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030115 - Genesis 1c
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March 20, 2015 10:51 AM PDT
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Genesis 1:3-5, Pastor Scott Keller

GENESIS 1:3-5 ~ 3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Biblically, life is itself, the light that illumines thinking and acknowledgement. It is synonymous with the Message from God, which is always Truth with a capital “T.”

God is glorified through His handiwork, but only with humans is He glorified by His handiwork.

“In him was life [ζωή (dzō-ā) – that is the life-giving force]… and the darkness has not overcome it [καταλαμβάνω (kä-tä-läm-bä-nō) – darkness cannot control light]” (John 1:4&5).

John 8:12

The Bible starts with the beginning, but the beginning has a goal in mind. It is, “What will you personally do with God’s revelatory Message?

John 1:6-18, II Corinthians 4:4, John 3:19, et al.

God does not actually need to do anything in this physical reality, but He constantly does precisely that.

The metaphorical, allegorical, typological, eschatological and symbolical must all flow out of the plain, obvious and straightforward.

Jewish Rabbis began interpreting the Bible allegorically and over time, most Rabbis abandoned the plain meaning of the Bible in favor of an ever more esoteric meaning. Christians began to do the same.

Without any concrete literal sense, anyone can make any verse mean anything. If the Bible can mean anything, then it means nothing.

That is WHY God presents His Message as being factually based.

The personal presence of God in creating is confirmed by light existing apart from the sun…

God evaluated the light and He proclaimed that it was good… God is the Judge of all things that He creates… He is the standard.

God separated the light from the dark leaving a remnant of darkness to remind us every day that God creates light – life – and Truth!

Psalm 30:5b

God then named the light and dark, “Day” יוֹם (yōm) and “Night,” לַ֫יְלָה (lī-läh) respectively.

God then said, “There was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Was it an actual 24 hour long day? The very first people to propose that it was anything different were those allegory loving ancient Jewish scholars.

We understand Genesis as a Message from Almighty God relating a truthful account in simple terms to uneducated people...

OR...

We understand Genesis to carry a deeper meaning in contradiction to the plain, straightforward meaning an uneducated person would recognize.

It is God’s Word and it means what it says and is therefore the same for all recipients for all time, or it is a story that individual people understand differently as experience, education, information, culture and personal needs change.

Romans chapter 14… perfect Theology.

022515 - Genesis 1b
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March 19, 2015 01:01 PM PDT
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Genesis 1:2, Pastor Scott Keller

GENESIS 1:1-3a ~ 1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3aAnd God said…

Last week we covered Genesis 1:1 and we were reminded about the importance of Biblical context.

In verse 1, God created the heavens and the earth, and in verse 2, the point of view becomes geocentric. Creation by God is viewed from earth.

I asked, “Why would God expend the energy necessary for creation?”

God is by very definition, self-actualized. God is EXISTENT.

We, on the other hand, are in constant flux, as is everything in the universe…

God’s true Covenantal name is Yahweh.

That God chose to share Himself… selflessly… with you.

The Bible is a Theocentric revelation, but it is told as a geocentric story, because it is an anthropocentric message.

The universe declares to us (the audience of God’s revelation)… Who God is.

Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20

There is a pause at the beginning of verse two. The NASB, NRSV, NLT, NKJV, ESV and others, all omit the pause. The NIV, Holman and NET all start verse two with the word, “Now,” and the KJV with, “And.”

The first word in Hebrew is וְהָאָ֗רֶץ (vĕ-hä-äȑ-ĕtz), the root meaning earth, along with the word, “the,” and a conjunction.

The Gap Theory was introduced to account for scientific discoveries that indicated an ancient universe and macroevolution.

While scientists work diligently to take their personal bias out of the mix, it is, unfortunately, completely impossible.

If we believe scientism’s interpretation of the data then we are forced to change our interpretation of the Bible and in particular our interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis.

When we take the surrounding verses in context, we recognize a pattern throughout Genesis that begins here. When we then expand the context to include the entire Bible, we find more difficulties with a gap in time. It is the key to Christianity that death is the result of sin.

I Corinthians 15:17, et al.

“Formless and void,” refers to the fact that the earth was not yet suitable for human habitation.

The second description is that it was dark. While “Darkness” in this case is not a metaphor for evil, there is definitely a sense of foreboding here.

Third, the Breath of God was hovering, giving a definite gentle protective feeling here, counterbalancing the bit before.

Verse three starts out, “God said…” To this point, it is implied that God desired to create, that He did so by speaking and that His Holy Breath carried His Word.

Psalm 33:6

022515 - Genesis 1b
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March 19, 2015 12:58 PM PDT
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Genesis 1:2, Pastor Scott Keller

GENESIS 1:1-3a ~ 1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3aAnd God said…

Last week we covered Genesis 1:1 and we were reminded about the importance of Biblical context.

In verse 1, God created the heavens and the earth, and in verse 2, the point of view becomes geocentric. Creation by God is viewed from earth.

I asked, “Why would God expend the energy necessary for creation?”

God is by very definition, self-actualized. God is EXISTENT.

We, on the other hand, are in constant flux, as is everything in the universe…

God’s true Covenantal name is Yahweh.

That God chose to share Himself… selflessly… with you.

The Bible is a Theocentric revelation, but it is told as a geocentric story, because it is an anthropocentric message.

The universe declares to us (the audience of God’s revelation)… Who God is.

Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20

There is a pause at the beginning of verse two. The NASB, NRSV, NLT, NKJV, ESV and others, all omit the pause. The NIV, Holman and NET all start verse two with the word, “Now,” and the KJV with, “And.”

The first word in Hebrew is וְהָאָ֗רֶץ (vĕ-hä-äȑ-ĕtz), the root meaning earth, along with the word, “the,” and a conjunction.

The Gap Theory was introduced to account for scientific discoveries that indicated an ancient universe and macroevolution.

While scientists work diligently to take their personal bias out of the mix, it is, unfortunately, completely impossible.

If we believe scientism’s interpretation of the data then we are forced to change our interpretation of the Bible and in particular our interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis.

When we take the surrounding verses in context, we recognize a pattern throughout Genesis that begins here. When we then expand the context to include the entire Bible, we find more difficulties with a gap in time. It is the key to Christianity that death is the result of sin.

I Corinthians 15:17, et al.

“Formless and void,” refers to the fact that the earth was not yet suitable for human habitation.

The second description is that it was dark. While “Darkness” in this case is not a metaphor for evil, there is definitely a sense of foreboding here.

Third, the Breath of God was hovering, giving a definite gentle protective feeling here, counterbalancing the bit before.

Verse three starts out, “God said…” To this point, it is implied that God desired to create, that He did so by speaking and that His Holy Breath carried His Word.

Psalm 33:6

021515 Genesis 1a
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March 12, 2015 04:44 PM PDT
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Genesis 1:1, Pastor Scott Keller.

GENESIS 1:1-3a ~ 1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3aAnd God said…

1) The Old Testament is old…

Example… Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”

The word translated as “Virgin” here is the Hebrew word, עַלְמָה (äl-mäh). That Hebrew word was translated into Greek well over 100 years before Jesus was born as παρθένος (päȑ-thĕ-nŏs).

Matthew 1:20-25

The Old Testament can only be interpreted correctly, through a New Testament filter.

2) The word Testament is misleading...

3) The Old Testament has three parts… God wrote the first part, the Torah, through Moses...

Example… I Timothy 2:11-13, 11A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

We can see that as an archaic cultural issue that has no application today, or as the Word from an immutable God.

Genesis is from the Greek translation. The Hebrew title is בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (bĕ-ȑä-shēt), which is the first word in the actual Bible text rendered, “In the beginning.”

Word-for-word it is, “In beginning,” without the definite article. Likewise when translated into Greek it is Ἐν ἀρχῇ (ĕn äȑ-ĉā), again, literally, “In beginning.”

“In the “NON-TIME” before God created time or space, before God had begun to create anything and when there existed nothing except Him… in that beginning…”

John 1:1a, Ἐν ἀρχῇ, “In beginning,” ἦν ὁ λόγος (ān hŏ lŏ-gŏs), existed the Word.

The next word is, “Created.” Hebrew בָּרָא (bä-ȑä). This word is used exclusively for the activity of God.

God creates, we make… the distinction is important.

John 1:3, Colossians 1:16&17

Since nothing physical or metaphysical exists that wasn’t created by God, then by logical necessity, God created everything out of nothing. It is “creatio ex nihilo.”

E=MC2 is really telling us that there is a mass–energy equivalence. The equation means that energy is equal to mass times a truly huge number…

2,204 pounds of mass converted to energy…

Now, think about the reverse…

The third word in the Bible is אֱלֹהִים (ĕ-lō-hēm), without any question meaning the one true God, creator of everything, but in the plural form.

Jewish, non-Christian and, so now, most Christian scholars say it is nothing more than a “majestic plural” to give a greater sense of awe.

Genesis 1:26 et al.

“The heavens and the earth,” is a colloquialism in Hebrew, which means the entire creation. It is a merism, like those in our wedding vows, giving two opposites to indicate the whole range.

“When only the One true, triune God, existed in perfect internal and eternal relationship with Himself, He chose to create both the supernatural realm and the natural universe, exclusively from His own personal power.”

