Tagged: gospel

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on November 12, 2017.

Two particular preaching opportunities jump out of this text that are foundational to who we are as Christians.  Both are absolutely necessary for the health of the church and cannot be overlooked.  First, Paul gives clear indication of the primacy of witness.  Second, there is an opportunity here to better understand the church’s responsibility to disciple.  Both sermon directions are weighty and need the attention of the church.

One sermon trajectory could trace the work of the Gospel as the instigator of witness in this passage.  Beginning at the end of the selected text, verse 13 notes two things about the Gospel.  One the Gospel is of God, not of men.  We proclaim that we have the wisdom of God on our side.  You will not find God’s eternal truths on Facebook or the self-help section of the bookstore.  All those kinds of enticing short-term solutions fall wildly short of the hope of the Gospel.  Every magazine you see with 6 easy steps to a better you, will have 6 different steps to a better you next month, it is all for profit and spectacle.  The self-help publishing industry could care less about the individual, but the Gospel is full of authentic wisdom for living in our broken world.  The Gospel is the only thing that can help our neighbors, yet we find ourselves chasing after the words and approval of men.

Continuing in verse 13, the Gospel is at work today.  It is alive and active performing a work in those that hear the message.  This work must be unpacked in the sermon as it is critical to fulfilling the promise of the message. The Gospel works in our hearts to pull us toward God by ripping the sin out of our lives and leading us to repentance.  We have not found the real self-help we need until this cleansing work of the Gospel is begun in us.

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on November 5, 2017.

Two potential sermons jump out of this text.  The first is the power of the Gospel to bring life into focus by revealing sin and empowering us.  The second is wrapped up in the feminine analogy of a nursing mother.  Here we are given the rare occasion to consider the joy of motherhood alongside the gentle work of discipleship.  Both sermon paths provide ample opportunity to reveal the character of God either in a story of powerfully overcoming the world or a story of compassionate nurturing.

The Gospel incredibly empowers us by bringing life into focus.  Verse 1 ends with a specific refocusing, “our coming to you was not in vain.”  By worldly standards, their coming would have been in vain.  Seemingly everywhere Paul went great opposition encircled him and chased him out of town. Just before visiting Thessalonica, Paul and Silas preached in Philippi.  There they were dragged before the authorities, beaten by an angry mob, thrown into prison, and bound in stocks.  The pain of Acts 16 looks like a failure but, Paul kept preaching the Gospel even though he was forced out of Thessalonica in the same way.  For others, that looks like failure, a coming in vain, but not for those empowered by the Gospel.  Being chased out of town was not a mark of failure, rather Paul saw all those men and women hearing the Gospel and knew that was success.  When God empowers us through the Gospel our hope in life changes and refocuses, what success looks like for ourselves and the church.  Verse 1 is an opportunity for the preacher to reconsider what Gospel success looks like for their role as pastor, the church’s role in the community, and the individual’s role in the Kingdom of God.  Too often, our vision of success looks too much like the world’s instead of the Gospel’s.  If like Paul, we can take hold of God’s vision of success we will know the same kind of Gospel empowerment.

Similarly, as the Gospel refocuses success, it refocuses our motives.  Paul’s ministry looked different from other teachers because Gospel motives are free of sinful influence.  Worldly teachers will always prove to be:  erroneous, impure, deceitful, speaking to flatter, greedy, seeking honor, and/or authoritative (verses 3-6).  Without the Gospel, sin births all these motives within teachers and anyone who hears them are dragged further into sin.  At this point, the preacher could consider all the impure motives that seep into the church (e.g., making the church look better than the church down the street, increasing numbers of the budget and people, business connections, title).  Impure motives constantly hinder the church if we do not name them, and move away from them as fast as we can.  We will end up like the worldly teachers when we drift away from the truth of the Gospel.  As we repent of a false sense of success and false motives, our churches will be transformed.

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Romans 5:12-19

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 5th, 2017.

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans he both invites and opens the door for all to know Christ in a personal way. The invitation comes through these words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV). The open door arrives by means of additional words in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV).

It is interesting to note that Paul uses the word “peace” ten times in Romans, at the outset of his letter (Romans 1:7; 2:10: 3:17), in the middle (Romans 5:1; 8:6), and near the end (Romans 12:18; 14:17; 14:19; 15:13; 15:33; 16:20). Christ opens the door to peace (“access,” Romans 5:1-2). Paul urges Christian to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). To follow Christ in the way of peace includes an emphasis upon the way “of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NIV). If the Romans in their world called for Roman peace, known as the pax Romana, and for a Roman kingdom of glory, honor and peace, and they did; then Paul called for a new kind of peace, Christ’s peace in human hearts, and a new way of the Spirit, God’s kingdom and his people seeking glory, honor, and peace through Christ. Genuine peace comes through Christ.

Romans 5:12-19 hinges on Romans 5:1-2, Christ as the door and because of Christ we have an open door to God by faith through grace (John 10:9 where Jesus said, “I am the door…” and Romans 5:1-2, literally, “a door of access” leads to the peace of Christ).

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Acts 10:34-43

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on January 8th, 2017.

What are the words every preacher wants to hear before his/her sermon?  “Now we are all here in the presence to God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”  That is what Cornelius said to Peter when Peter obeyed God and went to see him (Acts 10:33).  If our congregations listened like Samuel saying, “Speak Lord your servant is listening,” (1 Samuel 3:10) or like the Bereans, nobly, receiving the message with great eagerness (Acts 17:11), what would we say to them?

How did Peter get to this place?  If we can answer that question well, we may be able to access the power which characterized Peter’s preaching.  Peter had healed Aeneas and revived Dorcas leading many to believe in the Lord (Acts 10:42).  God was not finished with Peter.  In two different cities, two different men prayed.  Cornelius, a devout and God-fearing centurion, gave generously and prayed regularly.   Meanwhile, Peter, a one-time vile fisherman who acknowledged his sinfulness to Jesus, prayed on a rooftop.  As they prayed God worked.  First, he told Cornelius to send for Peter.  Then he told Peter that Cornelius was coming.  When Peter arrived at Cornelius’s house, the soldier said what every preacher wants to hear:  We are here to hear!  What did Peter say?  What would we?

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