On this first Sunday of Advent, we begin in the beginning. The Triune God created the heavens and the earth and then He made His children to live with Him. Yet, temptation invaded, and for the first of many times His children exchanged joy in their Maker for something else. How would God respond? How would He deal with His children after their first wandering? His reaction in the garden, in His later advent and today is consistent. He’s a gracious God!
Why are some people so generous? What moves a woman, man or child to cheerfully share their food, home, clothing and money? Jesus observed that a woman who had been forgiven much loved much by generously anointing Him with her expensive perfume (Luke 7). While there are many motives for giving, in this message we consider gratitude to God for His grace as divine fuel for generous, sustained and joyful giving.
God’s vision for the church is love. Love for God, love for neighbor and love for one another. In this message we discover how to keep loving one another earnestly and with joy. More importantly, we learn why this command to love one another has implications that reverberate from the local church to the ends of the earth and beyond!
After decades of meditation on God’s Word, John Machen concluded, “The very center and core of the whole Bible is the doctrine of the grace of God.” The Bible’s opening sentence declares God’s generous creative grace. It’s closing sentence is a prayer for grace. Every page between shines forth God’s grace. What is grace? Why are some people so extravagant in grace? How can we grow in God’s grace? While this message answers these questions it’s primary aim is to invite all who have ears to hear to avail themselves more and more to the God of all grace that we may revel more and more in His grace until that day when we see Him and discover that His grace is even more amazing than we had ever hoped or dreamed.
When we, as Christians, recall the ways that we have failed to love one another, the conclusion of our self-assessment should always be that we are righteous, not condemned; Christ’s perfection has overcome our imperfection. And within this mercy and grace, we are free to love more and more. “Do so more and more” was Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians. What would his charge be to Denverites?
While Jesus came to give life and set us free, bad habits can derail us. Jesus’ encounter with a woman in Samaria is more than her transforming story. It is great news (i.e. “gospel”) for all since the exalted Savior always longs to heal, forgive and set us free for the destiny He has for us. This is the gospel. In Jesus and with Jesus, freedom is for everybody!
Joy takes center stage at Christmas. We sing Joy to the World, we call it a season of joy and we celebrate the night when an angel of the Lord brought shepherds “good news of great joy.” What is joy? John Piper rightly says, “According to the Bible joy is a good feeling in the soul produced by the Holy Spirit as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ through his word and his world.” On this 4th Sunday of Advent we consider 3 reasons, revealed in Psalm 98 and verse 4 of Joy to the World, why beholding Christ awakens joy in us. If there is room for more joy in your soul today, these Jesus-exalting realities may be just what you need.
Whether it be throwing stones in Bible times or more subtle forms of condemnation in the present, we are inclined, as fallen human beings, to judge others without fully considering ourselves. In contrast is Jesus, the only one truly qualified and justified to throw a stone. Yet, He chooses mercy and grace.
Do we enter the family of God based on what we do for Him or by trusting in what He has done for us? The good news (gospel) is that God sent His Son Jesus because He loves us apart from what we do or do not do for Him. After we believe this message by faith, our process of transformation begins in His way and His timing as He conforms us to become more like our Lord Jesus. This is amazing grace. In today’s message from Acts 15 we discover that this unconditional love of God is so foreign to the human way of thinking that people often add requirements beyond faith in Jesus. When people do this we must follow the example of Jesus’ first disciples by lovingly, yet firmly, affirming, “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus” for God’s sake, our sake and the sake of the world.
God often leads disciple making communities to send and support specific people to show and tell the good news that Jesus is Lord of all beyond their own city. In our recent journey through Acts 13 and 14 we have seen how God called Paul and Barnabas from their church in Antioch to take His message of grace throughout Galatia. In our message today, we learn that after their journey God led them to circle back to their sending partners in Antioch in order to “declare all that God had done with them.” Today we hear a brief summary of this text followed by a report from Don and Janet Guizzetti. Don and Janet are followers of Jesus and partners with Hope who have who have recently returned from their second missionary trip among the people of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso (West Africa).