011115 - Super Spirituality - ABRIDGED
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January 15, 2015 02:06 PM PST
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II Corinthians 12:1-10, Pastor Scott Keller

This is a greatly shortened version of the sermon last Sunday that you can get through in just over 20 minutes...

Don't you wish all of Scott Keller's sermons were condensed?

011115 - Super Spirituality - II Corinthians 12a
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January 13, 2015 05:31 PM PST
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II Corinthians 12:1-, Pastor Scott Keller.

Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 12 ~ 011114

Scott Keller

For basically three chapters of God’s Holy Scripture, the Spirit-filled and inspired Apostle of Jesus, we call Paul, defends… … … himself.

As I’ve said so many times, his motivation and goal was to keep the Corinthians in correct relationship with JESUS.

For them to reject Paul in favor of new teachers with a different Gospel was to simultaneously reject the true Jesus that Paul represented and proclaimed.

If a pastor/teacher/prophet/spiritual guide came to you and disparaged me to the point where you rejected me to follow them, I would defend myself against their false claims… for your sake, NOT mine.

As an aside, using counterfeit money as an analogy, it occurs to me, that…

A treasury training expert would constantly show you what real money looks like and then, only if necessary, he would remind you that he has the credentials to do so… He might even point out what’s wrong with false money. It is even possible that he would talk about the evil of counterfeiters in a general way, but what he would NOT do, is waste time and effort disparaging individual counterfeiters!

So many so-called ministries, make it their stock and trade – their vocation – their bread and butter disparaging the actual counterfeiters.

They are all about exposing and condemning “False teachers.” Just exactly like the “False teachers” did to Paul… makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Paul doesn’t care about the actual dipsticks disparaging him, he doesn’t single them out and disparage them…

1) He teaches the Truth, 2) when necessary, he defends himself and points out false teaching… If he can show the teaching is false, he doesn’t need to talk about the teachers. We need to teach the Truth and when necessary we can attack lies, BUT we rarely, if ever need to attack the liars.

Last Sunday, I read a huge section of Scripture, and as much as I would like to read again – we don’t have the time or patience. So, if you missed it, I am sorry, because I think it is really important to HEAR it all in the flow of context, but we must move forward.

Those are the actual words I wrote… but I was compelled to say that we do have the time and we do have the patience… So once again for the flow of God’s word let me read to you this big passage – I will shorten it slightly from last week…

Just sit back, but don’t relax… close your eyes, contemplate the words – let God speak to you this morning.

In II Corinthians chapter 11, verse 22, through chapter 12, verse 10… God through the Apostle Paul says…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:22–12:10 WEAKNESS ~ 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ?—
I speak as if insane—
I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28Apart from such external things,
there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
29Who is weak without my being weak?
Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
1Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know,
or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man—
whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
5On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
6For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth;
but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan to torment me—
to keep me from exalting myself!
8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

SLIDE: VERSES WE DID NOT READ ~

That was a lot… What I read is in yellow, BUT this is probably what I should have read… it would have been even better and made the whole thing a lot easier to grasp if you heard the whole nearly four-chapter section first, but we will do our best… we’ll muddle through.

SLIDE: SUPER SPIRITUAL charlatans ~

The false teachers were claiming to be 1super Jews, Paul played the game and proved he was a better Jew. They claimed to be 2“Servants of Christ,” Paul proved that he was more so. They claimed to have 3suffered for the Gospel, Paul proved he had suffered far more than all of them…

Now, in chapter 12, we see that the false teachers were appealing to their greater spirituality as another way of building themselves up and tearing Paul down. They were claiming a superior spirituality and supernatural power… People have always craved and still crave the supernatural.

The usurpers claimed they had “Visions and revelations of the Lord.”

Paul showed that, he more than equal in that area as well. But, he also demonstrated something more than that – something important for us to grasp, that unfortunately, many people don’t.

As often happens, most people get engrossed in the flash and excitement of a thing and miss the subtle Truth also there.

It is easy to focus on the “Third Heaven” and what he might have seen and heard there or delve into the “Thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan” and what that might have been, but there is more important stuff, so stay tuned for that…

SLIDE: UNPAKING AS A FAMILY ~

This is a difficult passage to unpack and so bear with me as we look at many different elements and then try to put it all together… So stay tuned, but also stay alert! We don’t want to accidently throw out a box with something important still in it…

Paul used a single event in his life that illustrated both a supernatural VISION, and a natural result leading to a REVELATION of the Lord.

SLIDE: PAUL OR SOMEONE ELSE? ~

Sometimes people get confused and wonder if Paul was actually talking about himself or someone else with his third person account and all his objectifying, “I know a man…” and “Such a man,” language.

It is an absolute certainty that he’s talking about his own experience as is made clear in verses 7 through 9, but even more so in the plain reality that if the “Visions and revelations of the Lord,” happened to someone else, then instead of making Paul’s point, it would actually strengthen the point of Paul’s opposition!

If it were another minister who is unnamed and therefore unknown, it would only serve as proof that Paul was NOT as spiritually powerful as others were… truly less than what the false teachers claimed they were.

It would be like Paul saying, “You think you are more in tune with the supernatural – well let me tell you about some dude I once knew a very long time ago who thought he went to heaven!”

It was just a way people boasted… humbly.

It made others aware of his experience, but without seeming like he was bragging. As I have said before, Paul was very uncomfortable in this role.

He also revealed the net result of the experience and that’s the area where we will see this other point so many overlook.

Paul had many supernatural events in his life to choose from but he specifically mentions this particular event and specifies that it took place 14 years ago.

SLIDE: the three-fold reason ~

The effect of that is three-fold…

First, it set a specific and therefore verifiable event. It isn’t some nebulous, disputable, mumbo-jumbo experience.

It also shows that Paul had been at this Apostle business for quite some time. More than 14 years anyway (it had actually been much longer).

Probably most important though, is the implication that Paul lived with, and ministered to, the Corinthians for a year and a half, without ever mentioning such a remarkable supernatural occurrence.

Paul wasn’t interested in telling ghost stories about his spiritual greatness or retelling with ever-increasing hyperbole his metaphysical meetings with Jesus.

So many preachers do that today… they constantly recount miraculous stories and spiritual encounters and supernatural wonders rather than teach God’s Word.

It’s exciting, but it is not satisfying. You cannot show me a person deeply involved in the exciting supernatural realm who doesn’t crave more.

The person who truly knows God’s Word, doesn’t need a fix in order to remain steadfast.

Paul was interested in teaching people the Gospel Truth that could set them free from sin and death!

SLIDE: TREE SAW - IT IS JUST PLAIN DUMB! ~

So starting in verse one we see that Paul again pulls back with a parenthetical comment to show the foolishness of this line of discussion.

Foolish – and shouldn’t have been required, BUT unfortunately it was required.

Paul boasts for three chapters, but lest anyone today think that boasting is therefore okay, he flatly states that it is “Not profitable.”

What he means is that it is a stupid thing to do and he’s only doing it out of love for the Corinthians. Let us be careful NOT to boast, except in what the Lord has done. Your personal testimony is about what Jesus did, NOT about what you did…

SLIDE: VISIONS & REVELATIONS TELESCOPE ~

“Visions and revelations of the Lord.” This is what the false teachers were claiming…

It is precisely what false preachers, teachers, prophets, miracle workers, claim today.

Do NOT be misled by such claims… people who have actually connected with the Lord, don’t brag about it.

If a pilot tells you how great he is – he’s NOT. A great pilot doesn’t talk about it – he shows it.

I knew a couple. One was terminally ill and had exhausted every medical and homeopathic possibility.

This person had been prayed for by several pastors… they were on several prayer chains and they had travelled extensively all over the country to be prayed for by faith healers and mega-church leaders.

This person told me how exhausted they were and how they just wanted to die in peace, but that their family would see that as both selfish and as a lack of faith.

The feeling was that if they could just get the right person to lay hands on them, then God would heal their body.

Even after this person died and was embalmed the family assembled some super-spiritual Christians and attempted to raise them from the dead.

It wasn’t about God or His will and it wasn’t about the dying person… it was about the family dealing with the situation in a way that they could feel better… not a comfort for the suffering person or a glory to God, but a way to feel like they had done everything they could… staying busy, focused on healing, instead of dealing with reality.

Does god heal people? Of course, Acts 28:8, “The father of Publius was lying in bed afflicted with recurrent fever and dysentery; and Paul went in to see him and after he had prayed, he laid his hands on him and healed him.”

Does God raise people from the dead? Of course, Acts 20:9&10, “There was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill… and (he) fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for (he is alive).”

If it is God who heals and raises from the dead, does it matter who prays?

The entire point of last week and really of this week as well, is that God’s strength is proven in, and through, our weakness – our imperfection, our inability.

If I can work diligently enough to track down the person with the Midas touch then who gets the credit?

If some great and powerful Wizard of Blank… Faith healer so-and-so, Prophet Blah, Blah, Bishop Humpty-dumpty, Apostle Zippity-do-dah or Miracle worker Umpty-fratz, prays for you and you are healed… was it because God is good or because you sought out and were touched by the right human being?

