard that elicited Joy? 
"Looks like you'll get to keep your eye." - Spoken by Dr Arnold concerning my orbital blowout fracture of the left eye when I was 11.
"It's not cancer." - diagnosis from a doctor concerning my dad in my early teens.
"Yes!" and a subsequent "I do." - From my now wife of almost 13 years.
"Your baby(boy/boy/girl) looks really healthy." - Medical staff in natal unit of Women's and Children's Hospital.
"I Love you. I'm proud of you." - Said by my grandfather.
"He died peacefully in his sleep." - Said of him the following morning.

All of these things brought a great deal of joy in the moment. There was pain involved in some of the statements, but always a sense of hope. There is always a great deal of hope in joy. Hope that there is something better coming. Hope of restoration, second chances, and the unexpected. Joy and hope can never be separated.
What about this statement? Does it elicit joy? Read it carefully:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Did you feel that? Did you feel anything? Joy, indifference, familiarity, regret, fear...what do you feel when you read those words? These are monumental words that speak to deepest hope. Surely we feel something. But unfortunately too many will read this phrase and be unmoved. Why? Could it be that the weight of the word "Condemned" has been lost in our Gospel.

Condemned means you're days away from 6000 volts coursing through your dying chest as you're strapped to an electric chair. Condemned means the jury has heard the multitude of witnesses and has handed down a guilty verdict. Condemned means endless suffering in hopelessness. Condemned means you're dead.

Somehow the Gospel that is heard by so many does not contain the force that makes it "good news". When we, by God's grace, can realize that we are dead, separated, and condemned for our sin, only then can we see the good news. 
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
No longer condemned. The Governor called. You are pardoned. They take your prison clothes and dress you in Armani. Record expunged, sentence remunerated, charges dropped...forgiven. But how?
No Christ Jesus.
Sometimes we can become so comfortable "in" our salvation that we forget the joy "of" our salvation. Remember: Joy and hope can never be separated. Those things that bring me joy in this world would be for nothing were it not for the Gospel.What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world (should be some joy somewhere in there right?) yet forfeits his soul? Because of Christ I have hope. Hope that my children could grow to know and cherish Christ. Hope that my parents would continue to walk faithfully with the Lord as they have loved so long. Hope that my marriage would honor God and model Christ's care for the church to all that know us. Hope that I can walk in the love of Christ like my grandfather did. And hope that I will one day see him again. All of this is because of the Gospel! Joy for the Gospel's sake.

Apart from Christ you stand condemned already. In Christ you are forgiven and free to feel His joy.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
... How do you feel about that?
Joy for the sake of the Gospel (Sermon)