I have often found it hard to let go of my past actions. Yes, I have repented of bad deeds, and turned to a new course, but have I really relinquished the deed and handed it over to God? This is a perplexing question, as God is faithful in His forgiveness. So, why do I regularly find myself asking God to forgive a shortcoming or misdeed that I have already asked forgiveness for? If, as we are taught: God “forgives and then no longer hold us to account,” (Yes, theologically “forgive and forget” would be problematic for an omniscient God), then surely He must ask “Why are you asking again?” Do any of you do the same? Ask and ask again, when we should already trust in the forgiveness. Are we really relinquishing the act, or are we for some reason holding on to it? Are we beating ourselves with it? Or is it guilt that is out of control? Maybe a little doubt as to God’s faithfulness? Let’s trust Him and let go.
Peter saw heaven open and a large sheet lowered to the ground by its corners. The sheet was full of animals, reptiles and birds that the Jews considered unclean and would not eat. A voice commanded him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ ‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied. ‘I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’
Last week Pastor Vince spoke to us about the need to be authentic. In that message he said he was going to use a text, not to make a theological exposition but as a jumping off point. I will start off the same, before moving on to some expository. Yes, I am a theologian.
As such I am going to scratch the surface of a technique known as systematic theology which formulates an orderly, and rational account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. I will take topics that Pastor Vince has addressed recently and arrange them as steppingstones, or a path we can take a step at a time to get to our destination.
A few weeks ago, Vince noted that Praise not only glorifies God, but can left us like an eagle’s wings. So here is my first foundation stone in tying to days message together. Praise and worship are in our present age opened, like the tearing of the curtain in the temple. The Holy of Holies is open to us because Christ has torn the barriers to approaching God down.
Vince in the past has told us about the structure and importance of the Tabernacle and later Temple. As you approached that place of worship and praise, note we have the approach theme again, you would go from the mundane world to a sacred space, arriving eventually to the Most Holy Place.
During the period of the Babylonian Captivity, worship, prayer, and praise began to be made in the synagogue as the Temple had been destroyed and the people dispersed. When the Second Temple was built this new synagogue, system continued to operate along side of it as we see in the Gospels.
Not only this but structure of the Second Temple was extended from the Tabernacle plan to include an outer court sometimes called The Court of the Gentiles. It was open to non-Jews, though they could approach no closer to that to the Holy Places. But they were allowed in!
The synagogue too had a similar design, but in modern synagogues the holy place is replaced with the Ark where the Scriptures rest. These are brought out onto a platform called the Bimah where they are read aloud. The congregation sits facing this platform.
Look at Luke 4:
16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.
So, what does that have to do with being authentic?
As Pastor Vince noted last week, authentic faith – loves and serves.
Our praise may help us soar like eagles, but never at the cost to others.
Hebrews 13:1 tells us, “Let brotherly love continue.” First John 4: 7-8 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.He that loves not doesn’t know God; for God is love.”
In what is often called the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus makes it clear. Note some of the parallels from the passage we just looked at in Luke 4. “When I was hungry, when I was naked, in prison, etc.”
Authenticity is not about us soaring, it is about lifting others.
This authentic love was something Jesus had to teach. You may not know this but in the culture of Jesus’ times there was a belief that honour was a finite resource like gold or diamonds. If I had it, you didn’t. I kept it by keeping you down.
Vince spoke about humility, and what authentic humility is like. But this was a hard sell in Jesus’ day. This makes the Sermon on the Mount even more profound with the Meek, and Humble being praised.
Luke 16:19-31 gives us the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Their lives are contrasted, as are their deaths. Notice that even in Hell the rich man doesn’t change his attitude of superiority. “Send Lazarus to me.” “Send Lazarus to my brothers.”
Paul’s letter to Philemon is a wonderful study in authenticity. It shows Paul giving authentic and loving praise, It makes an example of authentic humility, and it shows not coercion as some have suggested, but rather Paul’s call on Philemon to realistically see things are the really are. Systematic theology at its best.
1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. 6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.
8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.
12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.
22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.
23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.
25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philemon needs to extend himself. He needs authentic humility to get past any perceived wrongs. He needs to show love, and unconditional love that frees captives, and restores relationships. He needs to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and help fulfil the promise of the prophesy found in Luke Chapter 4.
Paul one step at a time calls for authenticity, and I have one step at a time taken three of Vince’s themes and presented them to you. Let’s be real together.