People today, just like the Corinthians 2,000 years ago, still flock to so-called prophets and healers – people with supposedly greater spiritual gifts – people who see, “Visions and revelations of the Lord.”

You might say, what’s the harm? Personally, I am completely unaware of any person who claims to have an extraordinary spirituality who also teaches sound doctrine. That’s the harm.

The “Name it and claim it,” prosperity Gospel is no true Gospel at all. If you understand that, I don’t need to list and disparage the immensely popular ministers teaching that false Gospel.

Paul chooses this particular experience to show the obvious and the subtle…

He could have chosen from many other experiences like the whole reason he lived with the Corinthians in the first place.

Things weren’t going so well a few years earlier when he got to Corinth and it is recorded in Acts 18:9–11, 9And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” 11And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”

But, Paul used this particular experience for two reasons… First, the obvious, “You false teachers want to talk about spiritual credentials… I’ll show you spiritual credentials.” Have you been to heaven recently?

SLIDE: STAIRCASE INTO HEAVEN ~

Paul shares that he had an experience in Christ – not in himself, in Paul’s strength or IN anyone else’s strength or other angelic/demonic power, but iN relation to Christ Jesus…

To emphasize that fact. Paul was taken into heaven… He was ἁρπάζω (häȑ-pä-dzō). He was “Caught up.” ἁρπάζω is the word used for the concept of the rapture… I’ve heard people complain that the word “Rapture” doesn’t actually occur in the Bible.

That’s true, because the word that does occur is ἁρπάζω, which translated into Latin, is the participle raptus from the verb rapiō from which we get the word and concept of the Rapture.

SLIDE: HARPY EAGLE ~

A person is enraptured or a bird of prey is a raptor (actually a Harpy Eagle is a raptor so both Greek and Latin) or the saints are Raptured are all derived from raptus… meaning to seize, capture, take by force.

Paul was taken by God and there was nothing anyone could do about it – likewise on the day of the Rapture Almighty God will snatch you to Himself and nothing in heaven, on earth or in hell can stop Him.

Anyway, Raptured to the third heaven. A Jewish way of saying the heaven where God lives… The first heaven is our earthly atmosphere where the clouds reside, the second heaven is outer space where the sun, moon and stars reside and the third heaven is beyond the universe in the supernatural plane where God and the Heavenly Host reside.

SLIDE: MOUNTAIN MEADOW GARDEN ~

In verse four he calls it “Paradise.” Greek παράδεισος from Hebrew פַּרְדֵּס meaning garden. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus told the criminal that he would be in Paradise with Him and in Revelation 2:7, Jesus said, “To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”

Checking out the accommodations in Heaven… that’s some experience… Paul then he follows that up with a dialogue between him and Jesus.

Ending in the Risen Lord telling him, “Look Paul, My Grace is sufficient to accomplish what I want in your life both on earth and for eternity.”

That’s pretty cool – fairly amazing… Paul has definitely made his point.

That’s what is obvious… here’s what’s subtle…

Paul enters into heaven where he sees and hears some incredible things… BUT here’s the deal… those things are only for Paul.

It is between God and Paul. It is NOT something to be shared and certainly NOT something to be used for more personal power and prestige.

Most people think that a Top Secret security clearance is the highest… Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Well it’s not true, there’s a clearance above Top Secret that I held… I knew stuff that I couldn’t even tell other guys in my squadron.

I couldn’t tell anyone… Well neither could Paul. He had an even higher security clearance and couldn’t tell anyone about what he saw and heard!

People who love to tell you all about the details of their vision, probably had their vision due to “An undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato.” “More of gravy than of grave…”

A real vision isn’t to be bandied about like some tall tale or fishing story… same thing.

SLIDE: THE PLEASURE OF THORNS ~

Paul then tells us beginning in verse 7, that as a direct consequence of this remarkable trip to heaven he was given “A thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment” him.

Specifically, this “Messenger of Satan” that tormented Paul was to keep him from becoming prideful, arrogant, as he said, “To keep me from exalting myself!”

People love to speculate on the thorn and by doing so miss what I think is the real point the Holy Spirit through Paul was trying to make here.

There’s the “Thorn,” there’s the “Flesh,” there’s the “Messenger” – really angel, and there’s “Satan.”

But all the emphasis of that passage is on the TORMENT. Torment is the focus, not the “Thorn,” “Flesh,” “Messenger” or “Satan.”

It hurt deeply – Paul felt tormented by Satan… It is κολαφίζω (kŏ-lä-fēdz-ō). It actually means to hit or beat with a fist – it is to be punched in the face.

Paul felt like he was repeatedly punched in the face and in my opinion it was due to his personal lack of perfection.

Whatever the “Thorn,” the point is it was used by Satan to torment Paul… to beat Paul down, to discourage and defeat him.

Paul desperately wanted to live up to his road trip to heaven – but he was never worthy…

He begged Jesus to fix him.

And here is the point… Jesus said NO!

Jesus said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”

The false prophets wanted to talk about “Visions and Revelations,” but someone who actually had “Visions” couldn’t talk about what he had seen… and someone who had actual “Revelations” often got the answer they didn’t want to hear.

Some people use these verses to focus on the exciting, super-spiritual, emotionally charged supernatural, but the point is the exact opposite.

Will God show you things? Yes He will. Will God reveal things to you? Yes, He will, but it will always be His grace extended to you IN SPITE of your greatness, NOT because of it.

Paul grew up and matured when his prayer changed from, “Make me great” – to “Oh God, use me to proclaim your greatness.”

Thorns are the very things that can sharpen our focus on God’s necessary power and grace…

As the great Apostle said, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

010415 - Through our Weakness - II Corinthians 11c
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January 08, 2015 07:45 AM PST
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II Corinthians 11:16-33, Pastor Scott Keller

Scott Keller at Alêtheia Christian Fellowship ~ II Corinthians 11c-12 ~ 010414

SLIDE: THE RUINED CITY OF CORINTH ~

We left off in our study of II Corinthians in the middle of what is called the “Fool’s Discourse.”

The things you need to remember (or be aware of if you’re just joining us) is that Paul personally established the Christian Community at Corinth. Not, just the city, which was vibrant, wealthy and cosmopolitan, but the suburbs and outlying towns all around the Isthmus of Corinth connecting the Peloponnesian Peninsula to Greece.

He had lived with the Corinthians for a year and a half, then after his departure, other, self-described Christian ministers had arrived and were teaching the fledgling Christians a somewhat different Christianity – that at the end of the day – was no Christianity at all because it misrepresented Jesus and therefore the salvation He brings.

In order to seal their claim on the hearts and minds of the Corinthians, these interlopers, boasted about themselves and ridiculed Paul.

So the Apostle Paul was forced to defend himself in order to save true Christianity among the Corinthians. Paul was very uncomfortable with this chore, as we will see, but he forged ahead, NOT because he feared losing control of the Corinthians…

He did it because he was afraid that the Corinthians, in losing him, would also lose Christ.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:16-21 ~ WOLF-SHEEP ~
16Again I say,
let no one think me foolish;
but if you do,
receive me even as foolish,
so that I also may boast a little.
17What I am saying,
I am not saying as the Lord would,
but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.
18Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also.
19For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly.

20For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.

21To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison.
But in whatever respect anyone else is bold—
I speak in foolishness—
I am just as bold myself.

Three times in those verses, Paul pulled back with parenthetical remarks to show his discomfort in talking about himself in this way…

Verse 16, “But if you do, receive me even as foolish…” Verse 17, “What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness…”
And verse 21, “I speak in foolishness…”

In verses 18 through 20, Paul plainly spells out why he’s engaging in this distasteful boasting…

Because the Corinthians; are tolerating and even gladly accepting ministers, who are foolish boasters, who enslave them, who devour them, who take advantage of them, who exalt themselves and who hit them in the face!

Sarcastically, Paul says that to his “Shame” he has “Been weak by comparison.”

But now, Paul will be, “Just as bold” as they are and play the game… But please remember… he does this only in order to protect the Corinthians he loves, from the corrupting influence of the false ministers.

Going forward we have a long section of Scripture, but we need to take it all in, in order to see the flow in context…

For today, we are going to be just like a first century church and HEAR the Word of God read aloud. From, II Corinthians chapter 11, verse 22, through chapter 12, verse 13…

Of course, as always you can follow along in your Bibles, but for this first shot at these verses I would like you close your eyes and let the Word flow… Put yourself there in Corinth hearing these words with their ears… You know the basic situation; let Paul’s defense impact you as it did them 20 centuries ago.

The Apostle Paul says…

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:22–12:13 WEAKNESS ~ 22Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ?—
I speak as if insane—
I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.
24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25Three times I was beaten with rods,
once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28Apart from such external things,
there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
29Who is weak without my being weak?
Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.
31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands.
1Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know,
or out of the body I do not know, God knows—
such a man was caught up to the third heaven. 3And I know how such a man—
whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—
4was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.
5On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses.
6For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth;
but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. 7Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh,
a messenger of Satan to torment me—
to keep me from exalting myself!
8Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9And He has said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
11I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me.
Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 12The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
13For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches,
except that I myself did not become a burden to you?
Forgive me this wrong!

Paul’s defense…

The overarching thrust was that Paul was qualified to be considered a true Apostle of a Savior, who, Himself, came in humble weakness.

Jesus, was a non-citizen, non-Judean Jew from an irrelevant town in a backwater province who did not have a powerful family, an Ivy League education or a trust fund. He was by all appearances a human man unable to stop His own torture, crucifixion and death. That’s weakness.

The reality of His bodily Resurrection was proof beyond question that God’s power was at work.

The Resurrection would have meant nothing, if there had not first been actual death in weakness.

The Resurrection would have meant nothing, if it had not been exactly what it was… Everything about it was perfect in order to demonstrate that is was God orchestrating, enabling and completing the work.

Jesus was not just dead, He was dead beyond any question – the swoon theory is one of the dumbest theories in the history of dumb theories. Anyone enduring what Jesus endured over His final 18 hours of human life would be dead.

He was buried in a tomb for three days – three days…

When He did awaken He had a body that was corporeal, tangible, subject to tactile inspection… He could walk and talk and he could eat and drink…

But, He could also change His outward form, His physical person, looks, voice, perhaps height and weight – beard or no beard…

Additionally, He could suddenly appear and disappear wherever and whenever He chose, moving through time, space and matter at will.

He appeared to more than 500 witnesses and finally, after 40 days of such visitations He bodily, in the sight of many of His disciples, family and friends, ascended into Heaven complete with two angels.

Jesus, as just a man, was far too weak to do any of that. So since He actually did do it all, it proved God was well pleased with His only Son.

Paul was nothing but a weak human man, therefore all the amazing work of the Gospel spread through his efforts was God’s doing.

His weakness was proof that he belonged to and was approved by Almighty God.

That’s precisely what we need to concentrate on for ourselves here and now.

We need to see God’s power perfected and proved through our weakness.

I said the other day that I did everything wrong that a person could possibly do wrong in starting Alêtheia. The fact that it worked in spite of my weakness proves that it was God’s venture and not mine.

Another example, Mariah was pregnant about 20 years ago and she was prayed for by our pastor at the time… General good health and progress.

The pastor gave a prophetic-type utterance to her… He said, “You will see God’s power.”

She was scared because she knew that to see God do something probably meant that something was going to be bad enough for Him to act. At the time neither of us had any idea what it might be…

I won’t go into all the details, but the pregnancy didn’t go well – there were abruptions and other problems and Mariah was on strict bed rest except for weekly checkups. At one of those appointments, our doctor, despite a lot of effort, could not find the baby’s heartbeat. It appeared that the baby was dead...

We were praying up a storm on our way over for an ultrasound and when they took a look, they not only found a heartbeat again, but they could find no evidence whatsoever of any problem.

I asked, “Is she healed?” The physician said, “No, there would be scar tissue… there is no sign that anything was ever wrong.”

SLIDE: KATIE BUG LIPS ~

Katie was born on time, happy and completely healthy and one of the most amazing people I have ever known.

God’s power was manifested in our human weakness.

There was nothing I could do – nothing Mariah could do – nothing the doctor could do – but NOTHING is what God does. Nothing is too difficult for God to do…

That is Paul’s entire point.

Of course, he goes into some detail and we might as well follow his story…

SLIDE: EASTERN MED, TARSUS & DAMASCUS ~

First, Paul addressed his background as a Jew. Jewish heritage was something about which the false teachers applauded themselves and disparaged Paul. They were no doubt “Real Jews” from Jerusalem – Paul was not. RDP.

Because Christianity came out of Judaism – Jesus and all of His Apostles and all of the first Christians converts were Jews… In fact, if you remember, it actually came as quite a shock to the Jews that non-Jews could even be Christians. (Acts 10&11).

So, fledgling, non-Jewish Christians, like those in Corinth, gave great deference to teachers with Jewish roots. You study, Tae Kwon Do and a Grand Master from Korea shows up…

Paul was a Roman citizen, born and bred in the Roman province of Cilicia. We can imagine that Jews born and bred in Jerusalem would have disparaged Paul on that account. He wasn’t as Jewish as they were…

While, it is true that Paul was born and raised in the vibrant city of Tarsus, capital of Cilicia at the end of the Bay of Iskenderun near the modern Turkish – Syrian border.

It is also true that Paul was a full-blooded Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin, named after the hero of that tribe, King Saul.

He was sent to Jerusalem at an early age and was educated as a Rabbi by Gamaliel, grandson of Hillel, the founder of the Pharisaic School.

He was, to his later dismay, a Jewish leader trusted by the High Council to root out heresy.

Paul was fluent in Greek and Aramaic, but also in Hebrew which was very unusual in those days and proved his rabbinic credentials (Acts 22:2).

Paul was actually more qualified as a Jewish teacher than his opponents.

While leading a small army in search of heretics – Jews who had converted to Christianity – Paul found something very different…

Paul was personally converted on the road to Damascus and commissioned as an Apostle by the risen Lord Jesus… Himself.

Paul served the cause of Christ, preaching the Gospel in hostile territory, enduring tremendous hardship.

Five times he was whipped – 39 lashes upon his back… the 40 lashes minus one, was a Jewish punishment for violating Jewish custom given in lieu of banishment.

He was beaten with rods three times… that is a Roman punishment for troublemakers. It was not authorized against a Roman citizen such as Paul, but beatings to restore order were often carried out before citizenship could be verified.

Think of riot police beating American citizens… where it would be police brutality if there was no cause, in a riot to protect life, it is legal and appropriate.

Paul was even stoned – with large rocks and boulders – and left for dead by Jews in what is now central Turkey.

Travel in those days was harrowing to say the least.

Many of the ships were barely seaworthy and there were no weather reports or radar to see problems beforehand. Think of the ferries capsizing all the time around the world today.

Paul was shipwrecked three times – one of those times he spent all night in the ocean tossed around by waves while evidently clinging to a piece of debris.

I feel comfortable assuming Paul did not swim… Those three shipwrecks don’t include a future one where Paul ended up spending the winter on Malta.

There were nefarious characters everywhere and there were wild animals as well as all manner of natural disasters and inclement weather to deal with on his journeys.

Paul was put through the ringer over and over and that’s just the physical part.

He was deeply concerned for the budding Christian faith and the constant efforts, ultimately by Satan, to destroy it.

The way Paul put it, “Who is weak without my being weak?”

The pressure of ministry is intense and it is only the strength of the Lord that sustained Paul or any minister since.

In verse 30, he states that his boasting as an Apostle is boasting in his human struggle as a minister.

Sure he was beaten and imprisoned and shipwrecked… sure he was bloodied, bruised and degraded…

That didn’t mean he wasn’t Jesus’ Apostle… it meant that he was Jesus’ Apostle.

The Lord carried him through all those trials and tribulations and that confirms the Message Paul preached!

His human weakness proved the divine nature of his work – God worked through IMPERFECT PAUL… He wants to work through IMPERFECT YOU.

We’re always running around trying to be more perfect, when the truth is God is interested in using us now!

More Bible studies, more programs, more isolation, more worship to make us feel like we are serving God.

All the Charismatic out-of-this-world worship experiences and all the academically challenging Bible studies in the world are not going to make God like you better.

We do those things so that we will like ourselves better.

That’s what I was trying to say before Christmas. We have been given a gift from God – it is the treasure entrusted to us by Jesus.

It is Emmanuel – God with us – for the purpose of Jesus – salvation.

We fret and fuss about our personal goodness – we inspect and evaluate the goodness of other people…

We become shackled by all the guilt and doubt and worry and frustration and irritation and condemnation and anger and despair… to the point of INACTION.

We are frozen by fear, like statues in the park collecting bird droppings.

God wants you to live – to live abundantly… NOT, live in the abundance of the material world, BUT, to live in the abundance of the recognition that you are His beloved child!

Quit being distracted – of course, pray about your issues, do your best to fix them, BUT then MOVE!

Move forward trusting in the GRACE of God which – trust me – “Is sufficient for you”!

Get busy about the Master’s business – let Jesus use you for His purposes… because He will use YOU – yes YOU, right NOW. It may not be how you plan – you may not see it or understand it, BUT if you will just open yourself to Him and move – God will use you for His purposes… TODAY!

If you trust Him then you will keep working as a vessel for Him and before you realize what happened you will be more mature as a Christian and as you keep moving before you realize what happened you will be standing before your Lord.

You will have finished your race and you will be home.

The alternative is to spend your Christian life focused on your own failure and the failure of everyone around you – the failure of the American government – the failure of the culture – the failure of the world and ultimately you will understand it all somewhere deep down inside you. Perhaps a dark secret place you are not consciously aware of… the failure of God.

It can be scary – to leave behind the morose, self-flagellating and the mean-spirited judgmentalism of Christianity as we know it…

What many people forget is that the Apostle Paul knew what was in store for him before he started.

Jesus commanded Ananias, a Christian leader in Damascus, to go to Paul in Damascus in Acts 9:15&16, “But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.’”

Paul lived it out each day and yet he continued with new vigor… that is true faith and that kind of faith is real and it is only enabled by the Lord Himself.

Paul already alluded to it in chapter 4, verse 8, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.”

In every way and in every place and at every time Paul, is a battered mortal man and yet, rather than being destroyed, GOD more than suffices to liberate him.

Afflicted is the participle of the verbal form of our old friend θλῖψις (thlēps-ēs).

If you remember, θλῖψις means extreme pressure. It is to compress or squeeze. Figuratively it is the pressures of life, both external and internal – the things that press you down.

Paul was pressured at every turn and in every way, “But not crushed.” He was confined in an extremely tight place, restricted with hardly any breathing room, yet there WAS breathing room. Pressed into the smallest space where he could barely move, but God always granted him enough space that he was NOT crushed.

Paul’s troubles prove that his Message is a divine message from God, rather than a message from a great and powerful man.

That’s what it means that God’s strength is perfected in weakness – God uses us – in our weakness and imperfection – to prove it must be His power at work through us.

Paul, himself, is nothing special, but Jesus chose to use him as His Apostle giving him the Message He wanted proclaimed.

SLIDE: DAMASCUS TODAY ~

Paul then launches into his misadventures in Damascus.

Aretas IV was king of the Nabateans for nearly 50 years taking the throne in 9 B.C. his son succeeded him in 40 A.D.

SLIDE: PETRA TODAY ~

By Paul’s time the Nabataeans were considered Arabs and had their capital at Petra. They essentially supplanted, but also intermingled with Arameans (descended from Seth’s son Aram, home of Isaac and Jacob’s wives). Moabites and Ammonites (Lot and his 2 daughters).

Aretas’ daughter was married to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, the guy who sent Jesus back to Pontius Pilate. But in about 27 A.D. Antipas divorced her in favor of his ½ niece and full sister-in-law, Herodias, formerly the wife his brother, Herod Philip (Matt. 14:3–4). This was the sin John the Baptist was pointing out when Herodias manipulated her daughter Salome to manipulate Antipas to behead John.

When Jesus was brought before Antipas, He refused to speak. We sometimes forget that only a short time before, Antipas had beheaded Jesus’ cousin John.

King Aretas was furious about the mistreatment of his daughter and tensions grew between the Nabateans and the Jews until open war broke out between them in 36 A.D. Aretas quickly defeated Antipas.

But, the emperor Tiberius intervened on behalf of Antipas by sending the Roman legion based in Syria, to defend Jewish lands.

In case you were wondering about Petra and the Nabateans… in 106 A.D. the Roman Emperor Trajan formally conquered and annexed the Nabatean Kingdom. As a backwater Roman province Petra feel into disuse.

The Ethnarch of Damascus was the ruler of the city under King Aretas. His plan to seize Paul was thwarted in an ignoble way.

Being let down in a basket was not heroic or awe inspiring – it was weakness, but again, it showed God’s power.

I wanted to read through to chapter 12, verse 13, to give the context, but for your sake I will save the deeper investigation of those verses for next time.

For today… God is NOT nearly as interested in your personal development through what amounts to self-help as He is in you, LIVING out loud as a joyful and triumphant Christian filled with gratitude for His grace.

God is far more interested in you allowing Him to use you right now IN your weakness – so that His strength will be recognized.

You are not waiting for anything except your own fear and trepidation which is a lack of trust in Him who will work through you…

122814 - Christmas is Over - Topical
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January 05, 2015 07:08 AM PST
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Deuteronomy 28:47, John 14:15, John 15:12 & I Corinthians 16:13&14, Pastor Scott Keller.

This is a record sermon... At less than 14 minutes, it must be the shortest sermon ever preached at Aletheia Christian Fellowship. It is a post-Christmas topical sermonette.

After Christmas, Jesus put away childish things and served His Father…

We must now do the same…

We saw last week that failure to serve God – to obey Jesus – to grow in the Spirit – was due to a lack of, “Joy and a grateful heart, for the abundance of all things…” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

Fundamentally, a failure to properly serve is due to a bad attitude.

A failure to properly assess reality.

It is to look at things with the world’s eyes.

It is to see need – to see want, rather than to realize the Creator of all things holds you in His hands…

The only correct attitude for a child of God is, “Joy and a grateful heart for the abundance of all things.”

When we get that right – we live the VICTORIOUS LIFE because we are MORE than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us! Through Him who loved us (Philippians 4:13 & Romans 8:37). That’s the perspective and attitude that guards your heart and shows the true God to the world!

Because we understand and have appropriated the gift of God sent on that very first Christmas… We are filled to overflowing with Joy and Gratitude.

It is in that spirit, and with that attitude, that we can truly obey the Lord Jesus Christ as He said…

In John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

And what is it specifically that Jesus commands His disciples? John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

Jesus’ love motivated Him to lay down His life for you… that’s the love we are talking about. A love that puts others first…

1 Corinthians 16:13&14 says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

Four present imperatives followed by the overarching command to actively love others.

A better translation would be “Stay alert, keep standing firm in the one true faith, continue to behave like men, remain strong and in everything you must love.”

That’s what we are to do now… pack up the Christmas decorations and get back to work on behalf of Jesus just as Jesus got to work on our behalf.

Time is short and opportunities are not endless so we must stay alert.

There is only one faith and we must keep standing firm, in that faith, unmoved by political correctness or satanic sentimentality.

As Christians we all must always act like men… What that means is we all need to be mature and sober-minded, as well as resolute and courageous.

We must remain strong. We know that in our flesh, we are weak, but our strength comes from Him who is strength itself and who supplies our every need.

Finally, we must continually cover everything with God’s love poured out into our heart… Pray earnestly and without ceasing that God will fill your heart to overflowing with His pure Agapê.

Let’s get busy in this New Year to be more intentional as Christians, more available as vessels and more genuine as family.

Endless hope and relentless joy that is what was brought to us… let us go out and show that to the world this year…

122114 - The True Christmas Gift - Romans 8
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December 31, 2014 12:18 PM PST
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This is one of our few topical sermons. It was delivered by Pastor Scott Keller for Christmas, and that is the theme, but it is a very different kind of Christmas message. No yule log or tinsel here.

Alêtheia ~ Christmas ~ 122114

SLIDE: WELCOME FRIENDS ~ CHRISTMAS ~

SLIDE: SHEPHERD AT NIGHT ~

Today I want to talk about a very important topic for Christmastime… it is something that will relate to our Christmas Eve Service and it will also better prepare us for our continuation in II Corinthians.

Hopefully you will see the connections over the next few weeks.

SLIDE: Woman frustrated and unhappy ~

In chapter eight of Paul’s amazing letter to the Romans he talks about a reality that every Christian has recognized…

We are not perfect.

Our lack of perfection causes us all kinds of problems. They range from anger to guilt, frustration to despair and from passively hiding out by ourselves to actively taking it out on others.

Our imperfection focuses us INTERNALLY on our own inadequacy and then as a backlash, it focuses us EXTERNALLY on the imperfection of everything and everyone around us…
You wonder why you’re mean or why you’re depressed… well there you go.

We are filled with a deep seated hopelessness because things are NOT right and we express that with a variety of unproductive ideas.

“If I can’t ever get it right, maybe I shouldn’t try.”
“If God loved me, He would fix me.”
“If I keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over, maybe I am not saved at all.”
“If God is real, why do I feel so alone?”
“If I could get away from – or change – all the people who keep messing me up; I could be, if not perfect, certainly much better.”
“If we could just get back to being a Christian nation; pass an anti-gay, anti-abortion or anti-pornography law, then I could succeed.”
“If everyone would just start thinking exactly like me; then there would be no problems!”

UNPRODUCTIVE ideas inevitably lead to UNPRODUCTIVE, even COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE doctrines and philosophies as well as strategies and procedures.

All Christians have wrestled with the problem of sin to some degree… That’s actually a good thing IF, and only IF, it produces a greater conformity to Christ that is real and a better relationship with Him that is genuine.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of this struggling with sin produces the opposite.

Let’s get that right today…

Let’s let God fix that problem for us all, right here, right now.

How about that? How about all of us leaving here today with the JOY of the Lord to offer as a gift to the world at Christmastime?

Let’s all actively allow the Holy Spirit to renew our mind this morning so that we can actually grow in Christ and be His light to the world.

SLIDE: GIFTWRAPPED GOD ~

God came as a helpless baby and that’s what we celebrate this week… BUT, He also ascended to Heaven and so He is no longer on this earth in physical form.

That’s where we come in… enter the Christians stage RIGHT. We have been reconciled to 1Father God as His very own children.

We have been reborn as disciples of the 2Word of God and we are filled with the 3Breath of God to be the physical Jesus Christ on earth today.

What Christmas is, at its core, is Emmanuel – God with us. God came and made His abode – made his home – with mankind.

Jesus completed His earthly work 2,000 years ago and ever since that time… Emmanuel is STILL alive and well and living on planet earth…

Because Emmanuel, my friends, God with us… is US!

Through the power of the Holy Spirit the Christian community is supposed to physically share the reality of God among mankind.

We ARE the Light of the World, as ambassadors of, as conduits for, the Light THAT BRINGS LIFE… We are more than just representatives of God…
By Belonging to the Father, following the Son and being filled with the Spirit – we are the presence of God that He chooses to show to the world.

How are we doing with that?

Right away, many begin thinking, “He’s talking about more personal evangelism, giving more to missions, doing a building expansion to reach more folks… maybe more advertising.”

No! I’m talking about you and me at a core place where we can be bright lights shining in the darkness.

Addiction counseling usually doesn’t work because it addresses the symptoms and so rarely fixes the core issue.

The same here. The church universal has tried it all for 2,000 years and mostly failed in spectacular fashion. We need to quit doing more stuff and let God fix our core.

It is paramount that we here in this room, and all the Christians in similar rooms today, throw off the shackles – the shackles that Jesus shattered once and for all. The shackles that we painstakingly repair and repeatedly place back upon ourselves.

We must break free of the lies of Satan in order to fulfill our purpose as the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth ministering to the lost all around us.

Barrowing from the song… Sin – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Well maybe… maybe we can put it into perspective.

SLIDE: CROSSWING LANDING ~

We saw last summer that God disciplines His children, BUT ONLY, for the purpose of correcting our course – ALWAYS for the goal of repentance and restoration.

God ALWAYS disciplines us, in order to strengthen our love for Him and for others, NEVER to damage or destroy us – NEVER to beat us down causing hopelessness, anguish and despair.

Those things are the result of guilt and they are the goal of Satan because ultimately they lead to negative emotions, hatred, divorce and murder.

Romans chapter eight begins with, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

What does that mean? What does it have to do with Christmas?

For seven full chapters in Romans the Apostle Paul laid out the reality that every person is a sinner and no matter how well a person performs they will NEVER be justified before our PERFECT GOD.

The only possible way a person can be justified before God is IF God creates a way – IF God SAVES…

Psalm 3:8 states, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” That is confirmed in Revelation 19:1, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.”

The name Jesus itself, means SALVATION. Emmanuel is “God with us,” but for the PURPOSE of Salvation.

That was Jesus’ purpose 2,000 years ago in coming to earth and it is His purpose through you and me today… Salvation.

Only God can save and He has saved.

Continuing in Romans, Paul sees a real problem – it is the problem we have all seen and it is the problem we are talking about today…

SLIDE: MAN IN UTTER DESPAIR ~

How can we be Jesus Christ on earth demonstrating God dwelling among mankind for the purpose of saving mankind, when we are so completely fouled up?

I am going to use first person pronouns and I would like you to take these statements as your own where they apply to you…

I’m a mess and I continue to make messes – I am weak and fearful and controlling and easily frustrated and I am ready to give up on the whole thing!

As the great Apostle Paul said himself… “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15).

I get so frustrated with myself and I project my frustration onto other people and ultimately onto God Himself.

I am irritated, legalistic, harsh, unhappy, judgmental, worried, disillusioned, depressed, self-focused, mean spirited and overall just downright disgusted…

And my self-focus always affects my view of others… In a distortion of reality, I see myself either as better than others, worse than others, or waffling between BOTH!

I am a typical neurotic Christian and that is the Jesus… the God… the SALVATION that I present to the world.

No wonder non-Christians want no part of it!

We must get this straightened out or we cannot be God with us offering His salvation to the world.

SLIDE: THE FAKE CHRISTMAS ~

Without that, Christmas means nothing, except Santa Clause, tawdry decorations and consumerism run amok.

The only rational reason to celebrate the Birth of Jesus is that it was the event that preceded the event that enabled universal salvation for all who accept…

SLIDE: JESUS CRUCIFIED, IT IS FINISHED ~

That is Jesus Christ crucified. It was what was accomplished on a rugged cross thirty-some years later. It was His sacrificial death that brought others life.

Through that, Sin is defeated, destroyed, rendered futile, shattered… buried and gone… sin is annihilated… there is no sin because Jesus paid the price and death was conquered proven by His bodily Resurrection.

After ascending into heaven the Holy Spirit was sent to infill every Christian… every Christian who has been reborn as a new creation in Christ… is filled with God’s Holy Breath. Romans 8:9 says, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” It is just a fact – Christ in YOU right NOW… Yet…

Where is this perfect life without sin and the consequences of sin?

What does it all mean? What am I doing wrong?
When we continue further into Romans chapter eight, we find a theme…

SLIDE: THE Holy Spirit ~

Paul uses the word Spirit, 21 times in Romans chapter eight alone. In one chapter the word spirit πνεῦμα (pnü-mä), is used 21 times.

The principle point is that as Christians we are filled with the Holy Spirit as a “PLEDGE.” From the TOTALITY of Almighty God to you. It is the Greek, ἀρραβών (äȑ-ȑä-bōn), transliterated from Hebrew עֵרָבֹון (ĕȑ-ȑä-vōn) meaning a deposit of part to guarantee the whole (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

It is NOT a vow, pledge, promise or commitment that can be broken…

It is a token of what is certain to be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit deposit is like getting an engagement ring from Jesus…

Some may cancel a deal, BUT Jesus is good to His Word! Pun intended.

To back out of the deal after giving your word accompanied by your PLEDGE was to you lose your credibility – to prove your character was deficient all along – to show that you are fickle and untrustworthy.

Almighty God gives Christians the Holy Spirit and it is a “PLEDGE” along with His PROMISE…

There is no way in heaven, or on earth, that God is going to back out of the deal.

It is as certain as God is God that He will fulfill His promise which is eternal life in Him.

Ephesians 1:13&14, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”

It is for His glory that you are saved.

Do you seriously believe that you will irritate God enough that he will disown you as His child? That you can upset Jesus enough that He will write you a certificate of divorce?

I grant you, that is certainly our experience in this life… friends and loved ones so easily pushed to the point where they reject you – abandon you – disown you – divorce you… even try to destroy you.

But, friends, God is NOT like that – He is NOT like us – God is NOT a human being!

God’s love is pure and perfect and based upon His character, NOT upon our performance.

Conversely, can you possibly be so arrogant that you think your performance will earn God’s favor? So full of yourself that you actually believe that you are GOOD?!?!?

Look, my friends, the scale we use is all wrong.

SLIDE: PLANET EARTH SCALE ~

The Christian with the very worst performance – someone has to be the weakest link and he is right here. The Christian who is the superstar, golden-haired boy, makes-everything-seem-easy, best performer of all time with a great heart is here. That makes sense.

Non-Christians, regardless of their intentions and performance, are not even on the scale.

SLIDE: NOW WITH A RULER ~

Not a linear scale but 12,000 miles between the worst and the best Christians is a lot… 12,000 miles is where some of our satellites orbit. I mean a 12,000 mile scale is impressive.

SLIDE: CURIOSITY – EARTH FROM MARS ~

This is a photo of earth taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity. The Red planet is our closest neighbor going away from the sun (Venus is a little closer in the other direction).

Can you see yourself?

Mars is close – it is only 3, to a maximum of 22, light minutes from us depending on our relative orbital positions. The average 12 ½ light-minutes.

At our closest we can reach the planet in about six months with current technology. In space terms… Mars is very close.

And as close as it is this is what earth looks like from the Martian surface. On this scale how much difference do you see between the best and worst Christians?

SLIDE: OUR SOLAR SYSTEM ~

Poor Pluto, NOT a planet anymore, so our “Planetary Solar System” extends to the orbit of Neptune now and makes our localized planetary solar system about 9 billion miles across – that’s more than 800 light-minutes. Mars about 12, our planetary solar system 800.

SLIDE: THE MILKY WAY GALAXY ~

Our entire solar system is so tiny it cannot even be seen in this rendering of our Milky Way Galaxy. It is not even big enough to be one of the specks of light… it might as well be invisible – it might as well not even exist. It doesn’t exist, from this perspective.

And my friends… The Milky Way Galaxy is only one of over a hundred billion galaxies spread out over our vast universe. NOT even a blip on a universal scale.

God spoke all of that into existence – He holds it all in the palm of His hand… Realistically – let’s be real for just a moment, what are you going to give Him?

SLIDE: REALLY DUDE RE-GIFTED ~

At the same time – IF he chose to love you and save you and fill you with His Spirit – what are you going to do that would alienate Him from you?

Can you see the reality that no one is IMPRESSING God? Can you then likewise understand that your personal failures are not ruining God’s day?

We take ourselves way too seriously and God not even close to seriously enough. It is called EGO.

Can you recognize that the God the Father isn’t going to boot you out of His family because you are imperfect? Can you grasp that Jesus is not going to divorce you because you repeatedly fail? Can you see that the Holy Spirit is not going to desert you because you are weak?

It isn’t about you obeying the Law or about you having perfect doctrine or about you working tirelessly or about you praying harder or about you beating yourself up or alienating others with your holier-than-thou attitude.

If God wanted grumpy, stern, mean-spirited, self-righteous people he didn’t have to send Jesus – He already had the Pharisees!

It is about you being imperfect and God reaching down at unbelievable personal cost to save you from your imperfection.

That is the Glory of God.

The Glory of God that will be proclaimed by all for eternity is that He saved us in spite of our worth, NOT because of it!

There is a doctrine of demons that is as old as time… it is the doctrine that caused Satan to fall. It is the doctrine that deceived Eve and it is the doctrine that permeates everything in the human experience.

The doctrine of demons is the doctrine that: I am more, than I really am.

The doctrine of pride. So many Christians are taught that they are special and wonderfully made in God’s own image. They are taught that God loves them so much that He would have still sent Jesus even if they were the only one to accept. They are taught that they bless God’s heart and that they please Him with their obedience.

Christians are taught these things and then begin to distort reality… they begin to think that because of all that – they are great.

Friends, all of that is true, despite our frailty, so who is great… us or God? Us for continuing to fall into the miry clay or Him for lifting us up out of the miry clay to be His friends?

I am NOT a Christian because I’m so smart, or so good, or so worthy… I am a Christian because God Saved me…

SLIDE: PRAYING HANDS IN GOLD ~

Now filled with the Holy Spirit it is my greatest desire to be His friend – to be conformed to Him – to act like a member of His family – to obey Him because I trust in Him and to bring glory to Him forever.

But, back to the topic for the day… I have this problem… I don’t do what I want, but instead, I do the very thing I hate… and it makes me miserable and then it makes me angry and then it makes me sad.

Romans 8:15&16, “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”

It is past tense… we are the actual children of Almighty God already adopted into His family and then in verse 23… “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

It is finished and yet we my friends, you and I, have not caught up to the reality in time. It is a betrothal and while we eagerly await the actual wedding day we see that we are committed to Christ, but not completely His – NOT yet.

We still live in our childhood home, we still bear the last name of our parents we still live that life even though the marriage is set.

We groan within ourselves because we are NOT yet what we want to be.

So what shall we do? We shall wait patiently with all the hope in the world that one day soon everything will be made right by our husband the Lord Jesus Christ… as the passage continues…

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Of course we are NOT perfect – we are human still even though we are betrothed.

Even though the wedding date is set and soon we will be MRS. JESUS CHRIST, we are NOT there yet and so we wait.

We wait eagerly and at times it seems as though it will never happen, as though the wedding will be cancelled as though we need to do more to make it happen…

What we NEED to do is eagerly wait with the patience born of hope – because that hope is grounded in TRUST. Do you TRUST God with your eternity or NOT?

Hope in He who is able! (Romans 16:25).

We NEED to pray for help and we NEED to do our best – striving to live up to His love because we love Him… and then, my dear friends, then, we NEED to prove our trust… we NEED to live!

SLIDE: JUMPING FOR JOY ~

To live boldly for Christ – without hypocrisy – freely admitting our imperfection and fully trusting in the grace of God to save us anyway.

Do you know the word JOY is used over 200 times in the Bible? The word gratitude or thankfulness is used about the same…

When God brought the Children to the Promised Land He announced blessings from Mount Gerizim and He announced curses from Mount Ebal…

If the Jews obeyed they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed they would be cursed. After 12 verses full of curses, God announced the consequences of disobedience for 32 more verses in Deuteronomy chapter 28.

Then in verse 47, He says something amazing... He said their downfall would be, “Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things.”

It is a life full of Joy and Thanksgiving, a life of gratitude and exuberance because we are His kids! It is the VICTORIOUS LIFE because we are MORE than conquerors through Christ Jesus who strengthens us! Through Him who loved us (Philippians 4:13 & Romans 8:37). That’s the perspective and attitude that guards your heart and shows the true God to the world!

At this Christmas season show the world that we are OVERCOMERS in Christ – that’s Christmas.

Don’t mope around in despair or bitterness or disillusionment. Don’t fly around in anger or frustration or antagonism. Regular humans do that – we are God’s kids!

And if we act like we are the richest most blessed people in the universe – because we are – then maybe, just maybe, a regular human might want the gift we have to offer… Jesus Christ – the Word of God who came as a baby, but left as the destroyer of anxiety, hopelessness, SIN & DEATH.

121414 - Money, Money, Money - II Corinthians 11b
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December 30, 2014 01:33 PM PST
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II Corinthians 11:7-15, Pastor Scott Keller

Alêtheia ~ II Corinthians 11b ~ 121414

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:1-6 ~ BEAR WITH ME ~
Paul asked the Corinthians and in a very real sense, you and me, to BEAR with him.

It is a rhetorical tactic, and he will use many of them over the next chapter and a half, to build up, himself and his ministry, without seeming to be as petty as those he is trying to depose.

Paul gets the IRONY, trust me. He knows the false teachers have denigrated him while simultaneously building themselves up. Essentially, Paul must do the same thing to them, but without actually BEING like them.

The difference is that the false Apostles do it because they love themselves and want the Corinthians to love them also. Paul will do it because he actually loves the Corinthians and wants the Corinthians to love God.

He’s not trying to enhance his position for himself – he’s trying to keep the Corinthian Christians grounded in Christ.

One of the biggest issues they had back then is STILL one the biggest issues today… MONEY.

SLIDE: STACK OF MONEY ~
As Paul continues his defense, the sub-topic turns to MONEY, but more than MONEY itself, it is what MONEY does.

I know a business man who brings parties together in a financial arrangement. He says that it is remarkable to see how kind and generous everyone is during the initial negotiation. All participants are reasonable and respectful and willing to compromise… right up until the money becomes real… until the bankers get involves and money starts moving. Then everything changes and the parties get stingy, callous and even hateful.

There is a saying that “Money changes people.” Some of my friends and I have been around extremely wealthy people and we think it is more like money enables people to be who they really were all along (once you’ve got enough money, you truly don’t care what others think), but however you want to think about it, money has an influence far beyond the money itself.

SLIDE: II Corinthians 11:7-15 ~ NO CHARGE ~ 7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge?
8I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you;
9and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.

10As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.

11Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12But what I am doing I will continue to do, so that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting.
13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.

Paul lived among the Corinthians for a year and a half, preaching the Gospel to them and establishing their Christian community by INTRODUCING them to Jesus.

While there, he refused to take any financial support from them, even though they were very wealthy, relative to others.

Over that 18 months, Paul had been 1somewhat poor at times, he had 2worked for a while, he had 3taken wages from other churches and when his 4associates arrived from Macedonia they supported him. Paul was 5funded by Christians who were, in comparison to the Corinthians, impoverished.

Several issues are related to these facts and so, for a variety of reasons, many of the Corinthians did not need to be pushed very hard to get real irritated at Paul and his behavior in the area of finances.

As Americans, we usually get irritated when a minister asks for money… for them it was the opposite.

SLIDE: BABY ~ REALLY DUDE? ~
First, it just made no sense to them – Paul was taking money from other Christians who were poor in order to preach to the Corinthians who were both rich and willing to pay

It didn’t fit – it was off – it was like going to the courthouse to get a new Passport and walking out 5 minutes later with the thing in hand! Like going to the “Blue Building,” which is brown now and walking out two minutes later with new license plates – it just wasn’t natural.

SLIDE: HOMELESS ~ WHAT DO YOU SEE? ~
Second, as wealthy, cosmopolitan, socialites, they were embarrassed to have their “Apostle” be a poorer, working-class dude with dirt under his fingernails.

Wealthy churches may put up with a ragamuffin preacher for a while. Primarily, for its novelty, but they won’t put up with it for very long.

It becomes a three-fold indictment against them…

1) It is a condemnation against them that their pastor is working-class, they are not properly supporting him.

A bivocational pastor, by definition, is not adequately supported by his church. Either the church can’t or won’t.

2) It condemns them by making them feel uncomfortable with their wealth. What does it say when your spiritual leader is poor for Christ and you aren’t?

Rich people get uncomfortable hanging out around poor people.

3) It also condemns them among their peers as an indictment against their judgment in staying with such an obviously UNSUCCESSFUL pastor as their spiritual leader and mentor.

SLIDE: GOD’S GRACE ½ OFF SALE ~
Third, we tend to value things based upon their cost. Often I look at a type of merchandize that I don’t know much about and I assume the more expensive model is better.

I look at earrings for my wife and I assume the cheapest set is junk and the most expensive is the best.

My dad was an instructor pilot and an evaluator in the military and at the airline. After he retired he became one of only two FAA flight examiners in NW Montana.

While the other guy charged a hefty fee for his services, my dad would give a guy a checkride and waive his payment. Anyone with even half a brain should have known that he was the very best qualified guy they were going to get around here and that he had magnanimously given them a great and valuable gift.

In reality though, few of them even thanked him. Since it didn’t cost anything, it must not be a big deal. It was free – that must be what it was worth.

Cost and value don’t always correlate even in our economy, but they do not correlate at all in God’s economy when it comes to salvation.

Salvation is completely free and yet it cost more than the value of the entire universe and all that it contains. It cost Jesus.

It is not free because it has no value – it is the most valuable thing by far! It is free because no one can pay the price.

It has to be free or no one would ever be saved – no one has the resources to buy it… Bill Gates with a net worth of 82 billion dollars cannot buy salvation. The righteous deeds of Carl Lutz saving 62,000 Jews from the Nazis in WW II doesn’t come close to being good enough.

You can’t have a ½ off sale for God’s grace – it is still too much for anyone to buy… God could do a 99% discount and STILL no one could be saved!

It must be free of charge!

Paul always presented the free gift of salvation as it should be presented… completely free of charge.

Paul wanted people to fully understand that God’s grace cannot be purchased at any human price.

You can’t buy God and you can’t buy his true ministers. No true minister of Christ should ever charge anyone, no matter how wealthy they are, for the Gospel. I didn’t stutter, I’ll say it again to make sure we understand one another, No true minister of Christ should ever charge anyone, no matter how wealthy they are, for the Gospel.

We will come back to this point, but here I want to emphasize that the Corinthians had a problem with Paul’s practice because they erroneously assumed that a ministry that COST nothing, was WORTH nothing.

Friends… NOTHING… could be further from the Truth.

SLIDE: CONTROLLED BY MONEY… CHAINS ~
Forth, every person on planet earth desires to be IN CONTROL.

I’m talking about being in control of one’s circumstances and we use a wide variety of means to achieve control.

Some are overt, A-type, blowhards, some are passive-aggressive manipulators, some use money to buy control.

Wealthy people like the Corinthians frequently use the scheme of gaining control through the power of the purse.

Most of you know that I make it my business NOT to know what anyone gives to Alêtheia.

But do you know the reason?

It isn’t about the taint of money getting on the holy pastor-dude, it isn’t about keeping someone from being embarrassed that I know how little they give.

The reason I don’t know what anyone gives is because…

I don’t even want a hint of being controlled in any way, shape or form, by someone’s financial gift to the church.

I will tell you in case you do not know, that I am one of the most unusual pastors you’re likely to ever meet.

I have had money, I have rubbed shoulders with many extremely wealthy people.

I gave up literally millions of dollars in wages and benefits to start this church.

I have personally given up more financially for this ministry to go forward than the sum total of what everyone has ever given to Alêtheia to date.

I promise you, no one’s gift to this ministry will impress me, or get me to change who I am in Christ, or who I am as a minister. If money motivated me, there wouldn’t be an Alêtheia.

I don’t say any of that to diminish your generous giving or to elevate myself, I say it as proof that money does not impress me.

When I started this church, 11 years ago next month, I did everything wrong that a person could do wrong… ask anyone who knows about church planting.

This church should have never gotten off the ground, yet it flourished. That was God.

Conversely, in my own arrogant and naïve mind, I thought it would be much more successful – grow much faster than it did. That was God.

What I know for certain is that this church is NOT my church – it is God’s church. It will stand or fall because of His desire, NOT because of me or anyone else for that matter. That’s why money means nothing to me… it isn’t mine. Giving generously is your offering to God for His purposes and that is where your reward rests – not in impressing or in controlling a peon like me.

Over the years, I have had only a few instances where someone made me aware of what they gave.

In every case, it was a wealthy person who obviously wanted me to be impressed with their benevolence.

It is a form of control and it will not work on me and each of those wealthy people left our church – perhaps because their money didn’t buy them here what they wanted. Our Apostle Paul would have none of it either and that angered the wealthy Corinthians.

If Paul wouldn’t take their money, then he wasn’t beholding to them in any way… He could say and do whatever he wanted because he had no fear that they wouldn’t pay him.

You can't control what you don't own.

SLIDE: REJECTED $$$, IS unrequited love ~
Fifth, they were insulted.

Have you ever tried to give someone something nice – something you thought that they would really appreciate; a generous gift, a nice compliment, an offer of friendship or a sum of money… and they outright refused?

They said “No thanks.” Your kind offer was rejected! How did that make you feel?

Pretty easy to stir up some animosity in reminding the Corinthians how rude and insulting Paul had been in rejecting their money.

Pretty easy to get such people to abandon Paul in favor of ministers who politely, gladly and thankfully accepted the offer along with the strings attached.

SLIDE: NEED DIRECTIONS? –GOD. AH, NO ~
Paul’s practice of not taking money from those to whom he was introducing the Gospel vividly portrayed one of the greatest hindrances to true Christianity.

To this very day, many who profess to be Christian… and all who don’t… despise the notion that they cannot earn even the tiniest bit of God’s favor.

The Gospel was free because no one could pay even a micro-fraction of the cost as we saw. That irks people.

We humans are far too proud to accept charity without finding some way to feel entitled to said charity.

The entitlement mentality of welfare recipients is a perfect example. Those folks are being generously, magnanimously helped, without any contribution on their part, out of the benevolence of the taxpayer.

Instead of being grateful, they rationalize that they are owed it, and really, truth be told, they deserve a whole lot more than they are getting!

People don’t like charity because they don’t want to be helpless recipients of someone else’s kind compassion… They don’t want to rely on other’s generosity and they don’t want to admit they have done nothing to deserve the help.

So we all say, I don’t need or want any help – I can do it for myself! That is our American, independent, “I am strong,” mantra… even though it is never actually true.

The primary reason humans turn to legalism is to feel as though they deserve God’s love, at least to some small degree.

Extreme Arminianism (the idea that if you are not careful you will lose your salvation) is wrong for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that it makes ME responsible for MAINTAINING my own salvation and IF I am ultimately saved, I deserved to be saved, because I persevered.

It makes Christianity about me and it therefore diminishes Christ’s completed work on the Cross.

It is a blasphemy.

Offering the Gospel free of charge illustrates the reality that it can only be had as a gift of extreme charity from God… that takes a humble spirit.

SLIDE: DUDE COMMITTED TO THE PATH ~
Those are some of the reasons it was so easy for the false Apostles to turn many of the Corinthian Christians against Paul in the area of money.

Paul said in verse 10, “As the truth of Christ is in me, this boasting of mine will not be stopped in the regions of Achaia.” Paul is saying as an oath, “As God is my witness, so help me,” Paul is saying, “I will not change the way I do things.”

Why? Because it was the right way for Paul to minister as an Apostle and there were many reasons for that including the two he mentioned here, 1loving the Corinthians and 2creating a difference between himself and the false apostles.

First, he loved them enough to let them squirm and come to grips with the things we’ve just talked about – their human objections.

Their pride and their inability to see the difference between God’s economy and their social, cultural and economic baggage.

Second, he differentiated himself from the false apostles basically daring them to take no money either. He knew they wouldn’t take him up on it because they were only in it for the money.

Paul was in it because Jesus had called him.

In many places Paul confirms that ministers should be paid and in other places it seems as if he doesn’t.

These verses help us understand. Paul preached the Gospel to the Corinthians without charge because other churches paid his wages.

Paul never took money to offer the Gospel, but once people were Christians, he allowed them to partner with him and Jesus Christ in ministering to others.

Never think that your offering here at Alêtheia is an offering to me… or a payment for me presenting the Gospel to you.

Your offering is presented to God and as such is you partnering with Alêtheia to spread the Gospel free of charge to any who need that free Gospel.

People who enter these doors for a service or who contact me for counseling or who encounter me in a variety of ways, like all those Tres Dias weekends, receive from Alêtheia – from you and me - the free Gospel.

Alêtheia has never charged anyone outside of our church for any bit of the Gospel and we never will… It is a free Gospel.

We Christian family members here, through our offering, make that possible. In a very real sense you all are like the Macedonians supporting Paul to preach the Gospel to the Corinthians.

At the same time, Paul never stopped ministering to the Macedonians – he continued to teach, protect and encourage them as well. He could do that because as maturing Christians they understood what they were “Paying for.”

You can’t buy God and you can’t buy his true ministers.

SLIDE: JOSEPH SMITH WITH THE TWO ~
Paul calls them like he sees them. Those guys who have stirred up resentment against Paul to build support for themselves seem like good guys, but they are master manipulators.

He said, “Such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Satan is the source behind every attack on the Gospel of Christ.

For those who don’t know, this is a painting of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism and his encounter with God, on the right, and Jesus at God’s right hand.

Notice the family resemblance?

Whatever the earthly means of altering the true Gospel message, the ultimate power behind it, is Satan the father of lies who masquerades as an angel of light in order to deceive… that, in order, “To steal and kill and destroy.” But, Jesus came to bring “Life” (John 10:10).

SLIDE: GOATS AND SHEEP ~
The finishing touch is that everyone will receive their reward one day – we can let go of our pettiness and be forgiving, gentle and loving to others – even our enemies because it truly will all work out in the end. Everyone is either a sheep or a goat.

What do we take away from these verses?

There is a spiritual war being waged all around us and if NOT for the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit we would all be destroyed.

Our job is to recognize the true Gospel and guard it in our heart and in our family and in the church so that we can present it to the world.

How?

Do Not put your trust in money or the things it can secure. Lose your worldly view of money.

Do NOT allow social, political, cultural, economic or any secular societal constructs overrule God’s Truth. Lose your worldly view of truth.

Do NOT become wise in your own estimation, but in all things trust the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-7 et al.). Lose your worldly view of wisdom.

What do I mean? There is a danger in dismissing or ignoring Satan, but there is also a danger in seeing Satan behind every bush.

Seek God and His salvation – realize that it is in the extremes where human folly takes over and harmony in the Body of Christ is destroyed.

Overthinking is as dangerous as not thinking at all. We can delve down deep into the minutia of ideas and doctrines, but we must always come back to the simple faith.

We can dissect verses, phrases and individual words of Scripture, but we must expand back out to the flow of the whole context!

Do you see what I am saying? The more you move from the generalities of the fundamental elements of Salvation and the foundational Truth of God the more you rely upon your own intelligence and the more you isolate yourself from others.

SLIDE: Spaghetti ROADWAY ~
Such a road is narrow and so it seems right, but the broad way to destruction is actually billions of narrow roads all leading to the same destination.

The true narrow road leading to life is Jesus Himself – stay on that path. Press in to Him.

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